Replacing Your Electric Wall or Baseboard Heater
Nothing makes a room as inviting as a cozy amount of heat when temperatures outside run cool to freezing. Unlike central heating, which uses a furnace to pump out an even amount of heat to all the rooms in your house, zonal heating options allow you to adjust the temperature of the room you’re in without affecting the rest of your home. Along with gas stoves and fireplaces, electric wall and baseboard heaters can be used to create area-specific temperature control.
Wall Heaters vs. Baseboard Heaters
There are two main types of electric heaters: wall heaters and baseboard heaters. Both types of heaters contain heating elements that generate resistance, and thereby heat, when electricity runs through them.
As their names suggest, wall heaters are mounted inside walls—generally anchored to a stud, and baseboard heaters are mounted just above the floor. Both types of heaters are controlled by wall-mounted thermostats. The considerations for choosing between wall and baseboard heaters include:
- Space: Wall heaters tend to be compact, while baseboard heaters generally run almost the entire length of a wall.
- Noise: Wall heaters disperse heat using fans, which turn on and off automatically to maintain heat at the desired level, whereas baseboard heaters use convection to continuously radiate heat. This means that wall heaters tend create more noise than baseboard heaters.
Choosing the Right Electric Heaters for Your Space
In addition to noise and space considerations, you’ll need to select a heater that works with your available electrical supply and is powerful enough to heat the room where you’re installing it.
- Wattage: Check the manufacturer’s recommendations on any heater you’re looking at, but generally speaking, you’ll need about 10 watts per square foot, or 1,000 watts for every 100 square feet, to adequately heat a space. For rooms with high ceilings or lots of windows, up this to 12 watts per square foot.
- Voltage: Check to see whether you have 120 volt or 240 volt wiring available in the area where you’re planning to install the heater. If you’re replacing a heater, simply check the voltage of your current heater to see which option to choose. Note that 120 volts is standard for household electrical outlets, and 240 volts is typically used to power large appliances like refrigerators and ranges.
- Amperage: This determines the amount of power you’ll need to have available for your heater. The number of amps needed is equal to the heater’s wattage divided by the voltage. So, for example, a standard 1,500 watt, 120 volt heater will draw 12.5 amps from your system. Because you’ll need to supply 125% of the necessary power to any given appliance, this means your heater will need to be on at least a 15 amp circuit.
When to Replace Old Heaters
Most wall and baseboard heaters are extremely durable, and can last 20 years or more. However, there are a couple of reasons why you may want to consider replacing it.
- Failing heating elements: If your heaters are no longer putting out much heat, or are taking a long time to heat a room, it could be a sign that their heating elements are becoming corroded. If cleaning the heaters doesn’t solve the problem, and you’ve verified that the electrical supply is functioning properly, it may be time to replace them.
- Technology upgrade: If your heaters haven’t been replaced in a decade or two, you may want to investigate the possibility of replacing them with safer, more space efficient, quieter models.
Installing Electric Wall or Baseboard Heaters
Whether you’re installing new heaters or replacing old ones, you should first switch off the electricity at your breaker panel, then follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly mount your heater and wire it into your electrical system. After that, you can sit back, crank the heat, and enjoy.
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