Baseboard heat is a silent, even heat source that differs significantly from forced air heating in appearance and operation. Baseboard heating units take the form of a long, metallic heater usually positioned against a wall beneath a window. Baseboard heat is often hardwired to the home's electrical system and works by convection, which means the warm air from the unit cycles around and around the room. The heating cycle starts with cold air from the window falling to the ground. The baseboard heats the cold air until it rises, where it meets with more cold air from the window and comes back down, forming a continuous moving circle of warm air. There are two forms of baseboard heat: electric and hydronic. Each form offers advantages and disadvantages.
Electric Baseboard Heat: Pros and Cons
Electric baseboard heat functions by running electricity through wires inside the unit. These wires heat up the baseboard's metal fins, thus beginning the convection process. Electric baseboards provide a relatively fast form of heat because metal changes temperature fairly quickly. Unfortunately, electric baseboard heat is notoriously inefficient, because wires need to stay electrified the entire time that the baseboard is on in order to keep functioning.
Hydronic Baseboard Heat: Pros and Cons
Hydronic heat looks much like electric baseboard heat but functions slightly differently. Hydronic heating units are build with an enclosed liquid, usually water or a type of oil. When the unit is turned on, electricity passes through wires and heats up the liquid. The heated liquid warms up the air and starts the convection process.
Compared to electric baseboard heat, hydronic heat is much slower to get started. However, hydronic baseboards continue to work even after electricity stops running through the wires, because the liquid inside retains heat much better than metal. For this reason, hydronic baseboard heat is more efficient.
Which One is Best?
Although slow to warm up, the relative efficiency of hydronic heating it the best option if you're hoping to use baseboard heat as a primary heat source. However, for heating a single room for shorter periods of time, electric heating works quickly and sufficiently. Electric baseboard heating is a good choice for areas of the home that simply need a supplemental heating source, while hydronic baseboard heat can stand alone.
For more information about getting electric baseboard or hydronic baseboard heat installed in your home, speak with a certified, reputable electrician (such as Feldman Brothers Electrical Supply Co).