Thinking of Installing a Home Electrical Heating System – Here’s the Scoop
In some climates, electric baseboard heaters are sufficient. However, more often they are used as supplemental heat in spaces where central HVAC is lacking or not provided. Examples of such, would be basements or attic room remodels. Baseboard heaters will provide a form of radiant heat, using natural air convection to circulate heat into a hard to reach area.
They require either a 120 volt or 240 volt circuit. Electricians will typically prefer to install 240 volt heaters, because they are more energy efficient and use less amperage than 120 volt types. Installing a 240 volt electric baseboard heater generally requires a new, dedicated 20 or 30 amp double-pole circuit breaker, as well as new circuit wiring to power one or more systems.
Circuit and heater installation is a more complicated home wiring task, usually best left to a licensed electrician or HVAC contractor. Anyone considering DIY will need to have substantial experience with electrical cables, wiring, installing and connecting new circuit breakers in the main electric service panel.
Choosing an Electrical Heater Size – It Is About Space Size and BTUs
There are many different heater sizes to meet the heating needs of any particular room.
Baseboard heater capacity is frequently measured in wattage, controlled by the length of the heater. A typical way to gauge adequate size is providing 10 watts of heat per square foot of the room, however this could vary a bit depending on the architecture of the space, like ceiling height, windows, and insulation.
Electric Baseboard heaters come in standard lengths, from 24” to 96”. A small 24” 240 volt heater is usually rated about 350 watts, probably producing enough to heat a bathroom. A larger 96” size baseboard heater is usually rated for 2,000 to 2,500 watts, and can heat a space about 200-250 square feet. You can also connect additional heaters to supply enough heat for large areas.
Heating capacity is generally measured in wattage, but the actual heat output is measured in BTUs. The British Thermal Units (BTUs) are convenient for comparing electric heaters of different sizes to other types of heating equipment.
Locating a Heater and Its Thermostat – Make it as Painless as Possible
Often positioned under windows, electric baseboard heaters utilize natural convection currents in the space, and counteract the loss of heat through the glass panes. Baseboard heaters are prohibited from being placed under wall outlets by building codes which also call for a minimum of 1” of air space beneath the heater in order for convective airflow to work as intended. There should also be a minimum of 1 foot of space from curtains and furniture maintained.
Thermostats for electric baseboard heaters work best, and give the most accurate readings when installed in an interior wall, at a distance from other heat sources. Normally, they are mounted at the same height as light switches, although some baseboard heaters have built in thermostats and don’t require a wall mounted unit.