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Looking at 10 Pros and Cons of Using Hot Water Baseboard Heaters

Hot water baseboard heaters are one of the options for homeowners considering comfortable heating systems. As with all the various HVAC systems currently available, some pros and cons must be considered and weighed before deciding which option is the best for your individual needs. We have compiled a quick list of what’s good and what’s not so good about hot water baseboard heaters.


1) Pro: Easy Installation

In a house without ducts for forced-air HVAC or existing under-floor heating, the cost of installing either of these may be prohibitive when compared to hot water baseboard heaters. The pipes for the heaters easy to install alongside existing pipes in the house or behind the baseboards. Removing existing baseboards and replacing them with ones containing hot water pipes is a very easy installation.


2) Pro: Quiet Operation

A common complaint experienced with ducted heating is the noises associated with the air flowing through the ducts and the humming of the fans. These noises do not exist with quality hot water baseboard heaters. The heaters are also of a different design than the standard radiators we’re so used to in old buildings and do not produce the plinking sounds when cooling down or heating up.


3) Pro: Energy Efficient

Electricity, gas, coal or wood pellets can power the boiler for hot water, depending on the specific model installed in the home. We do not recommend using electricity unless the hot water is also available for other purposes, such as the shower and kitchen. Pure electrical baseboard heaters are more energy-efficient than the models using an electric boiler. However, when using gas or other combustible material for the boiler, the cost of operation should generally be considerably lower than other systems.
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4) Pro: Good Source of Constant Heat

Most hot water baseboard heaters operate on a closed-loop system. The water constantly flows through the pipework from the boiler to the individual heaters and then back to the boiler to repeat the process. The benefit of such a system is that the water never has an opportunity to cool down too much before it re-enters the boiler. The heat available at the baseboard heaters remains consistent. The only caveat is the overall length of the piping from the boiler to the heater and back.


5) Pro: Easily Cleaned and Maintained

The baseboard heater is easy to clean with a vacuum cleaner, which sucks all the dust from the plates, inhibiting the free flow of air. It is a job that the homeowner can perform with confidence that very little can go wrong, which is unlike a forced-air system that requires special equipment to clean the ducts effectively and without damage.


6) Pro: Longevity of the Components

Regularly performing the required maintenance on the boiler and the baseboard heaters will easy ensure a working lifespan of 20 years for the system. We recommend descaling the system before its placed in operation during the winter. The buildup of minerals in the pipes and the heater unit is the primary reason for low efficiency and high energy consumption.


7) Pro & Con: Location of the Heater

The location of the heater is both a pro and a con. The units are small enough to install inside the baseboard at floor level. The usual placement is under the primary window of the room. As such, it is relatively unobtrusive and even unnoticeable at a glance. However, the unit must be kept in the open, with a free flow of air to work effectively – meaning you cannot place furniture in front of it, nor let the curtains in a window cover it.
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8) Con: Takes a While to Heat a Room

The size of the hot water baseboard heater means that it does not have the heating area of a regular radiator unit. The heater also depends on the flow of air in the room to function, whereas a forced-air system actively replaces the cool air with warm air. Baseboard heaters, therefore, take a while to heat a room to a cozy temperature.


9) Con: Regular Maintenance

We mentioned that the hot water baseboard heating system is easy to clean and maintain. Regular maintenance will prolong the system’s lifespan–this is just it, the routine maintenance necessary on the system. The location of the heater unit makes it especially susceptible to dust build up and invasion by dust bunnies. Descaling the pipes might also be required more frequently due to the local water source’s abnormally high mineral content.


10) Con: Most Efficient When Run Constantly

Hot water baseboard systems operate most efficiently when it is used constantly and at the same temperature. The system has a very slow response to thermostat changes. Setting it to a lower temperature means that the boiler is consuming energy to heat the water to the requested temperature, but the ambient air in the room must first cool down naturally.

Hot water baseboard heaters may not be for everyone. Still, it should be an option on anyone’s list when installing a new heating system or replacing an inefficient system for heating the home during the winter. It is always best to consult with a reputable HVAC installer and discuss the pros and cons of the various options in greater detail before making a choice.


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