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5 Tips For A Successful Electric Baseboard Heater Installation

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Electric baseboard heaters are easy to install and work great in homes where there's no other source of fuel or duct work to connect the rooms to a central heating unit. However, making a few mistakes when setting up this form of heating can make it almost impossible to keep the room comfortable. Make sure your installation is handled correctly from the beginning with these five tips.

Consider the Placement

Where you locate the baseboard heater in the room greatly effects how well it heats the room and how much electricity it uses. Try to find a spot in each room that meets all of these requirements:

  • On the coldest wall, which is usually an exterior wall or adjoining an unheated space like a garage
  • Located under a window, which helps circulate the air
  • Sitting at least one inch above the floor, which lets cool air flow up into the heating element
  • Away from any vinyl materials, such as drapes or wallpaper, and thin paperboard or fiberboard.

Maintain the Clearances

If you're only adding a single small baseboard heater to a room, you may be tempted to ignore the safety clearances recommended by the manufacturer. However, mounting the heater where it's too close to the side walls and furniture in the room can cause a house fire that your home insurance policy won't cover. Each model has specific clearance requirements, but in general you'll need at least six inches to a foot between the heater and everything else in the room, except for the flooring materials and non-vinyl drapes. Fabric drapes can hang just two inches in front of the heater, or two inches above it.

Avoid Electrical Outlets

To add another limit to complicate placement, you'll also need to watch out for electrical outlets. You can't place a baseboard heater underneath an outlet, even if you never use it or have replaced the usual face plate with a solid one. If the only wall with space for a heater has an outlet or two on it, consider hiring an electrician to remove the fixtures and the wiring behind the wall so you can put the space to good use.

Many baseboard heaters have outlets built into them so you can still plug in low draw devices after giving up a wall outlet. Just be sure to follow the rules on what you can plug into those integrated outlets so you don't trip your circuit breaker or damage the wiring.

Paint Carefully

These horizontal heaters may come in a wide variety of finishes and styles, but sometimes you just can't find the right look to match the rest of your decor. Almost all metal heaters are safe to paint with water-based paints. If you're trying to paint a brand new model during installation, use a fine grit sandpaper on the factory finish to make sure the water-based primer and paint adhere properly. Make sure to tape up the heater so that paint doesn't drip inside the case and get on the heating element.

Refuse to Recess

Finally, don't ask the installers, such as McLaughlin Air Conditioning Co Inc., to cut into the drywall and recess the heater. Baseboard heaters are designed to be mounted on the surface so that the heat flows out and up into the room. If you tuck the heater into the wall even by half an inch, the heat will go into the wall instead and could start a fire. Low-profile heaters minimize the lost space, but you're going to have to deal with at least an inch or so of protrusion out from the wall instead of trying to create a flush installation that puts your home at risk for damage.