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Installing Electric Baseboards

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Electric heat can be a great way to augment your current heating system, helping to heat a room that doesn't get quite warm enough. Or, it can be an easy way to add heat to an addition or even a brand new home. This guide will tell you the basics of installing electric baseboard heaters.


Start by calculating a base line for the total watts of electric heat you'll need for each room. You'll need 10 watts per square foot of floor space. So, a 12-foot-by-12-foot room (144 sq. ft.) would require about 1500 watts of electric heat. Standard-density baseboards are rated for about 250 watts per foot. Therefore, for a room this size, you'd need about 6 feet of baseboard heat.

You may, however, need more wattage than the base line indicates. This depends on how many windows you have, their type, and how well the room is insulated. If your room suffers from many low-quality windows and has poor insulation, you may need to pump some additional wattage in there. Note: having more heaters doesn't necessarily mean your heating costs will go up, since the heaters won't have to work as hard to maintain the desired temperature if there are more of them. You should also know that you can break up the total feet of heater you need into as many individual heating units as you want, as long as they total the wattage necessary.

Next, you need to install the appropriate circuits to handle the new electrical currents. It's probably a good idea to work with an electrician on this part. Firstly, because dealing with electricity can be dangerous, even if you do know what you're doing. Secondly, because it's very important to make sure this part of the job is done correctly. If you don't have the appropriate circuits for the job, you could be in danger of fire or electrical malfunctions.

Baseboard Installation

Your electrician or installation professional will be able to help you place and hook up the heaters and thermostat. It's ideal to place heaters below windows, where most of the heat loss will occur. The thermostat should be placed on an interior wall, in an easily accessible location. It should never be directly above the heater or any other heat source, as this will affect its temperature readings.

You won't need to do much to install the actual baseboards. Cut a hole behind where the baseboard will go to feed the wires through. Then, once the baseboard is hooked up to the wires (follow the manufacturer's instructions for this part), you'll just need to secure the baseboard to the wall. The method for doing so will vary by brand and type, but most of the time they simply screw into place.

After taking these steps, in addition to running wires to the thermostat, all you'll have to do to warm up the room is press a couple of buttons or turn a knob!

Adam Mandelbaum  Posted by Adam Mandelbaum on January 7, 2013

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