Last winter, when 3 feet of snow accumulated in late winter, I celebrated for the week that it took for the snow plows to dig us out. When I opened up my heating bill, the story was a bit different. It suffices to say that inefficient heat can be a burden on your home and your wallet.
And now, the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a colder-than-normal winter, with some areas to see temperatures as low as -40F. Heating your home in a cost-effective manner is something that should concern all homeowners and renters. Even if your home doesn’t have the most cost efficient type of heating, there are options for making it feel warmer this winter.
Electric, gas (natural or propane), oil or hot water (hydronic) heat are available for baseboard heaters, but some are more efficient than others. If you want to remodel your home or a specific room, baseboard heaters are a practical option. Especially if it’s not cost-effective or even possible to add onto the existing ductwork of a central heating system.
Electric furnaces or central heating units are more expensive because they require blowers to push the heated air through ducts. Plus, much heat is lost as it travels through the duct, especially if the ductwork goes through a largely vacant room, such as a garage. Rooms farthest from the furnace tend to receive the least amount of heat. In some homes, the vents are high on a wall or a ceiling because they’re usually installed as part of a central air conditioning system.
Heat rises, so unless a room uses a ceiling fan to push the air down, the heat will stay in the top part of the room, forcing cooler air down. Often, this causes a resident to continually raise the thermostat until the entire room feels comfortable. With baseboard heating systems, the heat begins along the floor and then rises, so the room feels warmer, sooner.
A home loses most heat at its perimeter, specifically due to cold air from window glass. So, most builders usually install baseboard heaters on exterior walls. As the hot air rises, it forces cold air to be drawn into the bottom of the heater. This is where it is then heated and the process called a convection current is repeated. Individual rooms can have their own thermostats, which allows for individual control. Also since a large furnace isn’t a requirement, (or ductwork/extra insulation) many consider them to be low maintenance space savers.
Electric baseboard heaters are a more efficient way to heat a room than central heating furnaces, are less cost efficient than other options because they use electricity. They’re expensive with continuous use, but homeowners can lower the thermostat in empty rooms to reduce the cost. Electric baseboard heaters are not usually a cost effective option for heating an entire house, especially if you install individual room thermostats.
Hydronic baseboard heaters require a boiler to heat water or oil and push it through a pipe to the next heater. With low-end installation baseboard heaters, the rooms farthest from the boiler will receive less heat than the rooms closest. Installing flow control valves can reduce the amount of hot fluid used by the heaters closest to the boiler and send more to heaters farther away. A homeowner can also adjust them, so smaller rooms will receive less heat than larger rooms.
Many consider hydronic baseboards more efficient, even though they use electricity. Once the oil or water are hot, it takes them longer to cool than an electric baseboard heater. The time it takes for hydronic baseboard units to heat up is also generally longer than electric ones.
Replacing your heating system may not be an option this winter, especially if you’re renting. But if you’re house shopping, consider the potential savings of baseboard heating. In the meantime, explore options for reducing your heating bill. Close heating vents in vacant rooms, close the doors to those rooms and make sure that filters are clean.
Winter is coming…What do you do to save on energy costs in the fall and winter? Let me know in the comments!