Electric baseboard heaters installation is a fun experience. It’s not too technical. So, it’s not too frustrating. Plus, once done, you’ll feel a much warmer room besides. We offer here the hints, advice, and tips we find work well in getting these heaters installed safely without major issues.
How electric heating works is easy to understand. In fact, today’s digital thermostats hide the details of great heat control. So, try this project if inspired. If you enjoy working with electricity, installing electric baseboard heaters is one neat way to wet your feet. Further, if you have a cold room in your house, then this would make you more comfy. Just what the doctor ordered.
We’ve done a couple electric baseboard heaters installation tasks in two bedrooms at home. We also lived in apartments that had them. So, we detail our own experiences putting in these baseboard units here. The thoughts and procedures we used, occurred roughly as follows. While each installation differs, we hope this explanation helps. The tips and hints below should ease your effort. The indeed eased ours as we thought of them. We think they’ll help you zero in on the right methods for your project. This is how ours went, but not necessarily how YOURS should go.
First, it’s helpful to spend time just thinking about your electric baseboard heaters installation project. Get a feel for it. Develop a sense of how your installation will pan out.
To get your creativity going, the tips in the next section should help. They can focus you on the right issues and concerns.
Planning your Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation: Considerations
While planning your project, ask yourself these questions. Plus, discuss with knowing friends if you’re not sure of the answers.
Is your Electrical Service Large Enough to Handle Electric Baseboard Heat?
We suggest a minimum 200-amp service for any electric baseboard heaters installation project. Though a 100-amp service to the home would do the job fairly well, it may not provide enough “juice”. Indeed, the light dimming effects when you add these heaters to 100 amp services are quite noticeable. But the larger your wiring from the utility pole is, the less will this effect be.
For lower amperage panels, a ten or fifteen amp heater system turning on can cause excessive light dimming. Why? Because these thinner wires drop too much voltage. Plus, too much dimming and flickering can be irritating. Also, big voltage changes are hard on other electronic devices around the house. So, upgrade your electrical service if needed. A qualified electrician can do this for you.
Do you Have Enough Circuit Spaces in the Service Panel?
This will likely be a non issue. If you’re upgrading your service panel, it will likely have plenty of free slots for new circuits. But, if you’re not upgrading, have at least two free spaces before beginning. 220 volt circuits need them (one breaker for each line hot side). You may need two slots for each baseboard heater you plan to add.
Place the Baseboard Heater Thermostat Correctly
Thermostat location affects overall comfort level of electric baseboard heaters installation. For best results, plan the thermostat spot on an inside wall. This wall should not get any direct updrafts from the new heater. We put our thermostat on the opposite wall from the heater it controls.
Consider Heater Positioning in your Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation
Install the heater on the coldest wall in the room; an outside wall with windows on it works best. Keep it low to the floor too. Since you want temperatures at floor level to keep your feet warm, mount them very close to the floor. But we positioned the heater several inches above the carpeted floor. Tis simplified vacuuming. It also reduced heater damage risks from repeated vacuum cleaner bumps against it.
Electric heat can cost a lot to operate, as it consumes much energy. So you’ll want to have plenty of insulation inside the walls to keep these costs down. We suggest installing high R value insulation above the ceiling in the target room. This helps make electric baseboard heat pretty economical. We used R-12 Styrofoam board behind walls and above ceilings in the room shown above.
Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation Warnings and Disclaimers
This Post is for Informational Purposes Only
We offer this post for informational purposes only. It does not replace advice and help from a qualified electrician. Always seek professional help if unsure of how to proceed. We cannot assume responsibility for poorly wired baseboard heaters that cause property damage, injury, or death.
An electric baseboard heaters installation project involves working with high voltages (220 volts). So, if this sort of wiring task scares you, then please do not wire alone. Get an electrician to help. Touching live wires can kill. So be cautious, careful, and always aware.
Check and Recheck your Work
Check, double check, and tri check your work; especially when adding a new circuit inside your breaker box. Also, recheck that the circuit you’re working on is still OFF each time you return to it. This is especially wise to do if you live with others. Indeed, they could turn the breaker on without your knowing. So check, check check! After all, you’ll want to be alive to enjoy your new electric baseboard heaters installation. So, take extreme car. Get familiar with federal, state, and local wiring codes.
The Bigger, the Better
We suggest 220-volt heaters. These need less current (about half as much as their 110-volt versions) for the same heat. So, they cause less severe voltage drops around the house when they kick on. Further, 110-volt heaters only create about 1500 watts of heat, max. That’s too weak though, for heating larger rooms. When those spaces, like corner rooms, have more than one outside wall, then big heaters are a must.
Recommended Tools for your Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation Project
So, if you think yourself handy, are up for this task, then build your tool kit. You’ll need the following.
For most any electric baseboard heaters installation effort, you need several. Buy various sizes of straight and Philips head drivers. They should have medium to long length shafts. You’ll use them often here.
A 100-foot ruler tape is best. It’s flexible and long enough for measuring wire run lengths.
Helps when checking correct voltage in your wiring. It can also measure continuity as well, for testing the heater and thermostat.
Wire Stripper and Cutter
A hefty sized pair of diagonal pliers works well to cut through 12/2 electrical cable. Also, they make strippers for this wire. These remove the outer jacket around the three wires inside. But these do not nick the internal wire or insulation.
Circuit Tester for your Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation Project
These are the little neon or LED lamps with two pigtail leads. They insert into outlets, to determine if they’re “hot”. Use these voltage testers often during any wiring project. Check often that the circuit you’re working on is OFF.
If you’re adding a new circuit to your service panel, buy a circuit breaker. Be sure to pick the right breaker for your service panel brand (Square D, Murray, Siemann’s, et al). For 220 volt circuits, the breaker unit has two breakers in one. That’s one breaker for each hot side of the lint.
Heavy Duty Drill and Bits
You may need to drill holes in studs or walls, to route the wiring, and to mount the heater.
For long behind-wall runs, a fifty foot roll of fish tape really helps for wire pulling.
Suggested Supplies for the Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation Project
Again, pick the largest heater that your electrical system and wallet can support. The hydronic baseboard heaters, we feel are best. They’re the quietest, and have fewer hotspots that could burn someone if touched.
We prefer models that switch off BOTH SIDES of the 220 volt line when turning off the heater. These are safer, because when OFF, there’s absolutely NO voltage present in the heater. But in single pole thermostats, voltage is still present at the heater. To explain that, the unswitched side of the line still connects to the heater. So, you’ll read 110 volts to ground between that side of the line and ground. That reading persists, even when the heater itself is OFF. For safety reasons thus, we suggest a double pole thermostats for these projects.
You’ll need 12/2 or 10/2 electric cable. We advise against using smaller than #12, or larger than #10. Further, if you must use #10, especially in longer runs, get the stranded type. This kind is easier to bend, strip, and install.
Circuit Breaker Needed for this Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation
Choose a breaker that’s the correct amperage. General rule: If wiring your circuit with #12 / 2 wire, then choose a 20-amp model; if #10 / 2, buy a 30-amp size. Check the National Electrical Code handbook for the right size wires and breakers for your particular area.
Wire Nuts, Electrical Tape, and Junction Boxes
Needed to splice two sections of cable together inside junction boxes. Never make connections outside an approved junction box.
Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation Sizing
Here in PA, the winters get pretty frigid. In the space pictured above, a 1500-watt space heater worked okay. As long as the outside temp stayed above 30 degrees, a portable space heater worked well. But, when colder winds came, and they come often, that little heater did not keep up. Even running full speed and at highest heat settings, room temperature still fell, and bone-chilling coldness ensued. Our cold bedroom led us to do our electric baseboard heaters installation projects.
Indeed, once we upgraded to the 2500 watt wall mounted baseboard unit pictured above, the room never again got cold. Even during week-long, below-zero spells, that bedroom stayed toasty warm. On even the frostiest days, the new heater ran only fifty to sixty percent of the time. It’s best to choose a heater that has to run at half time or less, even on the coldest nights. That way, it maintains desired room temp no matter how cold the weather. Indeed, you don’t want to do all this work, yet still have a cold room.
To avoid under-sizing in your electric baseboard heaters installation project, pick the largest baseboard heater that makes sense. Pay more for more heat. Go as big as you can afford, is our advice. You won’t be sorry.
Suggested Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation Procedure
Determine the Heating Needs of the Room
As stated above, pick the biggest yet practical baseboard heater. Why? Because with only modest insulation, your house needs larger heaters. The price difference between the eight-foot 2500 watt models and the two footers really isn’t that great. So go for the gusto, and buy big.
Decide Best Thermostat Location
This type of heating generally requires a line-voltage thermostat. So if installing the thermostat on the wall, make sure it will be easy to reach for you first. We suggest putting the stat four to five feet above the floor, and where furniture will not block it.
Also, check that you can run the #12/2 power cable from the breaker box to that spot.
Measure Wire Length
Use the 100-foot ruler tape to mock the wire run. Measure wire in sections if a long run.. Then, add five percent more to length you came up with. This assures that you buy enough cable. Buying a bit of extra wire accounts for any measuring errors. Routing around beams, pipes, or attic crawlspaces makes harder a good wire length estimate. So, be sure to buy enough for your electric baseboard heaters installation project.
Decide Best Position for the Heater in your Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation
As their name implies, baseboard heaters work best when located low to the floor; placed either ON or JUST ABOVE the baseboard woodwork.
Buy Baseboard Heater(s), Thermostat, Wire, and Supplies
Purchase the heater(s), thermostat, wire, and the tools and supplies mentioned above. As you progress, you may have to make a few store runs as you learn. E,g, You’ll likely need items later that you hadn’t thought of while planning your project.
Run the Wire
This is likely the most challenging step. Why? Because you may need to fish the wires behind walls and above ceilings. An unfinished cellar makes this simpler, especially if installing the heaters on the first floor. In this case, wire routing should be easy. The same is so if installing on the second floor with an unfinished attic above. Again, fairly simple.
But with a finished basement or attic, the electric baseboard heaters installation grows harder. Where you can’t get behind the walls from above or below, the job gets harder. You might have to improvise, thus. You may have to make holes in the walls to run the wires where needed. Then, you’ll need to patch them up again.
Test the Wiring
Prior to tying this new run into your main circuit box, check for short circuits. See that there are none, and repair if their are. Shorts may occur if you hammered the wire fasteners too hard. Or, over tightening the clamps on the junction box might cause shorts too.
Install the Thermostat to Continue with your Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation
Line voltage thermostats should fit into a standard wall switch box.
Mount the Heater on Wall
Drive several #10 or #12 wood screws through the heater body and into the wall studs. This is how we fastened ours. Most baseboard heaters have many holes for this. Make sure that the wire pigtails line up with the heater’s built-in junction box; usually at one of the heater or the other; never in the middle though.
Make all Electrical Connections
Connect the heater to electricity, following the included instructions. If the heater sports a metal case or exposed parts, then proper grounding is very important. When installing in a bathroom or anywhere near sinks, water, or other grounded objects, correct grounding is a MUST.
Test for Short or Open Circuits One Last Time
Your circuit should still be OFF for these tests!
With the heating element connected to the wiring, you’ll read very low resistances in the wires from the heater. When reading across that 220 volt line from the heater, at the thermostat, you should see continuity. But on the leg of wiring between the thermostat and the power source, you should read open-circuit values.
Set Thermostat to Lowest Temperature as you Test Things Out in your Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation
To turn on power, you likely must leave the electric baseboard heaters installation area. But you’ll want to be there though when power is applied. You should watch and listen to the heater when it comes on. That way, you will see any problems happen, for easiest troubleshooting. So, to keep heater OFF until ready, turn down the thermostat. Set it to the OFF or lowest position before you apply power.
Turn On the Power
Next, head to your power panel, and flip on the new heater circuit. Keep your ears open when you throw the switch. Listen for buzzing, spurts, sparks, or unusual humming, signs of a short circuit. If this occurs, quickly turn off power and fix.
But if you hear no troubling sounds, smell no smoke, or see no sparks), then you’re good. Proceed to the next step.
Test the New Baseboard Heating System to Wrap Up your Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation Efforts
Go back to the electric baseboard heaters installation project area. Then raise the new thermostat temp to max. This assures that the heater receives power. Or at least, it should.
Again, listen, look, and smell for any signs of trouble. Note that the heater may give off odors of burning dust and heating paint at first. But, this is normal, and will disappear after several hours of use.
Check the heater. Heat should come out within a minute or two. If the unit stays cold, turn off power at the breaker and repair.
However, if you feel heat, then move on to setting the thermostat next.
Program the Thermostat
If you selected a programmable digital thermostat, set this up now, following its supplied instructions. Otherwise, just set the temperature to that desired.
Clean Up After your Work
Hold on though. After all tests check out, you still haven’t yet finished the electric baseboard heaters installation. Once you put your tools away and clean up, only then, is the job complete. Specifically, be sure to vacuum and dust the room with the new heater, as the work likely created much dust.
Done! Hoping that your heater project turned out to be a warm success. Do enjoy your new heater.
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References for Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation
Revision History for this Electric Baseboard Heaters Installation Post
- 2019-02-25: Fixed some typos and added tags.
- 2018-03-09: Updated title and post contents.
- 2015-11-29: Added more tags.
- 2015-09-24: Added tags and tweaked content text.
- 2014-12-06: First published.