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Are Electric Baseboard Heaters Bad?

Electric Baseboard Heaters: Here's What Buyers Should Know |

Electric Baseboard Heaters

Electric baseboard heaters are somewhat common on real estate listings. You will see these heaters in hallways, under windows, powder rooms, or even heating the entire house. However, you’ll also find there is a negative stigma that comes with electric baseboard heaters. Here’s why…

Often, electric baseboard heaters are used as ‘accent’ heating. For example, you’ll see this when a home already has forced air. Reasons such as a draft, poor insulation or distance from a forced air register causes a cold spot, which requires supplemental heating support. If the house is not going through renovation, installing a baseboard heater in that area can be an easier solution. All you need to do is fish a wire from the electrical panel to the area and then mount the heater to the (hopefully pre-existing) baseboard.

In this particular application, a potential buyer could see the heater and make the assumption that the home may be a little drafty or that this may be a cooler room in winter months. That would be a fair assessment and not a deal breaker. If I were the buyer in this example, I would simply add the detail to my overall assessment. It would not turn me away if I loved the home otherwise. Will this add to the overall electricity bill? Somewhat. However, one or two in the cooler corners of a property won’t cripple you financially. Also, heated tile floors in entryways and bathrooms use very little electricity, these are not a reason to walk away from a listing.


The Cost of Electric Baseboard Heaters

What might put a dent in your pocketbook? When an entire house uses electric heating and radiant or forced are systems are nonexistent, you’re likely looking at higher bills. This is where negative stigma comes in. When buyers see a home heated entirely with electric baseboard heaters, they tend to look the other way. Sometimes, when it is in a listing as the heat source, clients have no interest in seeing the property:

Electric Baseboard Heaters: Property Listings |

Fact is, electric baseboard heating is typically a very expensive way to heat an entire home.

So, why would anyone opt for this kind of heating system? Back in the 1970s and 80s, electric baseboard heating was an inexpensive and practical alternative for home builders. Electricity did not have the same hefty price tag it does today. Electric heat seemed to make sense. But times have changed.

Cost of operation is simply one of the complications of electric heat. Another complication is cost of conversion. If ducts do not exist in the property already then in order to switch to a forced air system walls need to be opened back up and duct work installed for an owner to switch from the electric heat back to a forced air arrangement.  Registers will have to be cut into floors, bulkheads and install build-outs to make room for duct work. You might need to bring gas into the basement, or even from the street. You’ll need to find a location with enough space for a furnace. After ducts are in place, walls will have to be sealed up again, taped, and painted. It’s a big and intrusive project.

If the heaters are older, there may be some cost savings to updating them to more contemporary and efficient units. However, that is still not as cost-effective as switching to a gas forced air furnace system.


What Do Electric Baseboard Heaters Look Like?

Some older radiant water-based baseboard heaters look like electric baseboard heaters. So, be 100% sure of what you are looking at.

It’s worth noting here, while we are listing all of these details, without ducts you also cannot have central air. You would be limited to window or ductless wall mounted units. While these are fine solutions, they are less desirable and less effective than central air.

Electric Baseboard Heaters: Air Conditioning |
[image via Wikipedia]


Tip: Before You Buy or Rent

If you are looking at a home that has baseboard heating, here’s what you can do before you buy. It is fair to have your agent (hopefully Fox Marin) ask the seller to provide the electricity bills for the home for the last 12-24 months. Oftentimes a seller will know that this request will be made in advance and have the information ready to share with buyers. If you are willing to deal with a property that has this type of heating system, you should be privy to some idea of what the heating costs are. This way, you have some idea of what to expect and you can go in with eyes wide open.

If you are a tenant considering an apartment with electric baseboard heaters and the hydro is not included in the monthly rent, consider yourself warned!


Ask Fox Marin

We don’t want to scare you away from buying a property with electric baseboard heaters. Rather, we want you to have all the information you possibly can to make a wise and informed decision when purchasing a property. If you’d like to work with an agent who is looking out for these types of details and pitfalls and to help you make a smart buying decision, contact us. We’re nice.


This article is written by Fox Marin Sales Representative, Ian Busher. With an extensive background in carpentry and contracting, Ian is our resident “Renovations Expert”! He takes pride in his ability to assess the quality and condition of a house. This, in tandem with his talent for speaking to the feasibility and cost of potential renovations, and his eye for the aesthetic details of a property, makes him a powerful partner for anyone looking to buy a home in the Toronto real estate market.