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robertmee 10-28-2007 07:53 AM

Electric Baseboard Heaters - Really that Bad?
We've purchased a small 900 sq ft bungalow on lakefront. The plan is to use this as a vacation home for the next 5 years or so, then tear it down and build a retirement home. So, we aren't looking to put alot of money into it. The house is circa 1965, 7.5' ceilings, except for a one room addon (converted porch) that was constructed in 1985. I've removed a couple of walls to inspect insulation and it is insulated with R-13 in the walls and what appears to be the same under the crawl. I don't know what is in the ceiling as there is no attic access. The exterior is tar paper, hardboard sheathing and then vinyl siding.

The previous heat source was a single 60/70's vintage propane heater in the 'family' room area. Nothing in the two bedrooms or bathroom. A space heater was used in the addition it appears along with a window AC unit.

In that this will be a weekender home and not used often in the off months anyway, would baseboard electric heaters be a suitable replacement? The lake is on the NC/VA border, so the coldest months are only around Nov through Feb, with temperatures rarely dropping far below freezing.

The thought is to put two 1500W heaters in the 'family' room and room addition (each apx 12x12), a 1000W heater in the each bedroom (apx 10x10), and a 750W in the bathroom. My concerns are:

1) will this be enough heat to make the house a comfortable 70 degrees?

2) is it safe to let one or more of these heaters run in our absence (maybe a month at a time) to keep pipes from freezing?

3) Each room already has a 20A breaker/12-2 romex feed instead of the traditional 15A, so in that the house is small and we won't have a lot of stuff plugged in, can I stab off the 20A for the service? I know that a 1500W heater will pull apx 12amps @120V. Is there any reason (cost or efficiency) to go to a 220V heater and run a new drop to each?

4) Are convection heaters okay or should I be looking at the more expensive forced air?

I figure that for $300 to $400 I can install baseboards plus a another few hundred for an additional AC unit vs doing a central HVAC system that would be several thousand and that we would abandon in 5 years anyway.


Thanks in advance!

robertmee 10-31-2007 02:15 PM


HVACDave 10-31-2007 06:40 PM

Electric baseboard heat is indeed an inexpensive route for your heating solution. I have no doubt but what you will find that the heaters put out enough to keep your place confortable for what you will need, provided it doesn't get too cold in your area.

I am from Manitoba and there are some houses here that use baseboard heaters as thier only heat source, and I'm sure we experience much colder tempuratures than you likely will. They don't call it winterpeg for nothing! Anyways, most of the heaters we see in this area are on 220v power, and have dedicated circuits to each heater. This keeps the amperage down and the likelyhood of overloading a circuit to a minimum. If you have room in your electrical panel this is the route I would suggest. Most are controlled off of line voltage thermostats you can place on any wall in the room. These seem to give better control than the stats that are mounted right inside the heater, also easier to adjust as you can set to the temp. you want not just a number between 1 and 6.

As far as being able to leave your heat on when you are away, no problems providing you don't pile stuff up against the heater, and the power doesn't go off, but you would have the same problems with any type of heat in that case.

If you are considering adding a new A/C system anyway, you may want to consider an air to air heat pump set up. I don't know if you were thinking ductless split system or just new window shakers, but the ductless splits are a lot more secure and quieter in operation. You can also get them in a heat pump for not a lot more money, and will save you some on your electric bill over straight resistance heating. (electric resistance heating gives you $1 worth of heat for every $1 spent, a heat pump can give you $2.50 to $3.00 worth of heat for every $1 spent on electricity under ideal conditions)It may be worth looking into as it also gives you a bit of air movement, and come in good sized capacities (like from 9,000 btu's right up to 24,000 btu's)

Don't know if that's the kind of opinions you are after, but there you have it.


NateHanson 11-01-2007 06:30 AM

In a colder climate I'd tell you to get a Monitor type of direct vent propane or oil heater. They're about $2000, and extremely efficient, easy to install, and comfortable to use. They're perfect for small cabins and seasonal camps.

robertmee 11-01-2007 06:58 AM

Thanks for the responses! I had actually looked at ductless-split systems before when I was remodelling my basement, but hadn't considered them for this job due to the cost. Perhaps I'll revisit them.

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