5 Best Hydronic Baseboard Heaters [2021 Guide]

Hydronic Baseboard Heaters

5 Best Hydronic Baseboard Heaters [2021 Guide]

The best hydronic baseboard heaters are extremely energy efficient; they consume 40% less energy than forced-air heating systems and bring your heating bills down. These heaters are also incredibly compact and won’t take up too much space on your walls.

That’s not all. Since these units lack any moving parts, they don’t experience much wear and tear and require minimal maintenance.

And the best thing about them? Hydronic baseboard heaters work quietly so you can install them in your living rooms and bedrooms.

In this article, we have reviewed the five best hydronic baseboard heaters on the market. We’ve also prepared a baseboard heater buying guide and answered the most frequently asked questions regarding these units. So let’s get right to it!

In A Rush? Here Are Our Top Picks

Top 5 Best Hydronic Baseboard Heaters

Fahrenheat Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater

Fahrenheat Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater
134 Reviews
Fahrenheat Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater
  • USE ANYWHERE DESIGN: This heating unit provides gentle heat with maximum...
  • OPTIMAL HEAT: The low-profile design makes it perfect for home use in...
  • EASY TO INSTALL: This unit can mount directly to any wall, and flat on the...
  • SAFE AND EFFICIENT: This energy-efficient design reduces unnecessary on/off...
  • QUIET AND EFFECTIVE: The convection heater operates without the annoying...

Weight: 24.08 pounds
Installation: Hardwire
Wattage: 1500W
Voltage: 208/240V
Warranty: 7 years

Why is the Fahrenheat Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater our top pick?

Start with its extremely handy design. Most hydronic baseboard heaters you see on the market can’t be used near children or pets because they get too hot to the touch during operation. This model does get hot too. But it has a safety grill that acts as a barrier between hot parts and curious hands.

Then comes this model’s versatile installation.

Some of you might want a heater that mounts directly to your wall. Others might opt for laying it flat on wooden or tile floors. Still others may be looking for a model that works safely on a carpet. Its low operating temperature allows the Fahrenheat PLF to offer all three installations.

It is safe and efficient too.

Fahrenheat has minimized this heater’s on/off cycles to prevent energy wastage. It has also equipped the unit with an overheat protection feature. One that will turn off this model when its air intake line is blocked, keeping the risk of fire at bay.

However, the Farenheat PLF does have some downsides.

Like most hydronic baseboard heaters out there, this one isn’t equipped with a thermostat. You have no choice but to buy the thermostat separately because this heater won’t work without one.

Things We Like   

  • Stays cool to the touch
  • Reduces unnecessary on/off cycles
  • Overheat protection switch

Things We Don’t Like      

  • Doesn’t come with a thermostat

Cadet Softheat Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater

Cadet Softheat Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater
10 Reviews
Cadet Softheat Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater
  • FAST HEATING: 1500 Watt heater at 240 Volts or 1125 Watts at 208 Volts...
  • LOW SURFACE TEMPS: Lower surface temperature than standard baseboards makes...
  • PERFECT FOR BEDROOMS: Reduces effects of airborne allergens while providing...
  • ENERGY CONSERVING: Saves energy by retaining heat to generate residual...
  • SAFE: Safety feature turns the heater off if normal operating temperatures...

Weight: 24.08 pounds
Installation: Hardwire
Wattage: 1500W
Voltage: 208/240V
Warranty: 7 years

How does the Cadet Softheat Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater compare with our top pick?

The Fahrenheat PLF requires 1000 watts for its operation, heats closed spaces up to 125 sq. feet and backed by a one-year warranty. The Cadet Baseboard Heater fares better on two of the three counts. It uses 1,500 watts, warms areas up to 200 sq. feet and is warrantied for 7 years.

Then why isn’t it our top pick?

Mainly because this model is 50% more expensive than the Fahrenheat baseboard heater. But also because, just like the Fahrenheat PLF, it doesn’t have a built-in thermostat and requires you to buy one separately. This makes it a pretty pricey option that is probably not right for people on a budget.

Though the Cadet Baseboard Heater does have the features to justify its asking price.

Similar to all hydronic baseboard heaters, its working fluid takes some time to cool down after the thermostat turns off. This allows this unit to generate residual warmth without consuming any electricity, which results in a more balanced heat distribution.

Even though its surface temperatures are lower than other baseboards, Cadet has still gone the extra mile for your safety. It has equipped this model with an automatic safety on/off switch that turns it off if its operating temperatures enter the red zone.

That is to say that had it not been for its higher asking price – and the lack of a built-in thermostat – the Cadet Softheat Baseboard Heater would have been our top pick.

Things We Like   

  • Heats spaces up to 200 sq. feet
  • Operates quietly
  • Safety switch

Things We Don’t Like      

  • Pricey

Qmark Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater

Qmark Liquid Filled Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater
6 Reviews
Qmark Liquid Filled Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater
  • Hydronic Baseboard Heater: The liquid-immersed heating element delivers...
  • Fanless Operation: Natural convection moves the heat throughout the room,...
  • Safety Features: This heater is ideal to use safely on flooring, tile or...
  • Cleaner Heat: Using convection heat keeps allergens, dust, and bacteria...
  • Perfect Size: This unit measures 58 inches long, 2938 inches wide, and 875...

Weight: 30 pounds
Installation: Hardwire
Wattage: 2000W
Voltage: 240V
Warranty: 1 year

What is it that sets apart the Qmark Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater from its competitors?

The Fahrenheat PLF consumes 1,000 watts and the Cadet Baseboard Heater has a wattage of around 1,500. This model, meanwhile, requires 2,000 watts for its operation. This means it can comfortably heat up spaces twice as big as that of the Fahrenheat baseboard heater.

Though it won’t do so cheaply.

Even without a built-in thermostat, it is 2.5x pricier than the Fahrenheat PLF and costs a whopping 3.5x more than the Cadet baseboard heater. If you’re going to buy multiple heaters for multiple rooms, this model isn’t cheap.

Our experience with this unit helped it stand out as a quiet model that doesn’t blow allergens inside the rooms and is ideal for tile, flooring and even carpets. You can safely use it in bedrooms, living rooms and even the basement with no fire concerns.

Given its asking price, we weren’t surprised that it comes with a thermal protection switch. One that would automatically turn it off if things start to get hairy. That won’t frequently happen as this heater didn’t overheat once in the two weeks that we used it in our office.

We encountered one issue while installing this unit: it had dents on its surface. We then consulted other users of this model to check whether they were facing the same issue. A sizable minority complained that they, too, faced the same problem. That is one thing you’d do well to watch out for upon opening its package.

Things We Like   

  • Quickly heats large spaces
  • Has a thermal cutoff switch
  • Can be used on carpet flooring

Things We Don’t Like      

  • Arrived with a few minor dents

Fahrenheat Portable Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater

Fahrenheat Portable Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater
694 Reviews
Fahrenheat Portable Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater
  • Portable Design: Move this baseboard heater to any spot in need of extra...
  • Fanless Operation: Natural convection moves the heat throughout the room,...
  • Safety Features: For worry-free warmth, the unit's overheat protection...
  • Cleaner Heat: Using convection heat keeps allergens, dust, and bacteria...
  • Perfect Size: This unit measures 45 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 7.5...

Weight: 9 pounds
Installation: Plug-in
Wattage: 1500W
Voltage: 120V
Warranty: 1 year

The Fahrenheat Portable Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater cannot be more different from the Fahrenheat PLF (our top pick). This model is more portable than its colleague because it offers plug-in installation. You’re at liberty to continue using it in one room for decades or shuttle it between rooms every month.

What’s more, while the Fahrenheat PLF is a 240-volt heater, this model plugs into 120-volt circuits. While that does make it a popular choice because it uses one circuit. The Fahrenheat PLF is more energy efficient because, being a 240-volt unit, it utilizes both legs of power and cuts power consumption in half.

Yet another feature that distinguishes this unit from our top pick is that it isn’t UL listed for direct mounting on carpets or floor tiles. That is something our top pick has been UL-listed for. Though both of them have pretty much the same safety features to protect their users’ well-being.

Both the units have a safety cutoff switch to prevent overheating. They also have an inner safety cutout that springs into action when the units’ airways are blocked and turns the heaters off to avoid the risk of fire. This makes both the units a suitable choice for homes with the elderly, children and pets.

Here’s one final thing you’d do well to keep in mind before purchasing this model. Neither its installation mechanism (plug-in) nor its heating output makes it an excellent bet to provide whole-home heating. The best it could do is offer zoned and/or supplemental heat.

Things We Like   

  • Plug-in installation
  • Heats small spaces quickly
  • Multiple safety features

Things We Don’t Like      

  • Only good for zone or supplemental heating

Cadet Soft Heat Hydronic Baseboard Heater

Sale
Cadet Soft Heat Hydronic Baseboard Heater
7 Reviews
Cadet Soft Heat Hydronic Baseboard Heater
  • FAST HEATING: 1000 Watt heater at 240 Volts or 750 Watts at 208 Volts...
  • LOW SURFACE TEMPS: Lower surface temperature than standard baseboards makes...
  • PERFECT FOR BEDROOMS: Reduces effects of airborne allergens while providing...
  • ENERGY CONSERVING: Saves energy by retaining heat to generate residual...
  • SAFE: Safety feature turns the heater off if normal operating temperatures...

Weight: 21.9 pounds
Installation: Hardwire
Wattage: 1000W
Voltage: 208/240V
Warranty: 1 year

Are you looking for a hydronic baseboard heater that can warm up small and large spaces? One that comes with all the bells and whistles you see in top picks but doesn’t cost as much? Then you might want to check out the Cadet Soft Heat hydronic baseboard heater. Here’s why.

This unit can quickly warm spaces up to 150 square feet when operated at the 1000W/240V mode. Such areas include living rooms, vast dining rooms, among others. You can also set it at a lower 750W/208V mode to warm up basements, bedrooms and other small spaces.

It also comes with multiple safety features to protect your wellbeing. A thermal cutoff switch turns the heater off whenever it gets too hot, preventing the risk of fire. Though the switch will rarely have to come to life given that this model’s surface temperature stays lower than other baseboard units.

The absence of ductwork or air movement means it won’t introduce dust, allergens or other pollutants into your room air. This is great news for the allergy sufferers in your home as well as for those who are asthma patients. With this model operating in the background, their sinus problems won’t flare up.

The only complaint we have with this model is that it isn’t portable. That won’t be a big deal for those of you who belong to the ‘install-them-and-forget-them’ crowd. However, if you are looking for a plug-in model, the Fahrenheat Portable might be a better choice.

Things We Like   

  • Competitively priced
  • Thermal cutoff switch
  • Offers two working modes

Things We Don’t Like      

  • Isn’t portable

How to Choose a Hydronic Baseboard Heating System

Baseboard heating systems include models that could offer supplemental heat as well as those used for whole-home heating. Depending on the type you might have purchased, a baseboard heater can work along or replace the forced-air heating systems used in most US homes.

Here’s how you choose a baseboard heating system:

Size of Room and Wattage

Your heating requirements are determined by the square footage of the space and your location’s climate. Other factors that influence your heating requirements are the foot traffic the room regularly receives, the type and amount of insulation it has, and its location in the house.

But as a rule of thumb, you need 10 watts for every square feet of your room. And the length of the hydronic baseboard heater corresponds with its wattage.

Here is a chart with length of the hydronic heater, wattage, and the size of room it’s capable of heating.

LengthVoltageWattsSq Footage HeatedProduct NameBuy
24-inch240-volt500 watts50 sq ftCadet 500W Baseboard HeaterCheck Price
36-inch 240-volt750 watts75 sq ftKing Electric 750W Baseboard HeaterCheck Price
48-inch 240-volt1000 watts100 sq ft Cadet Manufacturing 1000W Baseboard HeaterCheck Price
72-inch 240-volt1500 watts 150 sq ftFahrenheat 1500W Baseboard HeaterCheck Price
96-inch 240-volt2500 watts 250 sq ftQmark 2000W Baseboard HeaterCheck Price

Installation

Identified the system that will meet your heating needs? Now you need to figure out how you’re going to install it. Almost all portable baseboard heaters, which offer plug and play installation, are easy enough for a DIYer homeowner to tackle.

However, that isn’t the case with whole-home or hardwired heating systems. The installation of such high-efficiency hot water baseboard heaters is best left to the heating professionals.

Volt Type of Baseboard Heaters

Baseboard heaters are available in two types: 120 volts and 240 volts.

The 120-volt baseboard heaters are a popular choice for heating small spaces because of low energy consumption, as they use only one circuit. However, while they do use more electricity per se, 240-volt systems are more efficient. That’s because they cut power demand in half by utilizing both circuits.

Make sure your new heater matches your power supply if you’re buying it to replace your current model. Not connecting the right voltage heater to the right circuit will deliver you only 25% of the wattage the circuit could deliver. The heater won’t be able to warm your floor effectively.

Electric vs Hydronic vs Hybrid Baseboard Heating Systems

Baseboard heating systems are available in three types: electric, hydronic, and hybrid.

Electric Baseboard Heaters

Electric baseboard heaters heat air with a direct electrical connection. They draw in air through a vent and heat by passing it over heated metal fins with a built-in electric heating element. Warm air leaves the heater and rises back into your home.

Most of them are hardwired into your home’s circuitry via either a 120-volt or 240-volt connection. This means they don’t require a furnace or boiler for their operation. These heaters have a low upfront cost (they rarely cost over $300) and provide consistent performance.

Benefits of electric baseboard heaters

Electric baseboards are also easy to install and can be used for zone heating, meaning they let you set different areas of your home at different temperatures. They also operate quietly – the only sound you’d hear out of them is the ‘ticking’ of the thermostat – and perform consistently too.

Drawbacks of electric baseboard heaters

Electric baseboards have higher running costs. Your electricity bills will rise in the coldest winter months or if you run these units 24/7. They also get quite hot to touch and occupy a lot of wall space.

Hydronic Baseboard Heaters

Hydronic baseboard heaters offer heat by warming a non-toxic liquid. The liquid, mainly oil or water, is heated in a boiler with electricity or natural gas. Once heated, a pump and a network of pipes transfer the scalding fluid to wall-mounted radiators, where it emits heat into your home.

Modern hydronic baseboard heaters last between one and two decades with annual maintenance. Their upfront and installation costs add up to between $500 and $600. When compared with electric baseboards, they’re available in fewer sizes, require more maintenance and have lower running costs.

Benefits of hydronic baseboard heaters

The best hydronic baseboard heaters are incredibly energy efficient. That’s because of their fuel which retains heat for longer than the fins of an electric baseboard. This makes hydronic baseboards an attractive option for entire-home heating. They’re also better for allergies and safer for children.

Drawbacks of hydronic baseboard heaters

The main drawback of modern hydronic baseboard heaters is that they require regular maintenance. You need to clean their metal fins, bleed their plumbing lines and wash the boiler at least once every year to prevent rust and corrosion.

If you want to know more about the pros and cons of hydronic baseboard heaters, see this article.

Hybrid Baseboard Heaters

Hybrid baseboard heaters merge the heat efficiency of a hydronic unit with the simplicity and self-contained operation of electric baseboards. They operate in isolation, not connected to a boiler or hardwired into your electrical circuit, and are thus ultra-portable. This allows you to quickly move them from one room to another where supplemental heat is needed.

Check out this guide for a comparison of hydronic electric baseboard heaters vs standard models.

Hydronic Baseboard Heater Thermostats

Some baseboard heaters have built-in thermostats while others require you to purchase them separately. Provided your hydronic heater doesn’t come with a thermostat, you have three options to choose from: manual, smart and programmable.

  • Manual thermostats are easy to install and cost less up front. However, they aren’t quite accurate and consume more energy than the other two types. That’s why we suggest you avoid electric hydronic baseboard heaters with manual thermostat.
  • Programmable thermostats provide better energy savings, let you set a multi-day heating schedule and offer more comfort. They automatically adjust the heater’s temperature based on that of its surroundings. But they cost more upfront.
  • Smart thermostats come with high efficiency hot water baseboard heaters. They can be controlled with a smartphone, tablet, smart speaker or other internet-connected devices. They are capable of bringing down your heating bills by up to 20%.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Where should I install my baseboard heater?

You might want to install your baseboard heater under a window. Just make sure that the window coverings and curtains are at least 6-inches away from the heater. Installing the heater there will allow it to heat air entering from the window before it hits the floor. Another plus side is that you can easily access the heater’s thermostat, since there won’t be any furniture under the window. 

How much does it cost to install a baseboard heating system?

Electric baseboard heating systems might cost as much as $500 in terms of installation. The installation cost of hydronic baseboard heating systems, meanwhile, might be about $200 depending on the tools and supplies needed for installation.

What does maintenance on a hydronic baseboard system looks like?

Here are a few tips for maintaining your hydronic baseboard heating system:

  1. Check the boiler and furnace for signs of rust or deposits of calcium. Either of these will hurt the boiler’s performance and make it work harder than it should. Use the right chemicals to dissolve calcium deposits and scour away rust before patching any holes.
  2. Bleed the plumbing lines every year. It will help maintain the heat production’s optimal level and allow the heater operate quietly. You can easily bleed the lines by opening the “bleed valve” and letting out excess air.
  3. Use a regular cleaner. It should provide your hydronic heating system with a proper pH. Be wary of going for anything that is too strong. Such a cleaner might do more harm than good by causing long-term damage to the equipment.
  4. Hire a professional. When in doubt go for the experts. You can hire contractual heating services, experts who have the expertise to resolve furnace issues and take care of your entire cleaning regimen.

Are baseboard heaters safe to use?

Baseboard heaters are safe to use as long as you don’t use them improperly. Keeping flammable materials (i.e., wooden furniture, drapes, carpets, etc.) away from them would keep their fire hazard pretty low. Not allowing children or pets to get too close to them might save them from a potential burn injury.

You might want to observe the “6-inch rule” with your baseboard heater. It states that there should always be a 6-inch clearance between the heater and the nearest object.

Do hydronic baseboard heaters make noise?

Hydronic baseboard heaters don’t make much noise. The only sound you’d hear coming out of them is a pinging sound caused by the contraction and expansion of lean metal vanes. These metal vanes are located within the baseboard and expand or contract as the unit heats or cools.

Are hydronic baseboard heaters more efficient?

Hydronic baseboard heaters are more efficient than electric units. Unlike an electric system, where hot metal fins warm trapped air which then goes into the room and warms it up, hydronic heaters warm up a fluid that can retain its heat for much longer and thus make the heater more efficient.

This distinguishes hydronic baseboard heaters from electrical units whose metal fins don’t take much time to cool down. It also makes them more efficient.

How can I lower my electric bill with baseboard heat?

Follow these tips to reduce your baseboard heating electric bill:

  1. Don’t allow dust to build-up on your heater’s surface
  2. Turn down the heater but don’t shut it off completely
  3. Practice zone heating wherever and whenever possible
  4. Install a smart thermostat – they’re very energy efficient
  5. Insulate all the rooms with the baseboard heating systems
  6. Circulate warm air by spinning your ceiling fan clockwise

Conclusion

If you need a hydronic baseboard heater, we suggest you go for one of the models mentioned above. That is, if you want your heater to operate quietly, have no plans to hire a heating expert for its maintenance every month and are looking for a model that offers comfortable, even heating.

Hydronic baseboard heaters are worth it if you have the elderly, children or pets at home. These units rarely if ever get too hot to touch. In the rare scenario they do get hot, their built-in thermal protection switch would turn off the heater. This helps hydronic baseboard heaters ensure the well-being of you and your family members.

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