For most of us, heating costs go up in the winter, even when it's warmer than expected. And if you rely mostly on electric baseboard heaters, they probably make up a big part of your annual electricity bill – sometimes as much as 44%. But fear not, we’re here to provide some tips on how to maximize the efficiency of your baseboards and help you cut back on winter heating costs.
1. Reduce window drafts
If your baseboards are located under windows (most are to counteract the cold, dense air near said windows), reducing drafts from your windows with window film and coverings such as blinds or curtains will allow the necessary airflow for the warmth from your baseboard to heat the room quicker and more efficiently.
2. Adjust the thermostat to your day
Heating costs rise about 5% for every degree above 20°C (68°F). Most people often set their thermostat higher than it needs to be.
Sleeping: 16ºC (61°F)
Housework or cooking: 18ºC (68°F)
Reading or TV watching: 21ºC (70°F)
3. Practice the virtue of patience
Cranking the thermostat doesn't warm up the room any faster. If you've ever returned home to a room that feels like the Arctic, it's pretty tempting to crank the thermostat up four or five degrees past where you normally set it. But it will still take the same length of time to warm up, and you'll just use more energy, because it keeps heating the room after you've passed your regular comfortable temperature.
4. Get air flowing
Airflow is key. If you have window coverings or maybe a thick rug near your baseboard, ensure they’re not blocking the airflow coming from the heater. The bottom of your drapes should end at least ten centimetres (4 inches) above the heater. Your heaters should sit at least two centimetres (three-quarters of an inch) above the carpet to allow the cooler air on the floor to flow under and through the electrical element. If your carpet is especially thick, trim it down around the base of your heaters.
5. Keep them clean
If it's dusty, it's not working properly. An electric baseboard heater has an electrical heating element inside a metal pipe. When the heater is turned on, an electric current flows through the heating element. Although baseboard heaters will always turn electricity used into heat, dust and dirt on your heating system can block that heat from being distributed effectively in your space. You can end up running heaters longer because it's more difficult to release the heat that’s generated, through dirty fins, into the room. At least once a year (usually in the fall, before using them for the first time), wipe down the surface of your heaters and vacuum the fins and housing to remove as much dust as possible. A brush attachment for your vacuum works well if you have one.
6. Consider programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats are more precise than the manual ones located on your heater. Most heaters are controlled by a wall-mounted dial thermostat or a dial on the side of the baseboard itself. But they're less precise and harder to control than a programmable or digital model. Thermostats mounted directly on the heaters can be slower to respond to changes in room temperature, so for rooms where you're spending a lot of time (such as your living room), you should consider replacing that thermostat with a wall-mounted model. For accurate readings, never install a thermostat directly above a baseboard heater, near a refrigerator or other large appliance, or where it will be in direct sunlight.
If you really want to save, your best option is to keep the thermostat down and bundle up. Break out the sweaters, slippers, and blankets to save on your bills.
7. Heat by zone
Baseboards do a great job of heating in "zones" – that is, heating the spaces that you need, compared to heating your entire home all the time. But since they don't have a forced air or fan system, don't rely on baseboard heating in one room to heat hallways or adjacent spaces, such as by leaving doors open. Instead, heat the space you need when you're using it.