Please tell me about ... baseboard heaters! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 03-11-2007, 07:20 AM - Thread Starter
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I ran a search and found this thread, which was helpful, but I still need some help and reassurance, here.

We're looking to rent a house with baseboard heat. I've never had to deal with this before... as far as I can tell it's pretty rare here. Most places have gas heat, and some have oil. Rarely do I go into anyone's house or apartment and see baseboard heaters. So excuse my ignorance.

Honestly, it scares me. Mostly I'm just worried that my curious 2-year old will stick her hand up in there and burn herself or something. Do they really not get that hot? It totally looked like there was plenty of space to shove her hand in there. That was, by far, my biggest concern. Because I know she'd be trying to play with it. At least for awhile in the beginning.

The owner, who has lived there himself for 12 years, leveled with us about the high electrical cost, so I know what I'm getting into there. I'm hoping there are some tips or tricks to help save on costs. There's one fireplace in the middle of the house, but it's just a standard wood-burning fireplace, and I read somewhere else on MDC that those can actually bring more cold air into the house. It's a tri-level house, if that helps... with the bedrooms over the garage, rec room, and laundry/bath-room, and the kitchen and living room (w/ the fireplace) in the main part, so there are stairs going up and down from there.

I'm not even sure if the heaters were all individually controlled - DP says he thought there was just one general thermostat, but after reading the thread above, does that even exist? It seems that they're all individually controlled? And how do you get around the spacial issues? It seems like there's so many fewer places to put things when there's giant sections of the wall that you can't put anything near.

I think the baseboard heat is the biggest thing holding me back from jumping all over that house. I guess I'm wondering if I should be reassured, or warned. Heh. Really, anything anybody can tell me about them things would be great. Thanks

Weirdo Mama to amazing Aurelia, age 9 & Ember Roslyn, age 3!
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#2 of 9 Old 03-11-2007, 08:04 AM
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We have them in my mother's addition, as it was the only viable heating option.

You are right about the high cost of electricity with them. I had read and been told by the electrician that the one way to keep down the costs is to make sure all the rooms' thermostats are on the same setting. We were told that was better than turning it OFF in some rooms and ON in others... that an even, constant heat level throughout is best. We've never tried it another way, so I don't know if that is true. I will say we pay about double electricity in winter (and we have a gas furnace).

I hadn't thought about the issue with small curious hands getting burned. Dd was 3 when we did the addition. She's a very curious child, as most are, but she never put her hand in them. We just told her they were hot and she stayed away from them.

They do interfere with how you can arrange a room. You don't have to have a bunch of clearance like a portable space heater, but you can't put furniture right next to it. We don't have any furniture around my mom's heaters.

Hope that helps a little bit.
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#3 of 9 Old 03-11-2007, 02:40 PM
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Funny, I've never really thought about them, they're just there. They're pretty much standard in apartments around here. I'm sitting right next to one as I type. I don't really think they're anything to worry about. My parents have baseboard heaters and a woodstove. I think my mom used to worry about the heaters when we were little, but she's a worrier. I don't remember having any problems with them. Just check them before turning them on to make sure nothing is in/around them. It's no biggy. Electric is one of the cheaper heating options here (in QC). Oil is more expensive here. Gas.... I can't think of anywhere/anyone that heats with gas.

I know that in QC we can call the Hydro company, give an address and find out how much the electric bill has been over the past year. It's common practice when looking for an apartment to rent. Most importantly: You want to make sure the home is well insulated. Especially check the bedrooms if they're over the garage.

Usually there are thermostats in each room. One downside to the heaters is that they tend to be dry/suck moisture out of the air. That can get annoying during the winter.

For furniture placement... usually heaters are placed under windows. You can have furniture in front of the heaters, just not against them. For us, here, it's normal to have baseboard heaters and it's relatively cheap. But if in your area it's expensive, you might want to pass on the house.
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#4 of 9 Old 03-11-2007, 07:23 PM
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I have had baseboard a few places. The first two were apartments and I never had problems with them.

Our current house has them and I HATE them. Really really hate them. I wish I knew how much when we were house shopping. We hate them so much that we have considered changing to gas-if we didn't have to pay to pipe it down the street we would have done it. Everyone in our neigborhood uses gas or oil-for some reason the previous owner converted to electric :

I never feel like we have a warm house. Its always drafty. I think in our house, the drafty feel is made worse by the fact that we can't insulate our walls because we have old wiring. So maybe if the place you are looking at has good insulation it won't feel drafty. What year was the house built? Our's is 40's and the old wiring is really typical of then unless the homeowner upgraded. But my parents have a 40's house with the same wiring and insulation as us and have forced air gas heat-its so warm and cozy over there.

Each room in our house has its own thermostat.

As for the two year old. The inside of our baseboards get pretty hot-I am pretty sure hot enough to burn a little one. I thought I would teach our ds that its hot and he shouldn't touch but he hasn't shown any interest in them so I haven't. He is reaching this point where he is kind of testing things out. We have a space heater in his room and he knows that is "hot" and he will go up to it now, say "hot" and then touch it. So I am hoping he won't find the baseboards-thank goodness its almost time to turn them off!

I find it challenging to decorate around them. I really like long flowy window dressings and I can't have them. And you have to be careful what you put in front of them, like you said. Our house is small so it really limits how we can arrange furniture.

For a rental, it might not be a deal breaker for me depending our how long I wanted to live there. But when we buy I again, I don't think I'll buy anything with baseboards.

Lisa, mama to A (3/05) and R (11/07) and L (8/10)
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#5 of 9 Old 03-12-2007, 10:46 AM
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Like Heather said, it's totally normally in eastern Canada. I've had them in several houses over the years. It's really all about the insulation tho. Our current place (with electric heat and all electric heat around here is baseboard heaters) is much more comfortable than our previous gas (forced air) heated one. The current one is better insulated.

I don't find them a real hassle. Thinking of where they are:

There are a couple heaters in the dining/living room under each window, in front of one we have the dining room table (one end against the wall, under the window). The other has the couch in front of it. We left a foot gap between the couch and the heater and it's fine because it's right under the window and we have a shelf running the lenght of the window so we'd be bumping our head if it was any closer to the wall. We also have curtains all the way to the floor there but they're framing the window as opposed to being in front of it (we never close them, we close the blinds only) so they're not close to the heater.

In the kitchen, we have a small table against the wall where the heater is.

In the media room, we have the computers in front of it and a gazillion cables so we never turn it on in there.

In the bathrooms, there is a towel rack above it/

In the kids bedroom there is a small table in front of it.

In our room, there is nothing in front of it.

All the heaters are directly under windows. All our windows have horizontal blinds or roll-up blinds AND the fabric panel curtains are framing the windows so it's not in direct contact with the heaters. So only the blinds get opened and closed while the curtains just stay there and look pretty.

The kids have never shown any interest in them. I just double check nothing has been put inside before turning them on for the first time in the fall.
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#6 of 9 Old 03-12-2007, 11:49 AM
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I found when it comes to electric heat, people either love it or hate it. I happen to love it. I suppose electric bills can be high but when you look at what others are paying for oil or gas, they're not getting off easy either. Additionally, electric heat is 100% efficient. When it's on, you are getting 100% of the heat into your room without heat loss from a furnace. Also, electric is generally (and should be) zoned by room rather than by floor as is typical with fossil fuel heat.

I have done very good with keeping bills low in the winter with my strategy. Each room has it's own thermostat. I keep the heat off in the playroom and in the kitchen/dining area most of the time. At bedtime, I turn down (not off) the heat in the livingroom and turn on the heat in the bedroom and keep the door almost closed (we have cats that go in and out). I have a fleece blanket and flannel quilts on the bed and my dd and I stay quite warm. When I get up, I turn up the heat in the livingroom to get the chill off but when we are not home, I keep it down in the lr and off in the br.

Vermont Country Store sells little trays that hook onto your heater that you fill with water if you find your house getting dry. They are inexpensive.

I've never had any trouble with my dd sticking her hands in the heater. She may have got near them a time or two but I probably taught her they were hot and that's that. No issues. You do have to keep furniture from out in front of them in winter to maximize their effectiveness and certainly you can't have shears in front of them in the winter. I like shear curtains too but more in the summer when the wind can blow them.

You could ask the owner about installing electronic thermostats or programmable thermostats to help control your heating costs and usage. Also, don't forget to do other things to keep your overall electric bill low like using compact fluorescent bulbs in all fixtures and lamps and basic common sense conservation practices. I don't know where you live but electric utilties in many areas of the country offer free or low cost audit services to determine how efficient your home is. And they may offer rebates towards making improvements in the home to help save energy. Your landlord would need to be willing to make the investment in your case.

I run energy efficiency programs for an electric/gas utility so my job is helping customers save energy.

Lisa mom to Gillian (7) : and three : :
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#7 of 9 Old 03-15-2007, 01:38 PM
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Most of the others have covered it basically. Baseboard heat is pretty standard here (Mass). I don't even think about it, except when I'm trying to decide furniture placement, it sticks out from the wall so you can't put objects up against that particular wall. And if you put something in front of it, it can block the heat, making it less efficient. That said, we have our living room couch up against the baseboard heater (but pulled out so it's not touching it) because there was no other spot to put it. It's not a problem.

Ours don't seem to get that hot. Hot enough to deter a child from touching them more than once, but not enough to cause a bad burn imo.
One other thing, if you reach up inside them from the bottom, there are metal fins to disperse the heat into the air. They can be sharp, and give paper cut like cuts. When ds was a baby and started rolling, he rolled over to one when I wasn't looking and cut up his poor little fingers.
But honestly, it never happened again.
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#8 of 9 Old 07-21-2014, 07:20 PM
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I started with one cover from these guys... , for our nursery. It worked so well, we put them throughout the rest of the house. They were reasonably priced and were nicer than anything else we could come close to affording and they even found a solution for a couple of tricky corners. There are no sharp edges and they stay pretty cool. I think the owners name is Jay. He went the extra mile and added screen behind the openings to prevent my lo from getting her fingers inside to touch the fins. I highly recommend their product.
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#9 of 9 Old 07-28-2014, 07:44 AM
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Can you negotiate with the owner to put a stove insert in the fireplace? If so, you can get a LOT of heat from a centrally located first floor fireplace. It will also eliminate chimney drafts. If you learn how to use a stove it can crank out heat for 10 hours on one generous load of wood. You may even be able to use coal or pellets. I lived in a house that had the same basic setup and we only used the baseboard in the powder room, we heated the whole house all winter with the stove and a single truckload of wood. Obviously you must be SUPER careful about safety in every respect if you use a stove. However, it can be much cheaper and easier to control your children's interaction if there's a single location that they can be sequestered from, and there are excellent screens that can be bolted down to keep them and pets away. (That said, I don't know if baseboard heating is dangerous for kids. I would guess that it probably isn't.)

Depending on your landlord's intentions for the house, the stove would be a very good investment in terms of attracting renters, using the house personally again, or selling.

Also insulate! I took a candle all around my house to identify drafts & the direction of the airflow. I own the house so we caulked most of the windows. You can use draperies, plastic, or insulating tape.

Last edited by pumabearclan; 07-28-2014 at 10:39 AM.
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