There are two different types of baseboard heating systems: electric and hydronic. From the outside, these two types of heating units look identical. They both provide a slow, gentle flow of heat. So what’s the difference? We break it down for you below.
Electric baseboard heating
In the simplest terms, electric baseboard heaters work by drawing cool air near the floor over heated metal fins, and then the warm air is gently radiated back into the room. They are typically installed on perimeter walls underneath windows, which promotes convection of heat – as cold air falls from the window, it enters the baseboard unit through a vent, where the air is then heated by an electric current. The warm air then rises from the baseboard, and the pattern repeats itself, creating the process known as convection.
Hydronic baseboard heating
Hydronic baseboard heating works similarly to electric baseboard heating, but electricity generates the system’s heat indirectly. Hydronic systems work by circulating heated water or oil from a boiler to the baseboard heaters, where an electrical current warms the fluid within the baseboard unit. The heated fluid then radiates heat into the room.
Hydronic baseboards operate more efficiently than electric systems because the liquid within the system will remain warm for much longer even after the thermostat is turned off.
While hydronic units are more efficient than electric, they are more expensive to install due to the initial cost of a boiler and running tubing throughout the house. These systems are not as common in new homes today because there are more efficient, cost-effective ways to heat your home.