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What is a Baseboard Heater?

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  • Written By: Hillary Flynn
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2014
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When the arctic chill of winter sets in, it's important to have adequate heat flowing throughout a dwelling. As an alternative or supplement to other heating sources, a baseboard heater can be installed along the baseboard of any individual room. A baseboard heater works by heating the air near the floor. This heated air then rises and circulates through the room, pushing the cold air back down to the floor. In turn, the baseboard heater then heats that air which continues the process of rising to the ceiling, then drifting back to the floor to be reheated yet again. This is called convection.

Electric baseboard heaters are quiet, effective, and inexpensive. The most efficient spot to place this type of heater is below a window so that it can heat the frigid air that sneaks in. Upkeep is easy as well. They should be kept clean and free of dust and lint, but are otherwise low maintenance. Many come with circuit breakers to prevent overheating and there are no sparks or embers flying out, so it's safe to install them close to carpet. The power source is usually electric, and options include either portable or hard wired heaters.

Portable Baseboard Heaters

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Since most electric baseboard heaters run on the standard 120 volt outlet, portable heaters can be moved from room to room and simply plugged in to generate heat in a new area. Fuss-free, these heaters require no special installation and are ideal for those who live in apartments or other homes that aren't meant for the long term. Portable baseboard heaters are not as powerful as hard wired heaters, but because they can be toted from room to room or taken to other locations they can be a more economical purchase for the dweller who only needs to use them on a temporary, sporadic schedule.

Hard-Wired Baseboard Heaters

These heaters are meant as a permanent installation in a room and come in both 120 volt and 240 volt options. More powerful than a portable heater, the hard wired baseboard heater is also safer for pets and small children. Because they are permanently mounted to the baseboard, there are no cords or cables to be chewed or pulled. However, they do require a more involved set up than the portable grab and go models.

In all, the main difference between the portable and hard-wired heater is just that--one is portable and one is not, but both can generally be used for most purposes.

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