When the outside temperature turns cool, all you want to do is maintain a nice warm, cozy temperature inside your home. Your options for heating systems include boilers, home furnaces, heat pumps, heat radiators, and electric or hot water baseboard heaters. 

Here, we’ll help you explore hot water baseboard heaters in terms of their pros and cons, cost, and working. 

You can then choose which baseboard heater will suit your requirements more —  convection heaters or hydronic heaters aka hot water baseboard heaters.

Read more: Factors to consider when choosing a heating system

What is a hydronic baseboard heater?

A hydronic or hot water baseboard heater uses heated water, or sometimes oil, to distribute radiant heat in an area. You can either choose a self-contained electric hydronic baseboard heater that heats an internal reservoir of liquid or a hydronic baseboard radiator that’s integrated into a home’s central heating system boiler. 

Both types of baseboard heaters come with metal heating fins surrounding the fluid pipe or reservoir and distribute heat from the hot water.

Out of the two, hot water baseboard heaters (HWB) are a more energy-efficient heat source because the hot water continues to emit heat long after the heater has been turned off. In the case of electric space heaters, the metal heating fins quickly cool when the heater is turned off. And since HWB heaters use hot water instead of electricity, they are cost-efficient too.

Hot water baseboard heater pros and cons

If you’re considering buying a hot water baseboard heater, it’s best to look at its advantages and disadvantages before deciding.


  • Saves money: The cost of this type of heater is lower than the cost of installing a radiant heating system. Keep in mind that the expense depends on several factors such as the size of the room, the type of boiler, the specific heater model you choose, etc. As compared to an electric heater, the initial cost of a hot water baseboard heater is higher. But, you’ll save on the electricity bills in the long run.
  • Energy-efficient: These heaters are more energy-efficient as well as economical.
  • Source of consistent warmth: HWB heaters give a constant flow of warm air. The reason is that the boiler ensures that the water is at a consistent temperature at all times.
  • Easy installation: The heaters have a straightforward installation, a lot simpler than under-floor heating which involves removing the existing flooring.
  • No risk of any toxicity: Since such heaters work using hot water, they don’t emit any toxic substances.


  • Lesser heat: These heaters don’t produce as much heat as electric heaters. They may not be suitable for large rooms.
  • Takes longer to heat a room: When compared to radiant heating systems, HWB heaters take longer to heat a room. Of course, the time required for a room to warm up depends on the room size.
  • A little restricting look: A baseboard heater is typically located at the base of a wall. This doesn’t give the homeowners complete freedom with the home décor or with the furniture arrangement.
  • Requires regular maintenance: The baseboard heater components, including pipes, boiler, and water pump, are prone to wear and tear — increasing the risks of leaks. In order to prevent this situation, you need to maintain your heater regularly.

Read more: Why is electric heater blowing cold air

How do hot water baseboard heaters work?

The working of a hot water baseboard is relatively simple. The heater warms a liquid (such as water or oil) contained in the unit to provide heat. Since the non-toxic liquid is sealed within the system, it’s a safe way to provide radiant heat to warm your home.

Hydronic baseboard heater costs and installation

The cost of installing a hydronic or hot water baseboard heating system can be approximately $6,000 to $8,000.

The exact cost of the installation depends on the type of heater it is, labor cost, and whether you’re replacing an existing baseboard heater or installing a new one. 

Replacement can easily be a DIY project while it’s best to hire a professional for a new installation. The plumber will need to run new plumbing through your home’s walls or floor. The average labor cost while installing a baseboard radiator can be between $400 and $1,000.

Are hot water baseboard heaters safe?

Yes, baseboard heaters are generally safe heat sources, with a low chance of a fire. That is if you follow the basic safety and maintenance tips. For instance, if you want to prevent fire and maximize the heating capabilities of the appliance, make sure the airflow is never blocked. Most importantly, observe the “6-inch rule” by leaving clearance between your baseboard heater and anything else.

Last thoughts

When it comes to heating your home, there are several options you can choose from — based on a heater’s cost and effectiveness. Today, more and more homeowners are using a hot water baseboard heating system. And, for good reason. This type of heater heats your home effectively and efficiently while reducing your energy bills.

Hot water baseboard heaters: Features, cost & pros and cons was last modified: May 30th, 2022 by Ramona Sinha
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