Blog Will Baseboard Heaters Increase Your Insurance Costs?

Jan 30, 2024

Electric baseboard heaters impact on insurance and energy bills

baseboard against yellow and green walls

As winter approaches and temperatures drop, many homeowners turn to baseboard heaters as a reliable source of warmth.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2021, 51% of Canadian households reported having a forced air furnace as their primary heating system, while 25% reported having electric baseboard heaters.

In this blog post, we will explore the world of baseboard heaters, how they work, insurance considerations, and associated costs.

Three key takeaways about home heating systems and insurance:

  • Your insurer will always want to know what type of heating you use to heat your home, whether it’s a furnace or electric baseboards.
  • Baseboard heaters are a reliable primary heat source for many Canadians, but they may increase your electrical bill.
  • Depending on hydro rates, heating your home with electric baseboards during winter can cost between $150 and $500 or more.

Click below to jump to key points:

What is a baseboard heater?
How do baseboard heaters work?
What is the difference between an electronic and hydronic baseboard heater?
Will baseboard heaters increase insurance?
How much do baseboard heaters cost to run?
How to install a baseboard heater
Maintenance and cleaning tips for baseboard heaters
Baseboard heating FAQs

What is a baseboard heater?

Electric baseboard heaters are a type of heating system that is commonly installed along the baseboards of walls. These heaters comprise a heating element enclosed in a metal housing designed to radiate heat into a room.

They are easy to install and operate and are popular for providing additional heat or as the primary heat source in smaller spaces. The heating element is powered by electricity and generates heat radiating into the room.

Baseboard heaters are an excellent choice if you want additional warmth without making complicated changes to your home's forced-air heating system. These heaters can be permanently hardwired or used as portable units plugged into outlets.

They are recognized for working silently and do not require any ductwork. Baseboard heaters are the way to go if you have an older home and need a simple heating solution.

How do baseboard heaters work?

Baseboard heaters operate on the principle of convection heating. They contain a metal heating element powered by an electric current. As the element heats up, the air surrounding it also warms up, causing it to rise and spread the heat evenly throughout the room.

The cold air is drawn in at the bottom, heated by the element, and then released back into the room. This convection process is efficient and effective, ensuring that the temperature in the room remains consistent and comfortable.

The electric baseboard's heating element warms up as an electric current driven by electrical resistance. Unlike units with fans, baseboard heaters rely on natural heat dispersion throughout the room. Control is maintained through a thermostat on the unit or wall-mounted for accuracy.

Ensure proper clearances, with a 3/4-inch gap at the base for air circulation and 12 inches above for draperies to prevent fire hazards. Maintain a safe distance for furniture, considering both fire risk and airflow restriction.

What is the difference between an electronic and hydronic baseboard heater?

Electronic and hydronic baseboard heaters represent distinct heating systems with unique characteristics. Electronic baseboard heaters, also known as electric ones, employ electricity to heat a metal element, providing quick convection heating directly.

In contrast, hydronic baseboard heaters use a liquid (commonly water or oil) to transfer heat through a closed-loop system, delivering consistent warmth over time. Electronic heaters are generally quicker to respond, but hydronic systems may offer greater energy efficiency in the long run.

Installation and maintenance differ, with electronic heaters being simpler and hydronic, requiring a closed-loop system. While electronic heaters often have lower upfront costs, hydronic systems may be more expensive initially but potentially yield lower operating costs over time.

The choice between them hinges on cost considerations, energy efficiency preferences, and heating performance priorities.

Will baseboard heaters increase insurance?

When installing or using baseboard heaters, it's important to consider insurance implications. While baseboard heaters are generally considered safe, following proper installation guidelines and ensuring that the units are well-maintained is essential.

Your home or tenant insurance provider will inquire about the age of your electric baseboard heaters. Models exceeding 50 years old may impact your Ontario home insurance eligibility due to their increased susceptibility to malfunctions and being an increased fire hazard.

The risk lies in the potential consequences of a malfunctioning heater, especially during winter, when a failure could result in frozen and burst water pipes. While home insurance typically covers burst pipes, reviewing your flood insurance details is essential if you have concerns.

Insurers will also be interested in your maintenance and replacement practices for baseboard heaters. Honesty is crucial in this regard, as a minor misrepresentation could be the determining factor between an approved or denied claim. Most policies will not cover damages from neglect or wear and tear. Even if you have tenant insurance, understand what your policy includes.

Some policies may have specific requirements or restrictions related to heating systems, so it's advisable to consult with your insurance provider to confirm that your coverage is not affected.

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How much do baseboard heaters cost to run?

The cost of baseboard heaters can vary depending on the type of heater, the room's size, and the unit's energy efficiency. Depending on local rates for hydro, you could spend between $150-$500, or more, during winter to heat your home with electric baseboards.

Generally, baseboard heaters are more cost-effective than other heating options, mainly when used in smaller spaces or as a supplemental heating source, such as with a woodstove. Additionally, the ease of installation often reduces labour costs, making them an attractive choice for budget-conscious homeowners.

The operational expenses of baseboard heaters vary according to local utility rates. Here is an example:

  • To calculate costs, determine your heater's wattage. For instance, consider a 1,200-watt (W) heater, equivalent to 1.2 kilowatts (kW).
  • Running a 1.2 kW heater for an hour consumes 1.2 kWh of electricity. Over 24 hours, it totals 28.8 kWh. With daily use throughout a 30-day month, the consumption reaches 864 kWh.
  • Assuming an electricity rate of 15 cents per kWh, the monthly cost would be $129.60.

Consider installing radiant floor heating or a gas-powered ductless heat pump, saving you more money.

How to install a baseboard heater

Installing a baseboard heater involves two main steps: affixing the heater to the wall and configuring the electrical wiring. Mounting the heater is a simple task, while the electrical work typically requires the expertise of a licensed electrician. Local regulations may necessitate obtaining a permit before commencing the installation process. It is highly recommended to hire a professional to support the process of installing a baseboard heater.

Maintenance and cleaning tips for baseboard heaters

Maintenance and cleaning are crucial for the optimal performance of baseboard heaters. Here are some key areas to keep tidy:

  • Regularly remove dust and debris to prevent airflow blockages.
  • Wipe down the exterior with a damp cloth to maintain cleanliness.
  • Inspect for any signs of damage or loose connections.
  • If you have a hydronic system, check fluid levels and promptly address leaks.
  • Ensure proper clearances around the heater to avoid fire hazards.
  • Schedule professional maintenance if required and follow manufacturer guidelines for longevity and efficiency.

Baseboard heating FAQs

If the cause of the damage is covered by your condo insurance, then you can file a claim and get financial support for repairs or replacement. If you are experiencing issues from non-accidental damages and wear and tear, you will likely not be covered. Always check your policy and be sure you understand what is covered.

Electric baseboard heaters are 100% efficient in converting electricity to heat. However, operating costs can vary depending on the weather, the size of your home, and if you have any secondary heat sources, such as a fireplace.

Compare heating sources for your home

Baseboard heaters are a popular, reliable, and energy-efficient heating solution for many Canadians. Homeowners can make informed decisions about their heating needs by understanding how these heaters work, considering the implications for home insurance, and estimating costs.

As technology advances, baseboard heaters are expected to remain a staple in Canadian households as a primary heat source, providing warmth and comfort for many years.