Replacing hot water baseboard heaters

Replacing hot water baseboard heaters

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Installing Baseboard Heaters

The simplicity of installing a baseboard heater will depend on which kind you want. Installing hydronic heaters will take a little more work, especially if you don’t already have a boiler. You’ll have to find a place for the boiler, most likely in the basement if you have one, and then run pipes through the walls to each of the heater units. Unfortunately, the heaters can’t just piggyback on your existing water lines, but you can run the pipes parallel to the ones you already have to save time. Once the pipes have been laid, installing the actual heater is pretty easy. All you have to do is line up the input and output pipes inside the heater with the pipes in the wall, and then the heater itself can just be screwed into studs. We recommend having a professional install the whole system for you, but if you’re a confident DIY pro, make sure you decide where to place the heaters before running the pipes through the wall so you know the studs will be in the right place to hold the unit.

Installing an electric baseboard heater is much easier but might still require professional help. The heaters come in both 120 and 240-volt models, but we recommend the 240v version because of its increased energy efficiency. Once the heater has been attached to the wall, you can just wire the heater’s junction box directly to a 20-amp circuit on your breaker. Note that if you’re not experienced and 100% confident in your ability to work with electrical wiring, you absolutely shouldn’t attempt this by yourself. A licensed electrician can take care of the wiring for you relatively inexpensively. Many electric baseboard heaters come with built-in thermostats so you can control the temperature, but if you have multiple units, you can also wire them directly into a standard central thermostat controller.

What is wrong with baseboard heating?

This could lead to major problems achieving maximum heat efficiency in your home. If dust collects inside the baseboards, that will cause the system to work harder to maintain the temperature you’re looking for, which might not change your level of comfort but will definitely cause an increase in your energy bill.

Can PEX tubing be used for hot water baseboard heat?

A: Oxygen barrier type PEX pipe has an external polymer coating called EVOH or “oxygen diffusion barrier” and it’s the type used for all standard closed loop heating applications, including floor heating, baseboard/radiator heating and snow melting.

Steps for Moving a Baseboard Heater:

  1. There are two types of baseboard heaters, electric and hydronic heaters. Figure out what type you have before starting any work. In this case, Richard moved a hydronic heater. Hot water baseboard heaters require some plumbing knowledge, so hiring a professional is advised.
  2. Shut off the water lines to the particular zone you are working with. Shut off the boiler electric switch. Wait for the lines and baseboard heater to cool down.
  3. Attach a hose to the drain valve and empty the remaining water.
  4. Cut the PEX supply and return lines and let them drain into a bucket.
  5. Remove the baseboard cover and copper pipe and fins.
  6. Measure where you want the basement heater to go. Remove any baseboard trim from the wall.
  7. Drill two holes where the pipes will run back down to the mechanical room.
  8. Install the hydronic baseboard to the desired wall.
  9. Place the fin tube into the baseboard.
  10. Richard recommends using expansion cradles to make baseboards quieter when they heat up.
  11. Make sure both ends of the copper pipe end over the holes you drill. If not, cut the pipe back. Then clean, flux, and solder the copper fitting on both sides.
  12. Once the solder connections have cooled, it is time to make the PEX connections. Take out the baseboard element to make the next connections.
  13. Use a PEX expansion ring to slip over the tubing. Then use a PEX expansion tool to expand the sleeve to be able to fit over the copper fitting. Hold for a few seconds until the PEX has shrunk down to the fitting. Do the same to the other side.
  14. Pick up the baseboard element and carefully put the PEX tubing down the holes that were drilled earlier.
  15. Make the new PEX connections where the new lines are run.
  16. Place the baseboard cover on.
  17. Turn the boiler and water supply back on.

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.

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.

Run Your Pipes and Mount the Heater

As noted by InterCounty Supply, many people add these heating systems during a renovation when they also replace the floors. If you’re installing new floors, be sure to account for the space they will occupy when determining the layout of the baseboard heater.

Now that you have dry-fitted or dry-assembled your hydronic baseboard heaters, you should mark the floor where you will need to attach your hot water lines. If you haven’t installed new flooring yet, you can use a pencil but use painter’s tape if you have carpet or another floor down that you don’t want to mark up.

Using an electric drill fitted with a paddle bit, carefully drill holes for the copper pipes in the floor. Make sure that they are the correct size for the hot water lines. Then, mount the baseboard heater onto the wall using the parts included in your kit. You may need other tools, such as more types of drill bits or screwdrivers. Follow the instructions in your manual carefully.

Call Your HVAC Company Today

If you’re interested in learning more about baseboard heaters, or you want to have one installed, you should get in touch with your local HVAC contractor. If you’re in Sonoma, Napa, or Marin counties in California, Valley Comfort Heating and Air is here to help. We have the experience you need to install any kind of heating system, whether it’s baseboard heaters, central air, or anything in between. You can contact us now through our website for a consultation or just give us a call at (707) 329-3182.


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