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Heat Pumps vs. Electric Baseboard Heat: Two Very Different Ductless Options


Heat Pumps vs. Electric Baseboard Heat: Two Very Different Ductless Options

For decades, homeowners viewed electric baseboard heaters as reliable and cost-effective supplements to central air and window AC units. But today’s split-ductless heat pumps rival baseboard heaters in every crucial aspect, especially when it comes to energy efficiency.

That’s because heat pumps operate by transferring ambient heat from outdoor air to a home’s zones, allowing them to deliver more energy as heat than they consume as electricity. If a heat pump has a coefficient of performance (COP) of 3, it delivers three-times as much heat as it uses in watts. Heat pumps can often achieve a COP of 3 or higher, but the most efficient baseboard heaters can’t exceed a COP of 1. In short, heat pumps are more efficient overall, as well as better at maintaining set points and providing temperature control.

Let’s learn more about baseboard heaters versus split-ductless systems and how they compare.

Baseboard Heaters 101

The most common electric baseboard heaters are convection baseboards, the ones we see installed beneath windows in many older homes. The placement is intentional: as cold air comes in through the window, the baseboard unit pulls in the air, heats it and then expels the warm air into the room. Convection heaters are controlled by thermostats in each room.

Instead of warming air directly, other electric baseboards warm water or oil which in turn heats the air. Oil-based and hydronic baseboards tend to be more expensive than convection-based heaters.

Baseboard Heaters Come with Common Drawbacks

The quality of baseboard heaters varies and the drawbacks may have you considering alternatives.

  • While the units themselves heat up quickly, baseboard heaters are slow to noticeably warm a room, commonly taking 30 minutes.
  • Many of the older and more affordable models are noisy, disrupting the use of a space.
  • They provide inconsistent temperature control, especially if insulation is inadequate and the unit isn’t connected to a line voltage thermostat.
  • When turned on, baseboard heaters are hot to the touch. The units hug the wall and floor and can present safety concerns, if in the reach of children and pets.
  • Baseboard heaters produce very dry heat that can lead to irritation of the skin, eyes, nose and throat. This can be counteracted with a humidifier but running both can increase energy expenditures.
  • Baseboard heaters often produce a burning smell after periods of disuse because of accumulated dust.

Heat Pumps: A More Efficient and Customizable Alternative to Baseboard Heaters

Ductless and ducted heat pumps are one of the top alternatives to baseboard heaters if you’re looking for the benefits of electric heat, such as energy efficiency and reduced carbon footprint, but want to avoid the drawbacks listed above.

Remember when we mentioned that homeowners often supplement central air systems with baseboard heaters? Since central air systems only cool and baseboard heaters only heat, a homeowner who wants options for both heating and cooling would need two systems. Heat pumps, such as Zoned Comfort Solutions® from Mitsubishi Electric, can provide both heating and cooling. Also, as we discussed earlier, today’s innovative heat pumps offer greater efficiency than baseboard heaters in terms of COP. In fact, they’re widely considered one of the most energy-efficient heating (and cooling) solutions on the market.

Ductless heat pumps can also be controlled remotely and offer precise temperature control. Since Zoned Comfort Solutions systems run continuously to maintain a room’s set point, homeowners enjoy consistent temperatures and comfort levels. There isn’t the 30-minute wait they might have with baseboard heaters.

Using a system such as Zoned Comfort Solutions, the units can be set up in different rooms with individual controls for each zone. They also offer more versatile installation. Since they don’t require proximity to a window to operate correctly, they offer more options for installation: walls, floors and ceilings. Wall-mounted indoor units and recessed ceiling-cassettes are placed up and away from furniture and occupants. Floor-mounted indoor units are cool to the touch, making them a safer option for homes with curious children and pets.

To learn more about how you can achieve reliable, energy-efficient comfort with heat pumps, please visit mitsubishicomfort.com.