Forced air and baseboard heating are some of the most common heating choices used in households today.
Heating spaces can take up nearly half of your monthly utility bill, but the type of heating you choose will affect how much you pay to heat your home in the colder months.
These systems both have important advantages.
For instance, forced air will heat a room quickly, but baseboard heating is better at maintaining the heat levels in a room.
It’s less expensive to install baseboard heating, but those with larger rooms may save more on forced air heating overall.
We’ll cover more of the differences between forced air and baseboard heating below, comparing the two systems so you can decide which type you should choose.
Keep reading to find out whether forced-air or baseboard heating will be the better system for your home!
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Baseboard heating involves heating systems attached to baseboards within a home.
These are controlled by a thermostat and deliver consistent heat.
Baseboard heating comes in two main types, hydronic and electric.
Electric baseboard heating works well to heat small spaces and offices, but heating a whole household can be costly.
Hydronic baseboard heating involves using hot water to heat a household.
This water will be heated via a boiler system. The boiler will also circulate water through pipes to heat a room or a full house.
However, as it takes more time for the boiler to heat the water, hydronic baseboard heating takes longer to heat a full house compared to other heating systems.
Baseboard heating systems are more popular in residential locations as there’s less chance of temperature changes.
They also won’t release harmful gasses or pollutants, making them a good choice for the environment.
Baseboard heating is usually simple and affordable to install too.
Forced Air Heating
Forced air systems are more complex, designed to heat bigger rooms at a faster rate. These work by using a furnace to heat air.
This air is then pushed through vents and ducts around the property to heat a home.
HVAC air filters are necessary for forced air systems, as they keep the air safe and clean.
Thermostats are needed to manage the temperature, like baseboard heating.
However, forced air systems work by releasing hot air through ducts sporadically, not all at once.
This means that baseboard heating works better to maintain consistent heat throughout a home.
Despite this, forced air systems will work better to heat homes at a faster rate.
Factors To Think About When Choosing A Heating System
Those that care about the best energy-efficient systems should opt for hydronic baseboard heating.
One cubic inch of water will contain more heat energy compared to a cubic inch of air.
As a result, hydronic baseboard heating will cost less compared to forced air systems.
Electric baseboard heating will also cost more than hydronic baseboard heating, though this will vary depending on how big or small your room is.
Design And Installation
Forced air systems will require a lot of space within a home due to the necessary ductwork.
Transporting hot air requires a lot of volume, so you’ll need room specifically kept for ducts.
On the other hand, hydronic baseboard heating just needs a set of eight-inch copper pipes to deliver hot water throughout a home.
These small pipes can be kept tidily and out of the way inside a house.
There are even fewer installation and design problems to worry about with electric baseboard heating.
Forced air heating works by pushing hot air through ducts, but as time goes on, dust and various other particles can accumulate inside these valves.
These will need to be cleaned regularly, but this process takes a lot of effort, so you’ll need to hire a qualified company to clean the ducts.
Electronic baseboard heating won’t need as much maintenance, as all you have to do is dust off the boards when they get dirty.
Hydronic baseboard heating doesn’t require as much cleaning either.
The water within these systems can be used over and over again, even after minerals from the copper piping are transferred to the liquid.
Before you turn these systems on before the colder months begin, you will need to vacuum the heating component and bleed the air inside the pipes.
Heating In Summer
Heating systems are mainly used to heat homes in winter, but some of these can also circulate colder air in summer.
Baseboard heating systems won’t do this, as electric models don’t have the necessary parts to produce colder air.
Hydronic models won’t do this either, as cold water in contact with copper can condense and damage the system.
On the other hand, forced air heating can push cold air out of the same ducts that deliver hot air during winter.
However, you will need to have air conditioning installed in the heating system to do this.
Once the air conditioning and heating system are installed, you can switch between hot and cold hair as the season changes.
Baseboard heating systems deliver heat evenly as they work with the existing airflow within a room.
This process is known as convection air heating. No new particles are released into the air.
This is different when it comes to forced air systems.
These push air from vents linked to furnaces, but these furnaces need to take in air from outdoors to work properly.
Even if you choose to use filters, furnaces won’t be able to filter out small particles, like dust or allergens, so they may enter your home.
If you have health concerns, baseboard heaters (see also our guide on electric baseboard heaters) may be a better choice compared to forced-air heating.
Modern forced air heating systems (see also ‘What Is Forced Air Heating?‘) are made to run quietly, but some models may be noisy regardless.
Hydronic baseboard heating models are known to become noisy when they run. These constantly contract and expand soft copper as it operates.
You may be able to bypass this issue by using PEX tubing instead of copper pipes, but this isn’t always possible.
It’s tricky to compare baseboard and forced air systems by cost, as they involve many different factors.
The price of the equipment will differ across the country and technicians will have different installation rates depending on their experience.
The boiler or furnace efficiency also matters, as well as how big or small the rooms are within your home.
All of these variables mean that it’s hard to compare these systems by price, so you should make your decision based on other factors.
Advantages And Disadvantages Of Heating Systems
We’ll cover the advantages and disadvantages of each heating system below.
Baseboard Heating Advantages
- It costs less to install baseboard heating compared to other heating systems.
- These systems are usually more energy-efficient and cost-efficient when used in smaller spaces.
- They maintain a consistent heat supply throughout a room.
- Better for your health and the environment, as they won’t disperse allergens or toxic gasses.
- Easier to install as they won’t need the space for ductwork.
- As they don’t need ducts, they won’t require much maintenance.
Baseboard Heating Disadvantages
- The design means that these systems won’t be able to deliver heat in larger amounts, so they’ll struggle to heat a smaller room.
- Heating a room from scratch takes longer to do.
- These systems require a boiler and water pump which may break down with regular usage.
Forced Air Heating Advantages
- These systems deliver heat quickly, no matter how big or small the room is.
- Can modify the setup to handle hot and cold air.
- The design allows air to circulate better inside a home.
- The air filters on the system can make the indoor air quality better, as long as they are replaced when needed.
Forced Air Heating Disadvantages
- These systems can be noisy to run.
- Pollutants and allergies from the outdoor air may pass through the filters and disperse within the home.
- The ducts will need regular cleaning as dirt and debris gather over time.
- Installing these systems can be expensive and can take a lot of time.
Which Heating System Is Best for Me?
There are pros and cons to both types of heating systems, so it’s important to decide what works best for your needs.
Baseboard heating systems have one main advantage over forced air ones, as they maintain a consistent heat level within a room.
Despite this, baseboard heating will struggle to heat larger rooms, making this advantage redundant.
Forced air systems may not produce consistent heat, but they work better at heating rooms quickly.
However, installing these systems can take a lot of effort due to the ducts required, so they may not be suitable for some houses.
To choose the right heating system for you, you’ll need to think about which system suits your preferences better.
Other than the factors above, you’ll also need to consider the size of the house, the number of people living there, and whether you want heating during the day or night.
The Bottom Line
Forced air (see also ‘Which Is The Better Option For Your Home: Radiant Heat Or Forced Air?‘) and baseboard heating are common options for heating a home.
These work differently and have various requirements, which is why some may prefer to go for one, not the other.
The factors outlined above should help you to picture which heating system would work better in your home.
Those that live in larger rural homes may do better with a forced-air system that heats bigger spaces quickly.
People that live in smaller homes may prefer baseboard heating systems, as these require little maintenance and will maintain the amount of heat within a room.