Q: Our 30-year old home has electric baseboard heat and our daughter says her room is always cold. Is it possible there is not enough insulation in that room?
A: There are many factors that can influence the temperature in any given room. As a Home Inspector, I’ve seen baseboard heaters hidden behind thick drapes, furniture or even behind the bed. It is important to note that electric baseboard heaters can operate at extremely high temperatures and for safety, all manufacturers recommend keeping electric cords, furniture, draperies and any other blocking material away from its surface, as it can negatively affect heat distribution and could even become a potential fire hazard. If this is not the situation in your daughter’s bedroom, then I would suggest focusing your attention on the type of thermostat that is being used.
A lot of older mechanical thermostats have a dial with a range of temperature printed on the cover and some even had a defined area that was referred to as the “Comfort Zone”. Not only did these types of thermostats make it difficult to know the actual temperature of the room, but some were also known to have a high differential (±4°C). Differential refers to the temperature range that the thermostat operates between on and off or in other words, between heat and no-heat. For example, if the room was set to 20°C and the thermostat has a 4 degree differential, then the actual temperature could be anywhere between 18°C and 22°C.
If this is the type of thermostat that is currently in your daughter’s bedroom, I would recommend upgrading it to an electronic programmable model. Programmable thermostats allow you the flexibility of accurately setting the temperature for each of the seven days of the week, plus there are at least four settings per day. Since the majority of these units will also have a digital display, this should make it easier to read the real temperature of the bedroom. Think about choosing a model that is easy for both you and your daughter to operate.
Thermostats for electric baseboard heaters are typically line-voltage types, as they are powered by the same voltage as the baseboard heater (i.e. 240 Volts). As such, this is a project that would be best performed by a licensed electrician and not by your typical DIYer.
Lawrence Englehart (Global Property Inspections) is a Registered Home Inspector and be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.gpiweb.ca/englehart or www.facebook.com/GPI.HRM