Properties with baseboard heating. What should I know about them?

21 Replies

My offer was just accepted on a duplex and being a first time home buyer AND house hacker, I'm equally excited and as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs but I digress. Anyway, has anyone ever had a property or lived in a home that had baseboard heaters? What was your experience as far as maintenance. I know nothing about them but this duplex has them. Any info pro & con would be helpful!

Yay Quandra!  House hacking is awesome.  We have a fourplex with baseboards.  I haven't found any maintenance except cleaning them.  You can take the covers off and clean/vacuum off the heating elements as they accumulate a lot of dust.  Your tenants won't do this so I would put a reminder on your maintenance schedule to do this a few times a year - it literally takes a few minutes.  We replaced some of the baseboards in two of our units with Cadet heaters (little in the wall box heaters that have a fan in them).  I think the baseboards might actually heat better but we felt that the Cadet heaters allowed for better furniture placement and maybe a little less of a fire hazard.  Way to go!  Good luck!  

@Quandra Adams Congratulations on your first purchase!! That is fantastic. And I laughed at your phrase about a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.

I think generally, you shouldn't have too much problems with the baseboards. The covers and such can sometimes get banged up, so keep that in mind. Perhaps later down the line, if you find that the numbers work and lots of competing rentals have converted from baseboard to hvac with ducting retrofitted in, you might decide to go that route.

305-537-6252

I have several of these in my units.  The maintenance is simple, but Lisa is right - tenants won't clean them. They are always cheap thin metal, and they get banged up pretty easily.  The replacement is simple, and they are somewhat cheap. 

If the tenant knocks the top off it is absolutely a fire hazard, so you will want to put that as a topic of conversation when you move somebody in.

I recommend you put them on a thermostat.  It will cost a little bit of cheddar, but will be better overall for everybody.

Blair Poelman, Broker in Utah (#9299425)

@Blair Poelman , how do I go about putting them on a thermostat? What type of person/who would I contact to get that going? Also, I'll ask the seller's agent if it's already connected. I hope it is though- figures crossed. When I saw the property I didn't know to ask about it.

@Quandra Adams

Electrician or HVAC contractor can do the thermostats.  

There could be dozens of other things in the property that you don't know to look for, so make sure you get a good home inspection done.  

Blair Poelman, Broker in Utah (#9299425)

@Blair Poelman , I had my agent ask the seller if the baseboard heaters were connected to the thermostat and her response was, "Yes each room has it's own thermostat." Does this answer the question? Is there another way to word it so she gives me the answer I need to know. Otherwise, ill find out during inspection I guess. Now, it could also be a situation where a comma or semantics got in the way lol. For instance, saying "Yes, and each room ..." 

@Quandra Adams   "technically" the baseboard units might have a built in thermostat - which is different than a thermostat that you can stick on the wall to control the temperature of the area.  it's more than just on/off switch.   Just get some clarification on it so you know what you're dealing with

Blair Poelman, Broker in Utah (#9299425)

Electric baseboard heat is just that, an electric heater. You would need to wire a thermostat switch to control them individually which is nice, but not absolutely necessary - I wouldn't (then again they may already have individual switches). The other type of baseboard heat is radiant, which will have water pipes going in and out if it - those can not be made to work independently (unless you zone).

As others have pointed out there is very little maintenance. The must have when considering a property like this is that each unit be individually metered. You must have all utilities in the tenants name, hydro must be paid by tenants. You never want rent to include utilities.

These sound like electric verse hydronic (having a tstat in each room). The electric bill will be high in the winter (depending on how hot they keep it and how cold a winter you get), but lots of homes have (had) them. 

You are way over thinking this. I have about 75 units (houses and apartments) with electric baseboard heat. I love them, no gas furnace problems to contend with at midnight. I just turned replaced 3 heaters in a unit that were 20 years old , no maintenance during that whole time. The cost was only $200 total. I have built brand new rental homes and installed electric baseboard heaters because of how great they are. Sometimes the thermostat is on the heater itself and sometimes there is a wall thermostat, depending on the way the electric wiring was installed at time of the install. 

My experience has been that electric baseboard heat is more expensive than heat from a furnace.

You shouldn’t have any concerns with baseboard heaters. If there electric they will definitely use more energy.

Electric baseboard is easy but expensive way to heat at least here here. I only had one unit actually break though and it was old, easy and cheap to replace. Thermostat is on each unit or on the wall. Maybe the cost is not so bad in your area to run them. We have moved them in a couple cases replacing with a wall unit closer to the ceiling in a tiny room and changing the wall location in other houses if we needed to

Congrats on your duplex!

Coincidentally, I just bought 2 duplexes with baseboard heat. The water heaters are also electric. I'm stoked about that for ease of maintenance. I'll also ask if the heaters are independently controlled.

I know they tend to be more expensive in utilities, but I like the one less worry about gas & furnace replacements in the future.

I think it’s best to look what is considered acceptable in your particular area.  Baseboard heat is very common in some parts of the country and not common in others.  In my neck of the woods, they are NOT popular and make it harder to find tenants.  Mostly because they can make placement of furniture more difficult and can pose a fire hazard (paper or clothes accidentally ending up on top of them and catching fire).  Also, people tend to knock their ankles on them, especially in small spaces (bathrooms).  I have had two such units and ended up removing the heaters and installing central HVAC in both.  However, if you are in a location where AC is not important, maybe leaving them in makes more sense.  Here in South, you pretty much need central AC anyway these days, so once the ductwork is there, switching to central heat is a no brainer.

Edit:  just noticed that you ARE in NC - I would replace them then, unless you are in a D area where window AC units are feasible

@Andrew S. , yes the duplex has AC window units. If I go the HVAC route I will certainly try to use the 203K loan option as I am sure this won't be cheap and I do not want to pay out of pocket for that. Do you think that will add value to duplex enough to where I can increase rents? Right now, I priced the rents close to comparable (but lower) to other duplexes, houses and apartments with the same footage and amenities etc. but felt a little insecure about have AC units so I figured I couldn't price with the average comp. I l'd love to hear your feedback.   

Originally posted by @Quandra Adams :

@Andrew S., yes the duplex has AC window units. If I go the HVAC route I will certainly try to use the 203K loan option as I am sure this won't be cheap and I do not want to pay out of pocket for that. Do you think that will add value to duplex enough to where I can increase rents? Right now, I priced the rents close to comparable (but lower) to other duplexes, houses and apartments with the same footage and amenities etc. but felt a little insecure about have AC units so I figured I couldn't price with the average comp. I l'd love to hear your feedback.   

If you are in a A, B or even C type neighborhood, I would definitely consider losing the window units and putting in central air (or ductless mini units - they may be significantly cheaper, depending on your floor plan).  People who spend $800-1000 or more on rent, don't want to deal with window units.  If your place is at the bottom end of rents, maybe you can get away with it.  But yes, window units will definitely command lower rents.  When you do your rent comps, are you comparing to places with or without central AC?  

I’ve rented a few apartments that have had baseboard heat, and have them installed in my two units. They are the standard in the Seattle area. As a property owner they are great for all the reasons already mentioned. As a tenant they are expensive to run. Since you’re house hacking just be prepared for some big electric bills in the winter. I would still keep them because you don’t plan on living there forever.

@Quandra Adams

Seems like most people touched on the basics. We put in baseboard heating recently in one of our units. One thing I noticed is that I can turn the heaters on for an hour, and the relative temperature would increase so a comfortable setting, but the unit would stay on because we don't have great insulation. I've seen that a lot online where people will blame the heaters for a problem that is cause by insulation issues. But I think they are great solutions for mid-low end rentals. 

Best of luck with the property!

Pete

@Quandra Adams electric base board and electric water heaters are very low maintenance, but higher operating cost. Just be aware when you are pricing your rent, to include whether the comparable rentals have head included. For example, if your competition is $700 per month with heat, maybe you need to be at $650 if the tenant can expect to pay $50 per month for heat.

Congratulations on your purchase!

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