Central heating, free-standing radiators, electric space heaters and even wood burning stoves and fireplaces have been the conventional methods of heating homes for the past several decades. However, recent demand for more efficient technology has created a new breed of indoor heating – underfloor systems in which hot water runs underneath the floors in each room to effectively and efficiently heat the entire home. These systems can be quite expensive to install if the home has already been built. Hydronic baseboard heaters are a similar but less-expensive option that perform the same task. They heat the home by hot water pipes that run through the baseboards rather than under the floors. This method costs far less to install, since the floors of each room don't have to be removed. Let's take a closer look at the costs associated with hydronic baseboard heat.


The average installation cost for a hydronic baseboard heater in the year 2007 was approximately $6,000 to $8,000 for a roughly 1,400 square foot home. Keep in mind that this is only an average and the cost will vary depending on natural inflation, the size and number of rooms in your home, contractors fees and various other geographical factors. According to the United States Department of Energy, it may actually cost less to have hydronic baseboard heaters installed in your home if you don't already have central heating. This is because central heating requires extensive duct installation throughout the home, which can be very expensive. This new technology would most likely make a more affordable alternative to traditional heating if you're starting installation from scratch or building a new home.

Cost of Use

Although the installation cost of hydronic baseboard heaters may be kept far less than central heating systems, their cost of use throughout the year can actually be much higher. The Department of Energy reports that these heating systems are in fact one of the most expensive way to heat a home in terms of monthly energy costs. Although hydronic baseboard heaters cost less than their electric counterparts, baseboard heaters that use electricity rather than hot water to produce heat, they still cost much more in the long run than traditional central heating units. An exact estimate cannot be made, however, as the month-to-month cost of use depends again on the size of the home, how often the heater is used and geographical utility costs.

The primary reason that hydronic baseboard heaters cost so much to operate is because they use more energy to heat a given space. They also take more time to heat a room because the heat is generated by the heated water running through the baseboards. This produces a slow heat, as opposed to central heating units that blow hot air directly into the home. In conclusion, it takes longer and requires more energy to heat a room (and a home) with hydronic baseboard heat, which results in a higher monthly cost. You'll have to pay for both the water and electricity or gas it takes to heat the water, as well as the electricity to keep the water flowing through the baseboards.

Final Thoughts

Although they are more efficient than electric baseboard heaters, hydronic baseboard heaters just can't compare to the lower operating costs of central heating. If you're building a brand new house, installation costs are lower but in most cases, the savings don't continue. In areas with mild year-round temperatures, hydronic baseboard heat may be a good choice, because you can install them for less and you won't have a high operating cost (since they won't be used much). Individuals in areas with cold winters may be better off choosing central heat to keep monthly costs to a minimum.