Electric Baseboard Heaters: Maximum and Minimum Height and Space

Cadet 96
Cadet 96" Electric Baseboard Heater. © Cadet

Even though electrical code does not specify anything about electric baseboard heater height and space restrictions, there are certain "rules" you should follow that promote safety and better heater function.

These specifications come from one heater manufacturer, and all manufacturers have different specs. Note that this article is referring to hardwired, permanent electric baseboard heaters, such as a Cadet 96" heater--not portable heaters.

How Low You Can Go

Answer:  Directly on the ground.

Electric baseboard heaters can be installed as low as possible; directly on the ground, if desired. Airflow is not needed directly below most electric baseboards.

If you look at the very bottom of your heater, you will see a guard that prevents the air intake vent from touching the ground.  Thus, a baseboard heater can replace a portion of the baseboard itself.

You would then run your wood, MDF, or polymer baseboard up against the side of the baseboard heater.

You can even install the heater directly on carpeting.  However, most manufacturers such as Cadet say that if the carpeting is very long, it should not be allowed to impede the airflow duct located about 1 inch up from the bottom of the unit.

How High You Can Go

Answer: Typically, avoid obstructions less than one foot above the heater.

Manufacturers tend to be silent on this subject. Most say two things: 1.)  Upper obstructions should be kept 12 inches or more away from the unit, and b.)  the unit disperse heat more effectively the lower it is placed.

As far as heat dispersal, I am not sure whether their statement is based on scientific fact or merely on conjecture. Yes, heat does rise. But in a cool room, heat seeks from the ceiling with great rapidity. Six or seven feet do not make much of a difference.

You only have to plug in one of these newly available, inexpensive thermal imaging cameras and watch heat waves shooting upward from a wall fan heater or baseboard heater.

How Far Above the Unit Draperies Should Be

Answer: 12 inches, to be on the safe side.

Cadet says 12 inches, but I have found other manufacturers that go even lower:  between 4 and 6 inches above the unit. Draperies placed too close to the baseboard heater have contributed to residential fires, many fatal.

How Far From Furniture and Other Objects In Front of the Unit

Answer: 6 inches. Other sources go as high as 10 to 12 inches.

Never place furniture against the heater, especially textile.  

Other Obstructions and Considerations

  • Best Location:  Under a window and/or along an exterior wall.  In other words, place your heater in the coldest area.
  • Outlets:  It's usually considered bad to install a baseboard heater below a receptacle.
  • Horizontal Only:  Baseboard heaters should only be installed horizontally, not vertically.