Baseboard Heat

I made a note on my last inspection that one of the baseboard heaters was controlled with a wall switch and not a thermostat like all the others…my client wanted to know if it was a safety hazard. I told him it was more of a wallet hazard if left on…because those things eat electricity and it would never shut off.

Now…baseboard heaters can and will be fire hazards just based on how they work, if not used properly. But, could this thing be a fire hazard because it isn’t on a thermostat? I don’t think it would be an inherent fire hazard, but I suppose it could be hazardous as it would never shut off no matter the temp…hmmm…any thoughts please, if I was wrong I want to let him know…thanks!

BTW, I told him an electrician/hvac guy should be able to install a thermostat rather easily…

The thermostat is basically an on/off switch. The room might get pretty warm, but is not a fire hazard, any more than a thermostatically controlled one.


What does the manufacturer’s installation/operating instructions say?

how about the voltage rating on the switch? some electric heat system require a special 240vac t-stat, and i’d question if the switch is rated for more than 125 vac???

Very nice Jay…I didn’t think of that…hmmm, perhaps I should rethink that one…hmm…now how the f do I backtrack? Mr. Client, I’m sorry I’m a dumbarse and didn’t think of this before, but that switch may need to be rated for a different voltage…you really should call sparky to evaluate as it is possible that it is unsafe… oops.

Just take out the “I’m a dumbass” part and you’ll be alright. :wink:

Every baseboard heater I’ve ever seen was 220V. No light switch is appropriate for baseboard heat. The right device is a 2 pole line voltage rated wall t-stat. Very inexpensive.


Easy to install Honeywell Line Voltage Thermostat
Mounting: Standard 2x4 in Electrical Box
Line voltage thermostat
Electric ratings: 22 amps at 120-240 Vac, and 19 amps at 277 Vac
Switch type: SPST (2-wire) or DPST (4-wire)


Any receptacles currently installed above these baseboard electric heaters?

I don’t know the brand of the heater you saw but this mfg (Cadet) says a t’stat is required like Jay & James indicate, not a switch. See the 2nd paragraph on page 2.

The contacts on a light switch are not rated for that kind of current, especially if it’s 120v baseboard (they do make them) either way the resistive current required for all but the smallest baseboard can heat up a regular light switch, they do make some pretty heavy duty 220v switches with heavy duty contacts for motors that look like regular light switches . But most houses have cheapo switches and receptacles, not even commercial or spec grade.

Very easy, and it’s one that I use quite often since I have the luxury of not providing on-site written reports.

When there is something at the site that intrigues me (read, confuses the hec out of me), I will tell the Client that I found something that is interesting and that I have access to a trade association that has 8,300 registered and certified home inspectors. I will pose the question with a picture and see what the masses have to say. If it proves to be a problem, I’ll put that information in the written report. If there is nothing in the written report about it, then it’s not a problem.

If I’ve already provided a written report and read something on NACHI that starts me thinking about something, then I follow up the same way.

Let them know that you don’t know everything but that you have access to the world’s largest home inspector trade association, as well as various plumbing, electrical, etc. Internet sites. Your client will eat that up and refer you to the world.

I have seen plenty of 120v baseboard heaters. A good way to tell is also the length of the heater. The ones here were usually 120 v until they reached 8 ft. The 6ft could be 120v or 220v. The 4ft were 120v almost alll the time. Here that is.

Great information guys!

That is worth the 289 right there…!

I have let him know that I have more info for him on the baseboard heaters…now the question is…how do I add an addendum to the official report to CMA?

I plan to just type up an explanation, using the info I got here ;), and tell him to check on it w/ sparky and hvac guys…that should cover me shouldn’t it?

I would think so.

Just an idea for a start.:slight_smile:

I think I read somewhere on the BB that someone puts a clause in their report that they ‘reserve the right to amend the report within 24 hours’. That sounds like a good clause to have.

Electric heaters have overload safeties or heat fuses to protect overages.

To determine if the switch can take it, take at the amperage or do the math. This is a resistance load and many switches can handle it.

If it is 240 volts, all the better. There is less current draw on 240 than 120 per leg. High voltage does not require bigger parts. It is the opposite because the current is split across two legs instead of one.

Even if the light switch can handle the current the heater should be on a t-stat.