Baseboard Heat vs Forced Air

Whether you replace your heating system or look to set up one for a new build, one major decision point is choosing between baseboard heat and forced air. Some of the variables to consider include the following:

  • Which has a lower upfront cost of setup?

  • Which is more efficient?

  • Which is better for large or small homes?

  • Which is best for lowering the spread of air contaminants?

In this guide, we will answer all of the above questions as we explore the pros and cons of baseboard heat vs forced air heating. Along the way, we will also discuss how each type works to keep your home comfortable.


At a Glance: Baseboard Heat vs Forced Air Heating

Before we dive into the pros and cons of baseboard heat vs forced air heating, let’s first look into how the two work.


How Does Forced Air Heating Work?


Instead of being installed inside the room like baseboard heating is, the heating unit used in forced air heating is located somewhere that doesn’t get much foot traffic—such as in the garage, attic, or basement.

This is because forced-air heating is central. Essentially, your HVAC system “inhales” and “exhales” the air around your home. Cold air returns are what allow your furnace to “inhale” your home’s air. The cold air is captured in the vents that are located low to the ground, where it then travels through the ductwork to your furnace where it is filtered, heated, and sent back to warm your house.

Forced air heating systems can involve electric or gas furnaces to heat the air. The system can also make use of heat pumps or hydronic systems. Forced-air heating is able to execute this on a larger scale thanks to networks of ducts and fans.


How Does a Baseboard Heating System Work?


Baseboard heaters mainly work through what’s known as passive convection. Through this principle, cold air sinks or gets sucked through the vents of the baseboard heater. Once there, the cold air is heated by metal fins, oil, or fluid.

If heated metal fins are involved, this means the unit is an electric baseboard heater. However, if heated oil or fluid is involved, this means the unit is a hydronic baseboard heater. Though only one type is labeled as “electric,” both types actually use electricity to provide heat—albeit in different ways.

In both cases, once the warm air is heated, it rises out of the baseboard heater and into the room. In some units, however, a fan is included to blow the air out into the room.


Basics of Baseboard Heat vs Forced Air Heating


Baseboard Heaters

Forced Air Heaters


Works through passive convection.
Cold air sinks and gets sucked into the baseboard through the vent and is heated by the unit. Then, the warm air is released into the room

Pulls cold air into the ductwork to be heated by a furnace and distributed through the use of a fan or blower

Zone heating or central heating

Zone heating

Central heating

Involves ductwork and heat pump when installed


The heating unit is present in the room itself

Yes (usually near a window)



1. Electric baseboard heaters
2. Hydronic baseboard heaters

1. Gas furnaces
2. Electric furnaces
3. Hydronic coils
4. Heat pumps


The Pros and Cons of Baseboard Heat vs Forced Air Heating

Now that we have covered the definition and principle behind baseboard heat vs forced air heating, let’s look into their pros and cons.


Baseboard Heating

The biggest advantages that baseboard heating offers are (1) it's generally more affordable to have installed and (2) they provide zone heating.

To expound on the latter point, this means that whenever a room is vacant in the house, you can simply turn off the baseboard heater in that room in order to save electricity. Furthermore, each baseboard heating unit has its own thermostat, allowing you to easily control the temperature of the rooms that have them installed.

The table below outlines more of the benefits of baseboard heating, along with the disadvantages it has when compared to forced air heating:

Baseboard Heating



  • The unit and installation is more affordable

  • Quiet operation

  • Easy to set different temperatures in different parts of the home

  • Great for providing added or secondary heating

  • Works well for smaller homes

  • They take up valuable space

  • Because the heating unit is in the room, this can be a hazard for babies or small children

  • Does not warm up the room as fast as forced air heating

  • Not as cost-efficient for large spaces as forced air heating


Forced Air Heating

The biggest advantage that forced-air heating has over baseboard heating is that (1) they heat up rooms faster and (2) they are far more cost-efficient when heating larger houses with more rooms.

The table below outlines other advantages and disadvantages that forced-air heating has when compared to baseboard heating:

Forced Air Heating



  • Forced air heating is able to warm up the rooms of the house faster

  • Heating units are out of the room, leaving space entirely for interior design freedom

  • Because heating units are out of the room, these are safer for babies and small children

  • Cost-efficient for heating large spaces

  • The ducts, when uncleaned, can collect or spread dust, particles, and mold spores through the house

  • The unit and the installation can be pricey, especially if your home doesn’t have ducts

  • Pushing air through the ducts produces some noise

  • Individualized temperature control for each area of the house isn’t available

  • Damage to ductwork lessens efficiency


Professional Insights and Top-Notch Heating Solutions With Napoleon

Whichever of these two options you deem best for your home, you need heating solutions that you can rely on. At Napoleon, we are committed to constant innovation, all keeping the needs of the modern homeowner in mind; this includes our ductless units. An efficient alternative to baseboard heating, they allow the same amount of comfort that a furnace would provide with the bonus of zone heating control like baseboards.

Check out our latest heating and cooling solutions that will add comfort and efficiency to your home. If you have questions on what kind of heating system is best for you or how to improve your indoor air quality, please feel free to reach out to our expertly trained dealers.