Why Do Baseboard Heater Covers Have a Gap at the Floor?

baseboard gap

One of the primary complaints about baseboard covers is the gap at the bottom of the cover. If baseboard covers were necessary for efficient heat, the thinking was why make them even more noticeable with a gap? Even today we’ve been asked by customers if they can install their cover to have no gap at the bottom.

There’s an important reason why baseboard heater covers have that gap. It’s the only way for cold air to be pulled into the fins and warmed. If the baseboard cover was flush to the floor, cold air couldn’t reach the fins and warming of the room would be severely reduced.

Hydronic baseboard heat doesn’t work by pushing warm air toward a room’s occupants like a fire or stove. If that were the case, baseboard covers would have fans. Which is why baseboard heater covers that have vents facing outward aren’t very efficient. 

Hydronic heat works through a convection loop. You’ve likely heard the phrase “hot air rises, cold air settles.” It’s basic thermodynamics and it’s how hydronic baseboard heat warms a room. Cold air is pulled under the gap of the baseboard cover and as it warms it rises along the wall creating a convection loop around the perimeter of the room. That convection loop doesn’t require a fan, vacuum, or other method of moving air around. It simply hitches a ride on natural currents. It’s actually pretty brilliant.

hydronic heat efficiency diagram
Hydronic heat efficiency diagram showing how heat moves around a room on convection currents.

That brings up another important fact about hydronic baseboard heating systems. Based on how hydronic baseboard heat is designed to work, blocking baseboard covers behind furniture or covering them with curtains significantly reduces efficiency. 

When a baseboard heater cover is hidden behind a sofa that rests near the ground, or is covered under a curtain, the convection loop is broken. Heat is no longer moving along the perimeter of the room and cold air is no longer quickly pulled into the fins at the floor. The airflow is blocked, requiring much more energy to heat the room and keep it warm. Because baseboard covers have historically been inefficient due to improper vent design, homeowners are accustomed to higher-than-necessary energy bills and assume it’s normal.

Once you understand how baseboard heater covers are designed to work, it becomes clear the importance of keeping the covers free from obstructions. And how important it is to have baseboard covers that do not have any portion of their vents facing outward.

The highest level of hydronic baseboard heat efficiency will be realized if none of the covers are blocked, but the reality of a room’s layout is that a sofa will likely need to sit in front of a baseboard cover. This is where Cover Luxe’s design shines. Because our vents are strictly facing upward, a sofa with legs that is not flush to the floor will not significantly block airflow currents. As long as there’s no curtain, plants, or other decor behind the couch impeding the airflow, Cover Luxe baseboard heater covers can do their job and enable an unbroken convection loop for highest efficiency.

Baseboard heat can be an efficient way to heat a home, but factors like vent direction, intake gap, and furniture placement have a significant impact. Take a look throughout your home and consider moving furniture or replacing draperies with more flush types of window coverings to ensure your room is benefiting from a convection loop.

Efficiency aside, one of the advantages of Cover Luxe is the stylish and modern design that doesn’t need to be hidden. It’s surprising how such a simple change can elevate a room, and how you and your guests will actually enjoy looking at them.

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