• Runtal electric baseboard heater: Review

    Disclosure: Runtal gave me a discount on the retail price of this baseboard heater.

    runtal electric baseboard heaterpams office remodelLast summer, the impetus for my office remodel was to make it warmer in the winter. My office is in basement — it’s a walk-out basement — and my office is on the corner, two walls to the outside. In the winter, the space was cold enough to require my running one of those little space heaters all the time. And then, it still was chilly. Since I now work at home full-time, I decided to invest in comfort — and yes, it was super fun to decorate the walls with nearly 300 pieces of vintage wallpaper, all Holly Hobby on hallucinogenics-style. The two key steps we took to improve the comfort level in the room: (1) we built out more studs and put in a double layer of insulation on the outside walls and (2) installed this 4′ long Runtal electric baseboard heater under the window. Six months later — and well into a freezing cold winter — how is it all working out?

    Super duper swell.

    My room is really cozy.

    runtal-electric-baseboard-heaterruntal-detail

    The Runtal electric baseboard heater is wired to a thermostat on the opposite side of the room. I turn the thermostat up in the morning, and the baseboard starts to do its thing.

    I am also sensing that improving the insulation on the outside wells in helping.

    And I should add that we (3) put a new vent cover on the ceiling vent that delivers hot air from our natural gas-fueled furnace. The new vent cover has wider outlets and can be sort of pointed (not much) to blow in my direction. It is also important to keep my door open all the time, because there is no cold air return in my office. The cold air return is right outside the door, tucked into the riser at the bottom of the landing coming down the stairs to the basement.

    I spent a lot of money on the renovation. Mostly in labor costs for my contractor. I am pretty sure I will never recoup what I spent in saved energy costs. But the space is tremendously more comfortable. It’s a terrific working space — yes, my favorite room in the house.

    Runtal_Lincoln_20110914-1462

    Runtal publicity shot

    Why did I choose the Runtal electric baseboard heater?

    This sounds terrible, but I fundamentally chose it because of the way it looks.

    runtal heater

    Runtal publicity photo

    I am pretty sure this design has been around since the 1970s — as a radiator, not as a baseboard, though. The electric baseboard heater is a relatively new addition to their lineup, here’s what the Runtal website says:

    For over 60 years, Runtal has been world-renowned as the premium manufacturer of Euro-style hot water panel radiators. We are now pleased to unveil our new electric panel radiators (baseboard style). This revolutionary patent pending technology combines high outputs and low surface temperatures with the fine design and outstanding quality that one expects from Runtal. Runtal’s electric baseboard panels are available in 3′ to 10′ lengths in both 208 and 240 volt configurations and may be ordered in more than 100 Runtal colors.

    And here’s more about the company — yes, they have been making these heaters — as radiators — since the 1950s:

    Headquartered in Switzerland with licensees worldwide, Runtal is considered the world leader in radiator technology. This is no surprise, since Runtal invented panel radiators back in the 1950′s and has hundreds of thousands of installations throughout the world. Over 20 years ago, a major commitment was made to the American and Canadian markets by the opening of a state-of-the-art factory in Ward Hill, Massachusetts. All products are designed to meet American building requirements and carry a five year warrant They come in a variety of styles for towel radiators, coat hangers or elegant room dividers.

    Hey, I think I’m reading they are Made in the U.S.A. Right here in my home state, the wicked awesome Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

    I chose the white enamel finish. It has the 1960s Broyhill Premier Chapter One flower power lacquer look that goes perfectly in my office.

    wine-redmoss-greenI toyed with order a throwback color like moss green, brown or wine red. But those colors didn’t really work with my design. If I were doing an A-frame cottage or some sort of space that needed electric baseboards, I could see building an interior in the rich 1970s colors and using these baseboards. Yes! Moss green in an A-frame ski chalet. Yes!

    Once I got into reading about the heater on Runtal’s website, it seemed to me like it was pretty heavy duty. It weighs like 40 pounds.

    runtal heater

    My electricians said the preferred place to put an ancillary baseboard heater is beneath the window. I am pretty sure that this has something to do with handling the convection of air off the window. Note: I am by no means sure I am using the word “convection” properly. I am not an expert! Consult with your own.

    My electrician dudes were very impressed. They had never installed one (it has its own special wiring). They told me: You want to put the electric baseboard under the window. I take it that: The cold air / draft created by the window (heated air rises and is drawn to cold window glass / cold window cools air, air falls toward floor) is heated by the baseboard, reducing drafts. This unit requires its own special wiring. 240 volts (I think?) Ummm, read the website. In any case – you have to be able to get the wiring over to it. My husband’s office is on the opposite side of the basement. It’s cold, too. After seeing mine in action, he wanted one, as well. But the electrician dudes came in — and said they could not get the wiring over to the beneath the window without ripping open walls. So, DH is sticking with his space heater.

    The thing was expensive. Like, $800. Although Runtal gave me a discount, for promotional purposes. Knowing what I know now, would I pay full pop? Yes. Would it be a bit painful, to write a check like that for heating for one room? Yes. Would I get over it? Note: I have not paid attention to our electric bill. I’m sure it has risen. But, if I were conscientious, I could now turn down the heat in the rest of the house during the day — given that this single room is where I spend the majority of my day. I am *guessing* that the costs would balance, at minimum. Of course: I would need to actually do this — that is, turn down the heat in rest of the house.

    Does this Runtal baseboard really work “better” than a cheaper electric baseboard? I do not know. I don’t have the skills to do that analysis. It’s throwing out 2000 BTUs. It seems hefty. It’s prettylicious. For the first time in 10 years in this space, I’m warm.

    Check them out here: Runtal radiators and electric baseboard heaters.

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    Comments

    1. That looks great, Pam! Have you considered a programmable thermostat?

      For small rooms (like a bathroom, walk-in closet or some offices), electric heat as a supplement makes much more sense than having the whole heating system fire up. That’s inefficient and you have to heat the whole house to heat one room. With a programmable thermostat (and maybe a motion sensor, if you’re really into it) you can be even more efficient still! I don’t think there are many commercially available motion sensing thermostats yet, though.

      Also, as far as the cold air return goes, consider lopping 2″ off the bottom of the office door, or adding a louver for air to flow through. Then you can close the door if you need to, without getting the colder air stuck in the room. This also reduces airflow in the room, so your freshly-electrically-heated air doesn’t get sucked right into the air return or wander down the hall without you.

      • pam kueber says:

        What a great idea to add the louver!!!!!

        I don’t think I need programmable yet — the room stays warm enough overnight from the regular house heat — I should have mentioned there’s also a duct into the room, it just never was “enough”. The Runtal powers up fast enough in the morning…

        Thanks!

        • I know how you feel. It is so nice to be warm downstairs. We are having a “discussion” now about installing a gas stove that looks like a wood stove to heat the lower area. We have an old Vermont Castings wood stove from the 70′s we used to use, but it is a lot of work. The Gas stove install would go where the old wood stove is. However, it will be about $4,000 for the stove and the install–and the “discussion” continues!
          The Runtal has a very nice look. Glad you solved your cold room problem!

          • pam kueber says:

            One of the first things that we did when we moved in was put a natual gas-powered insert in our basement fireplace. This is our “family room”. It was always really cold. The little fireplace does the trick. Yes, expensive as you have described. But without it, we really could not have enjoyed the space.

            • The gas inserts are definately worth their price. Very efficient. I wish I had a way to vent a chimney from the basement for a LP gas fireplace. It would make the basement more useable plus provide heat when the power goes out.

    2. Very attractive. I would love to have a towel warmer in my bathroom. Looks like they come in some nice retro colors too.

    3. Pam, thanks for the update. A previous owner that finished the basement had two electric baseboard units installed that I had to disconnect because they were located where I had a closet and bookcases built in. I wanted to install a new heater and was curious about your experience with the one you chose and hoped you would share your story. Thanks!

      • Jay,
        I was on Runtal site (briefly)and was impressed with the verticle heaters they had. Insteat of 10 ft of baseboard heater you can have one go from floor to ceiling and can even be used as a kneewall. My idea wheels started turning.
        rick

    4. Janet in CT says:

      I just checked out their website and what a bunch of beautiful products! I like the looks of the baseboard heater – simple, stylish and not deep front to back, which usually is a problem when placing furniture. And best of all, USA MADE!

    5. It’s so funny you should mention’ toasty toes’. Growing up in the 70s (New Jersey) we had a ‘built-in table’ in the kitchen overlooking a bow window. In the dead of winter four kids would scramble to see who could get the seat located dead center with the floor heat vent on which to place our frozen toes. lol

      • When my mom designed our house in the 70s, she purposefully put a floor vent right in front of the kitchen sink (tucked up under the cabinet). It made washing dishes in the winter heavenly.

    6. Mary Elizabeth says:

      Pam,

      First of all, I love your crazy quilt patchwork wallpaper. Did you find some old sample books, is that how you did it?

      Second, in addition to their electric heaters, Runtal also makes hot water radiators in the same style. One of our daughters and her Icelander husband love the Scandinavian/European design and put one in their dining room while doing it over. We considered them for our new addition, where there is hot water heat, but they were pricey, so we got some that were almost as thin and a lot cheaper.

      Some of the 1950s and 1960s ranches we looked at while house shopping had these big old clunky baseboard radiators that took up two walls of each room and stuck out about a foot. It’s interesting that people would pick that syle of radiator rather than the European ones that fit in with their mid-century modern architecture and furniture. In some of the houses we saw, we wondered where we would put any furniture, as every wall was dominated either by a radiator or doorways and windows.. One of the reasons we bought our house is that the owners had put in the money on things like a new roof, new plumbing and sleek, updated radiators rather than on ripping out the pink bathroom and knotty pine kitchen, which have kept us busy and happy.

      • Hi Mary Elizabeth, if you click on the Office Remodel graphic you can get to all my stories about my office remodel project. 17 different wallpapers — from vintage rolls I’ve collected over the years. So, no, not sample books. I chose the designs so that they’d be an “artful” patchwork — the colors coordinate. In their own way. :)

      • Oh yes, I have them myself on all outside walls. In some cases, I just placed the furniture in front such as the buffet in the dining room. Not an issue to me, I wanted the hot water heat. When all these ranches and split level homes were newly built in the 50s and 60s this product would have been a costly import. Builders of large subdivisions hoping to sell to first time homebuyers could not justify the cost and I doubt the home buyers ever gave it any thought.

    7. That’s the nicest looking baseboard heater I’ve ever seen…but I’m soooo glad I live in a climate where we don’t have to have baseboard heat or any type of mechanical devices exposed in our rooms. I understand they’re necessary up north, however, and am glad they’re working to keep your house warm.

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