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Code Required – Electric Resistance Heater

jackofalltrades777 | Posted in Mechanicals on

Zone 4 – My building code department is requiring a heat source in all the bedrooms even though I am building a super air tight, super insulated home (way above code). I have a ductless mini split in the adjacent room and I leave my doors open but the building dept still wants to see a “heating source” in that room.

Makes no sense to install another minisplit unit in a small room so I want to get past code inspection by installing an electrical resistance heater. What is a good brand/type to install? Can I just install one of those wall mounted fireplace units that put out resistant heat?

The building dept might also make me install resistant heat in the bathrooms even though there are NO windows and they share an interior bedroom wall that has a ductless mini in it.

These building departments have NO CLUE what it means to build an air tight and energy efficient home. They act like there will be a 15 degree difference between a room that is 3 feet away from another room. As if it was a Medieval Castle from the 1500’s that is drafty with R-2 walls. Frustrating but I need to install a cheap electrical resistant heater to pass code.

Any recommendations?

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Option 1: Appeal to a more intelligent person in your local building department, and provide information from this web site to help educate that person.

    Option 2: Install a few electric-resistance baseboard units. They are cheap.

  2. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #2

    Will they permit a plug in heater?
    Convectair makes an attractive, inexpensive series of wall mounted heaters. As Martin says, baseboard units are cheap. They are not all that attractive.

  3. brp_nh | | #3

    We have wall mount Stiebel Eltron heaters in various rooms of our house to back up our heat pump (zone 6). The smallest unit is 500 watts and less than $100:
    Stiebel Eltron CNS-E

    The Convectair units are nicer (but also $200++) and they make a 120v plug in:
    Apero 120

    If you can't get around the requirement, maybe you can run an extra 120v plug in those rooms and the inspector will ok that?

  4. charlie_sullivan | | #4

    Some options to consider.
    * fanless low-profile wall panel heaters for $100 or so. Lower profile than ones with a fan. For example, the "Econo Heater"
    * Radiant electric cove heaters. Mounted up high they are also out of the way. As low as $81.
    * If it's not too late, put electric heating in the floor. Out of the way, hidden in the floor. And if you only put in a small area, the materials are cheap: $20 for a 3-sq.ft. unit, for example.
    (Thermostat is extra, but maybe all you need is an on-off switch, which you will put permanently on "off" after the inspector leaves.

    If you can do so without starting a fight, there is value in educating your inspector, not only for your benefit but for other projects in your area.

  5. jackofalltrades777 | | #5

    This guy was telling me that he has been doing his job for 15+ years and that ALL rooms require a heating element because one will get cold rooms if they don't. He said that construction is the same as it was 15 years ago and some things don't change, especially heating requirements.

    This guy needs to go to college and take some refresher courses on building science because he is part of the group of people that refuse to study and understand that things have changed. I'm building an air tight home <0.60 ACH@50Pa - R-30 walls, R-60 ceiling, R-7 windows, in a Zone 4 climate and he is telling me that my mini splits won't heat a room that shares an interior wall that is 3 feet away? Dealing with these people is frustrating...

  6. jackofalltrades777 | | #6


    You are right, no point in fighting and arguing with him because it's a losing battle for me. Just frustrating that these people are not up to date on building science. Why get into code and building inspections if you don't like building science? At least stay up to date and read things online about changes and how an air tight, high R-Value home can be comfortably heated with a few mini splits. Especially interior corridor rooms that share a wall. Geez, like walking 3 feet from one room where it's 70F will result in the room next to it being 60F.

    I will have to spend about $500 total costs per room because of the heater, electrical rough-in and install. It's a waste of money and I will end up never turning them on.

    Maybe just install the heaters and once inspected, take them out and sell them on Craigs List...

  7. iLikeDirt | | #7

    I say just jump through the dude's hoops. He doesn't sound like the kind of person who is likely to budge. It is an understandably awkward situation--his whole job is knowing more than you do; when the reverse is true, it makes him feel weak and vulnerable, and it takes a special kind pf person to open up and learn something in that situation rather than getting defensive and digging in. If it's only a few hundred bucks to add the electric heaters, just spend the cash and move on. And who knows, maybe they will even be appreciated at some point in the future when you're hosting guests or elderly parents who only feel comfortable when their bedroom is hot hot hot!

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