What is a Kick Space Heater: A Comprehensive Guide

A kick space heater, also known as a toe kick heater, is a type of supplemental heating system designed to fill in the gaps of a whole-house heating system. These heaters are installed at floor level, usually beneath cabinetry or inside a wall or floor, and are designed to be virtually invisible while delivering supplemental warmth provided by a home’s main HVAC system.

Types of Kick Space Heaters

Kick space heaters come in two main types: hydronic and electric.

Hydronic Kick Space Heaters

Hydronic units heat up the coils by pumping in water from the water heater or boiler. These units typically have a water inlet and outlet connection, allowing them to be integrated into the home’s existing plumbing system. The water circulates through the coils, transferring heat to the surrounding air, which is then pushed into the room.

Key Specifications:
– Water inlet and outlet connections, typically 1/2″ in size
– Require integration with the home’s plumbing system
– Operate at water temperatures ranging from 140°F to 180°F
– Heating capacities typically range from 1,000 BTU/h to 4,000 BTU/h

Electric Kick Space Heaters

Electric units use electricity to heat the coils. These heaters are self-contained and do not require any plumbing connections. Instead, they plug directly into a standard 115V electrical outlet, making them a more straightforward installation option.

Key Specifications:
– Plug-in design, no plumbing required
– Operate on standard 115V electrical supply
– Heating capacities typically range from 500 watts to 1,500 watts (1,700 BTU/h to 5,100 BTU/h)
– Some models feature built-in thermostats for temperature control

How Kick Space Heaters Work

what is a kick space heater

Both hydronic and electric kick space heaters work on the same principle. They draw in cool air from the room, pass it over a set of heated coils, and then return the warmed air back into the space. The coils are heated either by circulating hot water (hydronic) or using electrical resistance (electric).

The key steps in the heating process are:

  1. Air Intake: The kick space heater’s internal fan or blower draws in cool air from the room.
  2. Heating: The air passes over the heated coils, where it absorbs thermal energy, raising its temperature.
  3. Air Discharge: The warmed air is then pushed back into the room, providing supplemental heating.

This continuous cycle of air intake, heating, and discharge allows kick space heaters to maintain a comfortable temperature in the targeted area.

Benefits of Kick Space Heaters

Kick space heaters offer several advantages over traditional heating solutions:

  1. Supplemental Heating: They are designed to complement a home’s primary HVAC system, providing targeted heating in areas that may be underserved or challenging to heat.
  2. Space-Saving Design: Kick space heaters are installed at floor level, often beneath cabinetry or inside walls, making them virtually invisible and freeing up valuable floor space.
  3. Cost-Effectiveness: Compared to installing additional baseboard units, kick space heaters are typically more cost-effective, both in terms of initial investment and ongoing energy consumption.
  4. Flexibility: Kick space heaters can be independently configured and controlled, allowing homeowners to precisely regulate the temperature in specific rooms or areas without affecting the rest of the house.
  5. Quiet Operation: Kick space heaters are designed with quiet, low-noise fans or blowers, ensuring a peaceful and unobtrusive heating experience.
  6. Made in the USA: Many kick space heater models are manufactured in the United States, ensuring high-quality construction and reliable performance.
  7. Warranty: Most kick space heaters come with a 5-year warranty, providing homeowners with peace of mind and long-term protection.

Installation Considerations

While kick space heaters are designed for relatively straightforward installation, it’s important to note that the process should be handled by a qualified professional, especially for hydronic units.

Hydronic Kick Space Heaters

Hydronic kick space heaters require integration with the home’s existing plumbing system, which can be more complex and time-consuming. In addition to the electrical work, the installation will involve:

  • Cutting into the home’s water supply lines to install the necessary fittings and connections
  • Ensuring proper insulation and sealing of the plumbing connections to prevent leaks
  • Balancing the water flow and temperature to optimize the heater’s performance

Electric Kick Space Heaters

Electric kick space heaters are generally simpler to install, as they only require an electrical connection to a standard 115V outlet. The process typically involves:

  • Cutting an opening in the cabinet or wall to accommodate the heater’s dimensions
  • Securing the heater in place and making the electrical connection
  • Ensuring the heater is level and properly sealed to prevent air leaks

Regardless of the type of kick space heater, it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s installation instructions carefully and have the work performed by a licensed and experienced HVAC or electrical contractor to ensure safety and optimal performance.


Kick space heaters are a versatile and effective solution for homeowners looking to supplement their whole-house heating system. With their space-saving design, cost-effectiveness, and quiet operation, these heaters can provide targeted warmth in challenging areas or small rooms that may be underserved by the primary HVAC system.

Whether you choose a hydronic or electric kick space heater, it’s essential to carefully consider the installation requirements and have the work performed by a qualified professional. With the right kick space heater and proper installation, you can enjoy enhanced comfort and energy efficiency in your home.