Dollars and Dummies

When we got into this business we knew there was really only one option for replacing rusty old baseboard heaters. And it had been around since the time of the dinosaurs. Ironically, this product in many cases is exactly the same as the existing old covers being replaced. They're known as "dummy covers". Dummy covers are sold through the big box hardware stores in certain parts of the country where hot water baseboard heat is popular. Here in Canada they can only be found through wholesalers who normally supply direct to heating contractors. The term "dummy" refers to the lack of a heating element in the kit. These finned tube heating elements very rarely need to be replaced as they have no moving parts and will not oxidize like the steel covers that protect them will. Dummy covers are for dummies. No, really - it's true. Only a dummy would opt for this solution knowing easy slip-on baseboard heater covers that won't rust are readily available. So why are dummy covers still popular? It all has to do with a cost illusion. These puppies sell for about $7 a linear foot at retail. Accessories will run you around $10 a piece. These costs seem quite reasonable at first, that is, until you also consider the cost of installation.

Installing dummy covers requires skills and tools that the average DIY'er does not possess. Take a look at America's most famous heating and plumbing expert do this job. Cutting hard to access nails using a reciprocating saw, working around sharp rusty edges, having to possibly drain the loop and spending hours on your hands and knees wrestling the back plates off the wall - these things aren't on the job description of the average weekend handyman. The fact is, most home owners will hire skilled labor to do the replacement work. Master plumbers have told me over the years that they will spend about 15 minutes per linear foot to remove and re-install dummy covers. The cost of skilled labor varies around the country, but if we conservatively estimate an hourly charge of $50, you can now easily calculate the real cost of the dummy baseboard cover solution. Ouch!

By offering a truly easy DIY installation that takes literally a few seconds per linear foot, the easy slip-on baseboard covers offer a superior value over a product that consumes 175% of the product's retail price in labor costs.

Of course the best comparison to be made is a before and after photo. Seriously, would anyone choose the dummy covers for looks? It's your home. They're in every room.