This paper discusses the results of an experimental and numerical study of fluid flow and heat transfer in an enclosure where multiple heaters are arranged in a staggered fashion. Experiments were carried out for Reynolds numbers, in the range 1800 ≤ Re ≤ 4500 and Grashof numbers in the range 2.5 × 104 ≤ Gr ≤ 3 × 105. Numerical simulations were carried out for two dimensional, steady, incompressible turbulent flow and the results of the numerical study are compared with the experimental results. The temperature distribution gives an insight into the power management among the heaters, so that the "coolest" heater can be loaded most to maximize the total heat dissipation, for a prescribed temperature excess, for all the heaters. Two methods are used to achieve the target temperature for all heaters, namely (i) trial and error method and (ii) the response surface method. The latter method was adopted, to simultaneously maximize the heat input and minimize the temperature deviation from the target temperature, by employing a composite objective function. The numerically obtained optimal solution was finally verified by carrying out experiments. The method of response surface was found to be effective in optimizing the total heat transfer for a given target temperature. © 2009 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.