Baseboard Heater Safety
Baseboard heaters are a quiet and inexpensive way to heat your home. They operate at a low profile at the base of a wall and heat a room by circulating the air through convection to provide heat. Since there is no fan, this type of heater works silently, forcing cold air to the bottom of the room while maintaining warmth in the air that rises from the baseboard heater.
An electric baseboard heater system does often require wiring, but they are relatively simple to install and require minimal maintenance. They're perfect for room additions and areas that are more frequently used so you don't have to waste energy trying to heat an entire house.
Are Baseboard Heaters Dangerous?
Baseboard heaters are generally considered safe, and the fire danger is fairly low. Since an electric baseboard heater uses a convection process to heat, the heater does get hot. Baseboard heater covers keep children and pets away from the hottest tubes in the heater, and many baseboard heaters come standard with a cover. However, the unit will still be warm to the touch.
No flame or carbon monoxide is generated, and convection heating should give you the cleanest warmth possible (versus a fan-forced heater which could blow around dust and particles).
Electric baseboard heaters usually mount to the wall, but there are some freestanding models available. The freestanding models have integrated safety features, such as automatically turning off if they accidentally tip over. These units plug into any standard household outlet and don't require hard wiring like a traditional baseboard heater would.
Baseboard heaters are super efficient and convert 100% of the energy they use to produce heat. However, if a baseboard heater is used improperly there is a risk of fire, so keep these safety tips in mind when you're using your unit.
Five Baseboard Heater Safety Tips
1. Install your baseboard heater well.
Ensure your electric unit is installed correctly by reading the user's manual. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends that baseboards sit at least 3/4 inches above the floor or carpet so air convection can move properly through the unit.
Some cities regulate the installation and use of these heaters, so check with your local codes department before installing or extending your heating system. If any problems arise, it is best to hire an experienced professional electrician to repair your baseboard heater.
Faulty wiring or a damaged internal component can cause a baseboard heater to overheat, which could lead to a fire. Some electric models come with an internal sensor that automatically shuts off the heater if it starts to get to hot. Call a technician if your heater smokes, makes a strange sound or emits a burning odor.
2. Location, location, location.
Don't install your baseboard heater below electrical outlets because the rising heat could cause any hanging electric cords to heat up and spark, potentially causing a fire. And again, you don't want your unit to be touching the floor.
In general, maintain at least a foot of clearance from the top and front of the baseboard heater. Don't allow drapes or window blind cords to rest on the unit. Especially avoid placing flammable objects nearby.
3. Practice safe thermostat control.
If you have more than one baseboard heater in the same room, it's best to use only one thermostat to control all the units.
Be patient when trying to heat a room with a baseboard heater. It may be tempting to set the thermostat to a higher setting, but that will not actually heat the room more quickly. Set your thermostat to your desired room temperature, and wait for the room to warm gradually.
4. Routine cleaning is necessary.
While dust and lint aren't a huge safety problem, they will act as tinder in the case of a fire, and blocked vents could cause a unit to overheat. Be sure to vacuum around your baseboard heater occasionally, using a narrow nosed vacuum hose attachment to help you pick up the fine particles of debris.
Cleaning your electric baseboard heater also prevents that "burned dust" odor that occurs when you first turn on your unit after infrequent use. Remember, the cleaner your equipment is, the more efficient it will be. Simple maintenance will help keep your energy bills low.
5. Child and pet proof using baseboard heater covers.
Baseboard heater covers keep tiny fingers and curious pets away from the hottest part of the unit. Children and pets still need to be kept away, however, since the heater radiates heat. Also make sure children to do not leave their toys or other objects near or inside the heater.
Baseboard heater covers can also update the look of your unit. Most units come with a cover, however you can also buy baseboard heater covers separately. They don't block airflow as they visually hide and protect the heating elements inside.
Advantages of Baseboard Heater Ownership
For many, the advantages of a baseboard heater outweigh any dangers, especially considering how easy it is to avoid any accidents or fires. These few "pros" may just convince you that a baseboard heater unit is for you.
Hassle-free, energy efficient and unobtrusive electric baseboard heaters are a great heating choice as long as you remember to follow a few safety precautions!