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Baseboard Heater Troubleshooting

Baseboard heaters provide an easy and efficient way to keep parts of your home more comfortable. Suitable for installation nearly anywhere, they can fight drafts from windows and provide excellent localized heating. They are low-profile so that they require little space and are not immediately visible when one enters a room. However, as with all things, sometimes these devices fail. So, to assist in your baseboard heater troubleshooting, we've collected a list of some of the most basic things to check.

Insufficient heating

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Problem: My baseboard heater doesn't output enough heat.

Solution: Check to ensure that your unit uses a sufficient amount of power to heat your space. Approximately 10 watts will heat a square foot of space. If you find that a single unit is not enough, consider adding a larger unit or multiple units to satisfy your square footage.

Problem: I still have insufficient heat even after purchasing additional units.

Solution: Baseboard heaters are magical devices but they cannot keep a home warm all on their own. They work exceptionally well when your home already has something called insulation. If your home lacks insulation it will become cold. Poor or insubstantial insulation will result in much of the same and render the heat provided by your baseboard heater useless. Specifically, rooms that do not have heating will cause you to lose the most heat so be sure to insulate those rooms and close doors when they are not occupied.

Problem: That hasn't worked, I still don't get enough heat from my baseboard heater.

Solution: As with all stationary objects located in the home, they can accumulate dust and other debris which reduces their efficiency. Be sure to incorporate cleaning your baseboard heater with other household cleaning regimens. Turn off power to the units and wipe it clean with warm water paying close attention to ventilation areas and heat fins as they should be clean before cold weather starts.


Problem: I fear for my life and seriously doubt the safety of my baseboard heater.

Solution: Don't risk angering your baseboard heater and ensure that all vents and passageways are open. Baseboard heaters can be relatively safe if they receive a generous berth and adequate space. They need to be, at minimum, 1/2" off of the floor. A properly functioning heater most likely has an automatic shut-off switch to reduce the chance of overheating. Provide at least 1' clearance on all other sides keeping furniture, drapes and loved ones away from the surface of the unit.

Problem: This doesn't assuage my fears as it requires too much forethought, how do I reduce the effort of safety?

Solution: You can effectively remove the teeth of a heater by buying a cover that slips conveniently around the unit just like a shroud. If you have an automated thermostat you can set that preemptively to keep temperature comfortable without keeping a watchful eye on this electric heating source.


Variable Heating

Problem: The temperature of my baseboard heater varies too much.

Solution: Some units have a built in thermostat. Just like doctors, don't trust one source and get a second opinion. A secondary external thermostat may serve you better and can be installed elsewhere. Sometimes calibration and trial and error are required to ferret out the actual temperature.

Problem: No, that didn't work. I was suspicious like you advised me to be but my unit still doesn't provide consistent heat.

Solution: Who installed the unit? Most units include wiring diagrams and instructions, but if the installer was unfamiliar your baseboard heater may have been installed improperly. Disconnect the power and double check all wiring to make sure that there are no questions as to the quality and skill of the install. Pests can degrade wires and connections, shorts can occur and electrical integrity can be compromised. These factors will increase risk of fire.

Something Else

Problem: I've taken these steps but find that they are unhelpful.

Solution: Reach out to the maker of your unit to see if it has been recalled or if they have device specific steps you can take. When freshly installed, new units emit an oily smoky smell during their first use. This is completely normal and should not cause you alarm or to doubt your investment. Fire, on the other hand, is a reason to worry. However, if fire is not present, turn your unit off for a period of time to cool down and see if taking a break might magically fix whatever the problem may be. If that fails, call the retailer where you got the unit and also the manufacturer.

Problem: Can't I just call someone?

Solution: Absolutely, professionals don't get to be professionals without a lot of practice and being more or less successful in plying their trade. If you are experiencing a lack of confidence in your installation, product or just want someone who's "in the know", call a local electrician or heating expert. They are insured and prepared for almost any situation that might be harmful to a servicer or to property.


Contact Us

If you have any additional questions about your baseboard heater, please give us a call. Our experts will be happy to answer any questions you have, help you with your baseboard heater troubleshooting or recommend new baseboard heaters to you. Just give us a call at 1-800-734-0405!