Smart Heating Solutions – Troubleshoot Your Hydronic Baseboard Heater Heating System

Baseboard heater in empty room

A hydronic baseboard heater channels hot liquid through
copper tubing that’s inside an element encased in aluminum fins. There are two types of baseboard heaters: an open system and a closed one. An open system
requires plumbing. Hot water generates in the basement or wherever your hot water heater is and runs through the piping to the unit to radiate gentle warmth
around the room.

A closed system is electric, requires hardwiring, and contains an enclosed heat element that’s filled with oil or some other kind of liquid that radiates warmth around the room.

Is your hydronic baseboard heater causing you havoc? If so, there is a way to silence the annoying gurgle, bang, squeak, ping, and pang commonly associated with this type of heating system. Troubleshooting your baseboard heater can be a challenge but there is a solution to most problems.

Troubleshooting an open system

Water baseboard heaterCommon on the east coast, this heating system does require
some maintenance. Because it’s plumbed to your household water supply, it operates differently than an electric baseboard heater.
1. If you hear gurgling or bubbling coming from the baseboard heater, and its hooked up to your plumbing system, it might need to be bled. Bleeding your water baseboard heater system removes air bubbles that are most likely causing disrupting noises.

To do this, you must first remove the heater end caps and cover. Run the heater for about an hour at around 75 degrees F. Turn the heat off and go to the basement or wherever the systems main tank is. At the base of the tank is a bleed valve. It looks like a normal hose connection.

Place a small container under the valve. Use needle nose pliers or a wrench to turn the valve counterclockwise. The air will begin to hiss out. Leave the valve open until water begins to trickle out. This lets you know the air has been removed. Close the valve.

PVC pipping2. Squeaks and thumps can occur when the heater is first beginning to warm up. To eliminate these annoying squeaks and thumps, remove the end caps and the baseboard heater cover. Buy a small piece of PVC piping from
your local hardware store ensuring about one or two inches in length. Slide the PVC piping between the water supply line and the hole in the wall or flooring. Replace the cover and end caps. This insulates the piping so it doesn’t make as much noise when the water flows through.

3. If you hear gurgling and you’ve already removed air bubbles, you’re heater may not be level. An un-level heater can cause the heater to make excessive noise when not in use. To help solve this problem, get a leveler from your local hardware store and test it. If one side is higher than the other is, it needs to be adjusted.

First, remove the end caps and cover. Using a screwdriver, remove the mounting screws holding the heater to the wall. Adjust the heater up and down until it is level. Remount the heater. This should eliminate any gurgling caused by uneven installation.

4. Do you hear pinging or ticking? Bent fins can cause the heater to make pinging or ticking sounds as the heat element expands and contracts. To check this, turn the heater off, and open the heater by removing the heater end caps and cover. If they’re bent, you’ll need to straighten them out. To do this you need a universal fin comb. Insert the fin comb teeth between the fins at the top of the element. Slowly pull the comb toward the floor to straighten the fins. If you can’t get a fin comb, try a butter knife. This is the online consensus for bent hot water baseboard heater fins.

To increase efficiency, clean out the heater using a vacuum and a brush attachment if you have one. If not, then find a cloth and wipe clean. It’s important to remove any dust, dirt, and debris from around the fins.

Troubleshooting a closed system

Q-Mark HBB1000 Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater

Q-Mark HBB1000 Electric Hydronic Baseboard Heater

Lucky for you, your closed system will never require much maintenance. It will never need bleeding, PVC piping to keep it quiet, or any other kind of maintenance. Your system is already insulated and extremely quiet.  If by chance you hear any of the following, these troubleshooting tips might be helpful.

1. If your heater is making a humming noise it could be that the voltage of the heater does not match what’s in your house. You’re electrical supply must match the line voltage of the heater. If you bought a 240V heater and only have a 120V power supply, it’s only going to deliver about 1/4 of the wattage it’s capable of delivering and the heater will make a humming noise when in use.

Open baseboard heaters by windows2.  You’re heater will make a pinging sound if it’s not level. You should have used a leveler when you installed the heater, but if the
floor has shifted some you might need to check it again. Test it the same way you would an open system. If it’s not level, remove the mounting screws holding the heater to the wall, adjust the heater up and down until it is level, and remount it.

3. If you hear a clicking sound, it’s probably the thermal expansion of the metal. This happens as the metal is warming up. There is no way to stop it from occurring unless you adjust the thermostat to a lower level and allow the metal parts to warm and expand at a slower pace. Typically, the noise subsides after the heater has been running for a little while.

4. If your heater is giving off a bad smell, it’s probably the lubricant inside the valve burning the heat element. This is normal due to the manufacturing process. If your heater is new and you’re using it for the first time, it’s probably best to ventilate the room for the first 20 minutes of use. The smell will subside.

We hope you find this information helpful. From all of us here at Air-n-Water.com – enjoy a safe and warm winter season!