Tips & Tricks

Common Baseboard Heater Problems and Their Solutions

It’s always annoying to see your home’s heating system malfunction, especially when it happens in the middle of a cold winter. Baseboard heaters are no exception – having a baseboard heater not working in one room or in your entire home can be a huge problem both from a financial and a practical point of view.

So, what are some of the common baseboard heater problems and their solutions? Is your electric baseboard heater not getting hot enough? Or maybe you’ve found your hot water baseboard heater not working? Either way, let’s delve straight into it.

What are the most common baseboard heater problems you may encounter?

There are two main types of baseboard heaters, each with its own set of problems. On the one side, we have electric baseboard heaters which are fairly similar to electric space heaters in terms of how they work. On the other hand, there are the hydronic baseboard heaters which typically use hot water or sometimes oil that’s heated by a dedicated boiler and circulated around your home, heating the air like a radiator.

Here we’ll list all the common baseboard heater problems for each of those types of heaters:

  • There are hot and cold spots in your home. In this case, the problem is most likely not in the heater itself but in furniture and clothes preventing the heated air from adequately circulating throughout the room.
  • There are fluctuating temperatures. This is another problem that can happen to both types of heaters if your thermostat isn’t working properly – it will cause the baseboard heater to also not work as you want it to. Try resetting and readjusting your thermostat to see if it works adequately and replace it if need be. Remember that baseboard heaters of either type aren’t centralized heating systems so they rely on the thermostat to tell them what to do.
  • There are soot and smoke emissions coming out of the baseboard heater. This is an unfortunately common problem for electric baseboard heaters. It happens when the exterior of the baseboard heater hasn’t been kept clean and so the heating element has started burning dust, dirt, and debris, creating smoke and soot. To fix that, shut the heater off, wait for it to cool down, and clean it extensively.
  • Baseboard heater noise is either too noticeable or outright loud. There are lots of possible reasons for noises such as banging coming out of your electric or hydronic baseboard heater. It may be that there’s air left in the system that needs to be bled out or there’s a leak that needs fixing, in which case you’ll likely need professional help.
  • Loud bangs can also be caused by water hammers when a circulator of a zone valve closes. For pretty much any noise that’s more than buildup air, you’ll need to carefully inspect the piping and valves, usually with a professional.
  • There is hot water but no baseboard heat coming off of the hydronic baseboard heater. This is most commonly due to two possible causes – 1) the vents of the baseboard heater are blocked and the so the heat can’t come through or 2) there’s a leak inside the hydronic heater that’s draining a lot of the hot water. The first problem is easy to fix as all you need to do is remove the carpet, furniture piece, debris, and dirt, or anything else that’s blocking the vents. The second case will require you to inspect the entire pipe system.
  • The oil baseboard heat not working. Oil baseboard heaters work on the same principle as hot water baseboard heaters and oil-filled radiators so any problem with an oil baseboard heater will be similar as well.

Baseboard heater troubleshooting and maintenance

Now that we’ve quickly listed the most common problems and their solutions, let’s go over the main ways to troubleshoot and perform routine maintenance for both types of baseboard heaters.

Troubleshooting if electric baseboard heater’s not working

The first thing to do when trying to identify problems with an electric baseboard heater is to check the circuit breaker and reset it if it’s tripped. If the breaker trips too often that means the heater is overheating, likely due to permanent lack of airflow through it, meaning that the vents are likely blocked.

The next step is to check the thermostat and whether it’s working properly. Next, examine the heating element and the vents for any debris or structural problems.

Troubleshooting if there are hot water baseboard heating problems

If there’s air in the hydronic pipes that are lowering the pipes’ temperature, you can bleed the heater of air through its bleeder valve. The next possible problem is that the boiler is not functioning properly. Electric boilers usually malfunction when there is a tripped breaker and gas boilers can have problems when there’s a blocked gas line or a pilot malfunction. If the boiler is fine, the next most likely problem is blocked vents or leaking pipes, the latter being the main major problem with hydronic heaters in terms of how hard it is to fix.

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