Knowing when to replace baseboard heaters

Winter home maintenance can begin with diagnosing a home's heating problems.

In my last post, I detailed how certain electric heaters can be great in emergency situations. However, while not every type of heater is going to provide warmth during a power outage, each model has its own advantages. Baseboard heaters, for instance, are the kinds most Americans are familiar with, as they are usually built into the home itself. 

These devices radiate heat up into a room, where it spreads and mixes with the colder air in the room. While most of the time, homeowners walk by these appliances without thought, when they stop working, the occupants tend to notice. Sometimes, homeowners are lucky and the blockage is easily fixed.

According to the home maintenance experts at This Old House, a closed damper at the top of the baseboard heater or poorly installed carpet – that blocks or restricts air flow – are often the culprit. But, while these are more common in new homes, older units often suffer at the proverbial hands of dirt, dust and other odds and ends that fall into the crevices of these heaters.

If none of the easy fixes work, it may be time to clean the aluminum fins, the actual heating element of the heater. To do this, homeowners simply remove the metal housing and remove any debris they find. It may be good to reduce the heat in this area of the house while the heater is being worked on to avoid any injury. Sometimes, this is all an old heater needs to be functional again. However, if problems still persist, homeowners may need to look into more extensive – and more costly – remedies.

In the meantime, using a spare electric heater can fill the gap, especially if the faulty heater is in a common space that is used often.

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