Electric baseboard heaters are popular in areas where winter temperatures don't fall too low for too long. As long as you don't expect these appliances to protect against especially frigid nights, they can provide reliable and efficient heating. Since each heater acts independently, they also offer a form of zoned heating.
While problems don't often arise with electric heaters, they can fail from time to time. Understanding why they fail and how you can repair them is critical since any electric appliance can become a fire hazard.
Understanding Electric Heaters
Electric baseboard heaters are also known as convection heaters. These units work in a relatively simple way: they contain internal coils that heat up as a result of electrical resistance. Many heating experts consider resistive heaters inefficient since they technically utilize waste heat to keep a space warm. Although this is true, they can still provide sufficient heating for areas that don't get too cold.
Properly installed heaters typically have a dedicated circuit, usually with a 20-amp breaker. In most cases, each room with electric heaters will have a separate thermostat wired directly to the baseboard unit. In addition to the thermostat wiring, higher wattage baseboard heaters usually require hardwiring to their circuit.
Common Failure Points
Baseboard heaters don't have a large number of components that can fail. The most common failure mode is one that should be familiar to many homeowners: tripped circuits. A baseboard heater that repeatedly trips its circuit breaker is suffering from excessive power draw or a wiring fault. Any short in the circuit will immediately trip the breaker to prevent equipment damage or fire.
If you have a wiring fault, it may be in your home wiring or the internal wiring in the baseboard heater. In either case, avoid using the heater until you've resolved the problem. Although your circuit breakers should protect you from any fire hazard, it's generally not a good idea to use any appliance with known faulty wiring.
The thermostat is another component that may cause problems. If you find that the heater will not turn on or runs for too long, there may be an issue with the thermostat or thermostat wiring. As with any HVAC system, faulty thermostats can lead to unusual behavior. In some cases, they can even cause additional damage by forcing the heater to run for too long, ultimately damaging the heating elements.
Repairing Electric Baseboards
Fixing an electric baseboard system is rarely challenging, especially when compared to other heating systems. Any skilled HVAC technician should be able to determine if you are facing an issue with your wiring, baseboard heater, or thermostat. In most cases, you can cheaply replace failed components and restore your heat.
If your heater isn't working right, reach out to a professional who provides heating repair services.