Don't Ignore These 3 Dangerous Electric Baseboard Heater Warning Signs

Posted on: 18 August 2023

Electric baseboard heaters can be a relatively cheap and easy way to heat small spaces or entire homes in warmer parts of the country. Electric baseboard heaters offer many advantages, including easy installation, relatively trouble-free operation, and no reliance on existing ductwork. While these heating systems are typically very reliable, failures can occur.

Unfortunately, electric baseboard heaters involve high voltages and relatively high temperatures, making many failures potentially dangerous. If you notice any of these three potentially dangerous warning signs, don't hesitate to contact an HVAC technician as soon as possible.

1. Persistent Burning Smell

Nearly any heating system can produce some noticeable burning odors early in the heating system. Dust typically collects on the heating elements over the summer, and the high temperatures will cause this dust to burn off when you turn on your heating system. New heaters may also produce some odors the first few times you use them.

However, a persistent burning smell is a more concerning symptom. If your baseboard heaters produce a noticeable burning odor whenever you turn them on, ensure that furniture, curtains, or other items aren't too close to the heaters. If you can't find a problem, there may be a more serious issue causing the system to overheat. In these cases, stop using your heaters and contact a professional.

2. Frequently Tripped Breakers

Electric baseboard heaters typically work by using resistive heating elements. These elements are simply wires that carry large amounts of current. The resistance in the wires causes them to heat up, and the fins surrounding the wires distribute that heat into the air. This system is simple and effective, but wiring issues can lead to potentially dangerous situations.

In most cases, your home should use a separate circuit for each room that relies on electric baseboard heating. Ground faults and short circuits can cause the breaker for your heating system to trip, and these problems may sometimes be intermittent. However, these wiring issues can also lead to a fire. If your baseboard heater frequently trips its breaker, stop using it and contact an HVAC contractor.

3. Uncontrollable Temperatures

Electric baseboard heating systems typically use line voltage thermostats for control. Unlike thermostats that control an air conditioner or a furnace, a line voltage thermostat directly adjusts the power going to your heaters. These thermostats must handle much greater power loads and adjust power output to the heaters based on your setpoint and the room temperature.

If your heaters seem to stay warm regardless of your set point, you may have a problem with your thermostat. Unfortunately, a problem with a line voltage thermostat can be more severe than a typical thermostat issue since it can result in overheating or excessive power draw. This problem will usually require immediate attention when dealing with electric baseboard heating. 

Contact a local heating repair service to learn more.