Can electric baseboard go bad?

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Old 12-12-19, 04:24 AM
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Can electric baseboard go bad?

I have a room that is roughly 200 SF with 3 exterior walls that is heated by an 8' piece of electric fintube (220/240V). In the last few days when the outside temps went below zero, it couldn't keep up, whereas it always has in the past. Is it possible for electric fintube to go bad? I have no idea how old the fintube is, it was here when we bought the house 21 years ago.

Some history. About 3 years ago I got tired of using the dial t-stat at the end of the fintube, so I installed a Honeywell line voltage T-stat across the room by intercepting the wire in the attic that feeds the fintube. I turned up the dial on the fintube as high as it would go and everything was fine.

My brother, who is not an electrician, but knows more than I do, is coming out today to check voltages. The double breaker in the panel seems fine. I can hear an audible click when I turn the wall T-stat up, so I assume it's OK.

I have cleaned the fintube as best I could with a shop vac. I'm thinking about taking the old fintube t-stat out of the equation entirely by bypassing it. Because the fintube is old and crummy-looking with many coats of paint on it, I'm also considering just replacing it.

Any other suggestions/opinions?
 
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Old 12-12-19, 05:37 AM
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It could go bad, but if it went bad, it wouldn't be producing any heat. It is just a heating element inside a tube.
If fins are painted, then it will not be able to dissipate the heat into the air efficiently.
 
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Old 12-12-19, 05:40 AM
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Is the baseboard producing any heat? If it is then I would make sure the baseboard is not blocked by curtains or furniture. It needs air to flow freely through to work it's best.
 
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Old 12-12-19, 05:42 AM
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Hi, you are going to have to test for voltage at the terminals of the baseboard heat , if you have 240 there then chances are your baseboard is no good
 
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Old 12-12-19, 05:52 AM
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Thanks for the replies. Just the housing has been painted, not the fins. There is nothing within 8" of the housing and it's completely clear above the housing. Yes, there is heat, it just doesn't feel like very much. The fins just feel nicely warm to the touch, but not particularly hot. Guess I'll see what happens when my brother checks the voltage and we take the built-in T-stat out. I suppose it's possible that one leg of the breaker has failed??
 
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Old 12-12-19, 06:10 AM
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It is possible for just one leg of breaker to be bad, but you will have no heat even if it is just one leg. It is 240V only circuit.

It is possible your thermostat on the baseboard heater itself have gone bad and cutting power earlier than it should.
 
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Old 12-12-19, 06:33 AM
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Just a quick question. When a wall T-stat calls for heat, is the electric heat all the way on, then go all the way off when the T-stat is satisfied? Or does the heat output vary depending on how high the T-stat is set or something else?
 
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Old 12-12-19, 09:20 AM
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Normally a thermostat is on or off with nothing in between. Do you know if the old thermostat (the one on the end of the baseboard) was disconnected? If not it's possible the old thermostat is set for a lower temperature and turning the unit off even though the thermostat on the wall is calling for heat. Try turning the old thermostat all the way to hot and see if it heats better or remove the old thermostat from the circuit.

If you can check the voltage going to the heater. If it's only 120 VAC then one of the electrical "legs" has been lost and the heater will still make heat but not as much as it should. This could possibly a broken wire, loose connection or bad circuit breaker.
 
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Old 12-12-19, 09:42 AM
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The old T-stat was not disconnected, just turned up as high as it would go. However, it will be disconnected later today when my brother comes out to check voltage.
 
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Old 12-12-19, 02:52 PM
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UPDATE:
As it turns out, I DID disconnect the old T-stat. My brother read 238 volts, so that's good. We did discover what we are pretty sure is the problem. The temperature in the room by a thermometer next to the wall T-stat was 66 degrees. I started turning up the heat on the wall T-stat gradually until there was a click and the voltage came on at the fintube. Problem is, the T-stat dial pointed at 75 degrees. So the T-stat is off by roughly 10 degrees. That explains why it was so cold in the room when the T-stat was set at 68 degrees. Unless there's some kind of adjustment, time to get a new T-stat.

Thank you everyone for the help!
 
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Old 12-12-19, 05:34 PM
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Some thermostats have adjustable offset, but many don't. It is not unusual for analog bi-metal thermostats to be off by 10F. You will just have to set the offset in your mind.

Digital ones will have more accurate reading and probably worth getting even though they are more expensive.
 
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Old 12-12-19, 06:28 PM
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I always hated those cheap dial thermostats when I lived in an electric-heat house. The numbers always seemed to be 'random'. Instead, if I wanted it a bit warmer, I'd turn until the click, then back off a 'few degrees'. Figuring the click on was +5 degrees from where it was now, so turning it back would be +2-3 degrees. Turning it too far back to the click-off was about -5 degrees. After however many years of tweaking, I got used to it.

But I always try to install digital ones now.
 
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Old 12-13-19, 12:10 PM
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Bought and installed a digital T-stat this morning. Simple and easy, a 15 minute job, if that. Thanks again everyone for your input.
 
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