An electrical baseboard heater isn’t the most common type of heating system around anymore, but they can still be perfectly functional and useful when properly maintained.
A basic baseboard heater consists of two parts: the thermostat and the heating element. Rather than heating through a fan-assisted process, baseboard heaters generate heat as the electricity passes through the heater. Baseboard heaters are aptly described because the components are placed against walls or in the baseboard areas of a room. Typically, the heaters are about 8-10 inches tall and about 2-8 feet in length, depending on the size of the room.
Baseboard heaters are generally considered safe, and fire danger is fairly low. However, if these heaters are used improperly, there is a risk of fire. The following are safety and maintenance tips to prevent a fire hazard and to maximize heating potential in your home.
1. Don’t Block the Flow of Air
A baseboard heats as cold air is drawn into the heater and electrically heated coils warm the air. Once heated, the air rises to the top of the unit where it attracts cooler air from the room into the heater, and the cycle repeats.
In order for your heater to function properly, it is important that nothing be placed in front of the heater to block the flow of air. In fact, you should place furniture at least 6 inches away from the heater to avoid obstructing its air intake.
2. Fire Prevention
Placing objects too close to the baseboard heater isn't just a problem for air flow, but it's a potential fire hazard if those objects or furniture pieces are potentially flammable under enough heat. If you have a drapery hung near your heater, make sure it will not be close enough to touch the heater.
3. Thermostat Control
You should only have one thermostat controlling your heaters. Even if you are planning to have several baseboard heater units in the same room at different positions, it's still safer to rely on one thermostat to control all these units. While it's true that this may cause certain units to go on or off at slightly different temperatures, it's better than multiple thermostats being influenced by the heat from other nearby heaters and switching on and off unpredictably.
4. Leave Thermostat at One Setting
Baseboard heaters take longer to heat an area, so you may be tempted to turn the thermostat to an intentionally high setting in an attempt to heat your room more quickly. The truth is, setting your heater at a higher temperature will not heat the room faster than if it is set at a cooler temperature. It's just an illusion and an inefficient practice.
5. Exercise Caution Around Children
If you have children, baseboard heaters can pose a danger to them. It is important that you keep children away from these heaters, as directly touching some of the baseboard heater elements could cause serious burns. You should also take preventative measures to ensure that small children do not place toys or other objects inside the heater. Any foreign objects placed in the units that come in contact with the heating element are fire hazards.
Alternatively, if your children are old enough to understand, educate them about how baseboard heaters work, what their dangers are, and how to safely be around them.
6. Vacuum Occasionally
Although the accumulation of dust in your heating unit won’t necessarily create a safety issue, it's still important to occasionally vacuum your heaters to remove accumulated dust and debris. Baseboard heaters will often have a “burned dust” odor when they are first turned on after infrequent use. Vacuuming helps eliminate this odor problem.
If you know that your baseboard heater will only be used sparingly, consider investing in a cover for it as another means of keeping dust and debris out.