Common problems with electric baseboard heaters 

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links. 

Common problems with baseboard heaters

An electric baseboard heater is one of the most efficient space heating units available, thanks to its design and placement near the floor. Moreover, they are quite simple to install in any living space since they don’t need any ductwork. Unfortunately, like any other electrical equipment, these units tend to malfunction and run into various problems from time to time. This is where knowing the common problems with electric baseboard heaters come in handy. 

Although you can choose to replace or take the heater to a technician, it’s important to check what might be causing the problem. And that’s exactly what I’ll be looking at in this guide. Specifically, I’ll show some of these problems and how to fix them, before you decide to look for professional help. 

Let’s dive right in! 

5 Common electric baseboard heating problems 

  • My electric baseboard heater won’t turn on 

If your baseboard heater doesn’t generate heat, start by inspecting the area around them. And remove any drapes, children’s toys, or furniture that may be blocking its vents.

 Secondly, turn up the baseboard heater thermostat. If your baseboard heater has an inbuilt thermostat, turn it up all the way until the heater switches on. However, if this does not work, check if the circuit breaker in the main electrical panel has tripped and reset it. 

Hopefully, the above procedures will get your heating unit to power up. But if the heater still doesn’t turn on, there is probably a wiring problem in the thermostat or heater. An HVAC technician or electrician will help you identify this problem. Alternatively, you can disassemble the thermostat or heater yourself if you’ve got some DIY electrical skills to find the problem. 

Remember, unlike central system thermostats that run at low voltage, most thermostats for electric baseboard heaters operate at line voltage (120/ 240V). So, only fix them if you are experienced since they pose a risk of severe electrical shock. 

  • The baseboard heating unit won’t turn off 

Sometimes, electric baseboard heaters run continuously without turning off, leading to a significant increase in your energy bills. This usually indicates that the thermostat that controls it is faulty. 

To inspect the thermostat, check whether it’s operating at the correct temperature. Reduce the temperature and wait for your heating unit to turn off. If the heater fails to turn off, your thermostat might be having a blocked contact. 

In some instances, you can fix this problem by loosening a stuck spring or cleaning the contacts of the thermostat. Before you do that, shut off the power to the thermostats for safety reasons. Next, remove the thermostat cover and blast the contacts with compressed air. However, you should only do this if you’re an experienced DIY homeowner or an electrician. More notably, if the problem persists after trying the above solutions, the best option will be to replace the thermostat! 

  •  The baseboard heater keeps tripping the circuit breaker 

Another common problem that homeowners experience is that some electric baseboard heaters tend to trip the circuit breaker from time to time. While you can easily fix this problem by replacing the fuse in the circuit breaker, it’s important to check the cause of the problem first. In most cases, this usually occurs due to a short circuit in the wiring of your heating system. 

As I mentioned earlier, dealing with the electrical components of your baseboard heater can be risky. For that, it’s important to call an electrician to inspect the parts of your heating system. However, there are a few things you can do yourself. 

First, unplug the heater and reset the circuit breaker if you use a plug-in model. If your heater doesn’t trip the breaker when you do that, the unit may be overloading the circuit. 

Secondly, if your heater is connected to a dedicated circuit, compare the breaker rating to the heater’s current draw. If the breaker rating is less than the heater’s current draw, install a breaker with a higher rating. 

  • The electric heater produces a burning smell when running 

Electrical baseboards generate a high temperature that incinerates any debris or dust that may have accumulated on the heating element. As a result, you’ll notice a burning smell coming from your heater. This is a clear indication that you need to clean your heater.

 However, in some cases, the smell comes from a lubricant used in the manufacturing process, especially if the heater is new. Luckily, this smell usually disappears in a few hours. All in all, it’s good to regularly clean your electric baseboard heater to prevent dust and dirt buildup. 

  • The baseboard heater doesn’t generate enough heat 

An electric baseboard heater must generate enough power to properly heat a room. In general, most rooms need 10 watts per sq. ft. Therefore, a 1000-watt heating unit should generate enough heat to warm a 100 sq ft room. However, it may not produce enough heat to warm a room of about 150 sq ft. So, if your baseboard heater isn’t supplying enough power to heat your room, you probably need a more powerful unit. 

If the heater isn’t producing enough heat, while the label shows that it has an adequately large power output to heat a room, chances are that it’s not wired properly. For instance, you might have installed a 240/ 208V electric heater on a 120V circuit. This means that one of the hot wires of your electric heater isn’t connected and the unit is running at half its capacity. Whichever the case, you can fix this problem by replacing the heater with a 120V unit with adequate power for the room or installing a dedicated 240V circuit for your heater. 


Once you identify the problem that is affecting your electric baseboard heater, the safest option is to call a professional technician or electrician to check it out. However, if you’re an experienced DIYer, you can troubleshoot the heater or thermostat yourself as it’s the fastest and easiest way to fix the issue. Also, make sure you regularly maintain your heaters to keep the running consistently and efficiently for many years to come! But if the heater is damaged beyond repair, the right solution is to replace it with one of the best baseboard heaters on the market. 

Leave a Comment