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Electric baseboard heaters require little maintenance since they don’t have any moving parts. However, dust, dirt, pet dander, debris, and other particles accumulate in the convector fins surrounding the copper pipe. As a result, your heater is forced to work harder to generate enough heat, causing reduced efficiency, increased electricity bills, and eventual damage. To avoid these issues, it’s important to clean electric baseboard heaters once or twice a year to prevent dust and dirt build-up on the heating element.
But where do you get started? Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to clean electric baseboard heaters to keep them working efficiently and safely!
What you will need to clean electric baseboard heaters
Before you start cleaning your electric baseboard heater, gather all the tools and supplies you need for the task. This step is quite important as it will make your job go much faster and smoother. Some of the tools and supplies include;
- Microfiber cloth
- Work gloves
- Needle-nose pliers
- A vacuum cleaner with brush-tip accessory/ brush attachment
- Aluminum foil tape
- High-heat silicone sealant
- Heat-resistant spray foam insulation
- Putty knife
Step-by-Step Guide on how to clean electric baseboard heaters
1. Shut off power to the baseboard heater
Cleaning the baseboard heater while the power is on can lead to serious injury. Therefore, it’s important to completely turn off the power to the unit at the circuit breaker panel for safety reasons. Also, wait for the heating element to cool off completely to avoid burning yourself.
2. Remove the baseboard heater cover
Take off the front cover on your electric baseboard heater to expose the heating element (metal fins) inside the heater. This task is relatively easy since you only need to grasp the cover, lift it to unsnap it from the base, and then pull it out towards you.
3. Clean the metal fins
Attach the soft brush attachment to your vacuum cleaner and use it to remove any visible debris and dust build-up inside the heater. Secondly, gently vacuum the metal fins to remove all the loose dust and dirt inside the baseboard heater. This will allow cool air to efficiently flow through the baseboard heater so that it can heat up and warm your living space.
Next, use a pipe cleaner to remove the stubborn dust and dirt that didn’t come off after vacuuming the heater. While doing so, make sure you wear work gloves to protect your fingers from the sharp metal fins.
Alternatively, consider using a pressure steam cleaner to clean the metal fins. However, make sure you lay down towels to protect your flooring material from water damage.
4. Straighten the bent metal fins
If you accidentally bent any metal fins while vacuuming the heater, use a putty knife or needle-nose pliers to gently straighten them back out. An electric baseboard heater delivers excellent performance when the metal fins are in great shape. Also, check for rust on the metal fins and apply a little rust remover. Once the fins are straight, use a slightly damp microfiber cloth to wipe any remaining dirt by hand while wearing the work gloves.
5. Seal any gaps around the baseboard heater
Using aluminum foil tape to seal any gap along the baseboard trim under the baseboard heater. Work with small pieces of aluminum tape to make the work easier, then put a longer piece on top to hold the smaller strips in place. More importantly, put the tape as far back as possible to prevent it from being visible once you replace the baseboard heater cover.
For hydronic baseboard heaters, seal any gap around the steam/ water pipe as they allow dust particles to sneak into the device. You can accomplish this by using heat-resistant spray foam to fill large gaps. However, for smaller openings, apply a high-heat silicone sealant when the heater is cool to prevent it from warping and shrinking. Also, make sure you wear gloves when working with any of these products for safety concerns.
6. Clean and re-install the baseboard heater cover
Wipe down the front and back of your baseboard heater cover it with a damp microfiber cloth before you snap it back in place. Once the cover is completely dry, line it up with the metal tabs protruding from the front of your baseboard heater. Gently push it forward near the bottom until it locks in place.
7. Turn the power to the heater back on
Not that all components of your baseboard heater are clean and back in place, turn the heat back on to keep the room warm & comfortable. This effort to maintain your baseboard heater will keep your unit operating more efficiently, saving you money on electricity bills every month. However, make sure the heater is free from any items that could impede airflow like toys, furniture, carpeting, flooring, etc.
How often do you need to clean electric baseboard heaters?
In most parts of the country, homeowners clean their electric baseboard heaters between mid-fall and early spring. Once you finish using the device, it’s important to clean it to ensure that it continues giving you the heat & comfort you want in your house in the colder months. End-of-season baseboard heater maintenance includes;
Cleaning and vacuuming the heater at the end of each heating season
Buying a baseboard heater cover replacement to protect your unit from dust buildup during the off-season.
Vacuuming the heater at the start of the heating season before you start using the unit again in the fall.
In addition to cleaning your baseboard heater at the start or end of the heating season, it’s good to clean the unit as part of your regular weekly or daily housekeeping routine. This type of quick and casual touch-up can be done using an electric baseboard cleaner such as an electrostatic duster. That way, you can easily run the duster along the ends, fronts, and top of your baseboard heater to trap and remove any dust accumulating in the device. Also, depending on whether your baseboard heater touches the floor or not, you can use the electrostatic duster in the airspace underneath to remove dust from the metal fins.
However, if you don’t want to use a disposable product, you can effectively clean the heater with a dry microfiber cloth. Even better, you can moisten the cloth with your favorite general-purpose cleaner and use it to remove spills from the baseboard heater cover.
Alternatively, you can use a vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment to quickly remove dust from the outside of your baseboard heater. At the same time, you can use this crevice tool to quickly such dust from inside your baseboard heater.
Deep-Cleaning baseboard heaters
An electric baseboard heater requires a thorough cleaning at least once or twice a year. For instance, you can clean the unit right before the heating season begins and at the end of the heating season. That way, you can avoid the unpleasant smell of burning dust when you turn on the heater and remove any accumulated dust.
Most homeowners clean their electric baseboard heaters at least twice a year; when the weather gets warm and right before the colder months. However, if you have pets whose dander and fur can get into the heater or your home gets dusty, consider cleaning your heater more frequently. A clean baseboard heater uses less energy, helping you save money on your energy bills. Plus, it ensures that air circulates through your device more efficiently and increases the heater’s lifespan.