Have you noticed your living room seems draftier than it used to? If so, your baseboard heaters may need some attention. If they’re functioning as they should, an electric baseboard heater can efficiently heat your home. But if you don’t clean your heaters periodically, dust and dirt can clog the fins and cause them to work harder to produce enough heat.
Harder work means reduced efficiency, which, you guessed it, means higher electric bills. Cleaning your baseboard heating system once a year is a smart chore to add to your home maintenance list. Increase that to twice a year if pets live in your house. Pet hair and dander clog up baseboard heat, too.
How to Clean Baseboard Heaters in 8 Steps
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Gather the tools and supplies you’ll need before you start. It'll make the job go much smoother and faster. Here’s an eight-step plan for cleaning baseboard heaters.
Turn Down the Heat
If the heat comes on while you’re touching the baseboard heater, it could injure you. Dial down your baseboard heat and let the surface cool before you begin.
Remove the Baseboard Heater Cover
Your electric baseboard heaters have front covers that you’ll need to take off for cleaning. Grasp the front and pull it up and toward you. It shouldn’t take much pressure for the cover to unsnap from the base. Once you pull it off, you’ll be able to see the metal fins inside your heater.
Vacuum the Fins
Attach the brush to your vacuum and use it along the inside of the heater. Vacuum the fins thoroughly but gently to remove all the loose dirt and dust that’s worked into the electric heater.
Clean Between the Fins
Cool air needs to be able to flow efficiently up through the metal fins so it can heat up and warm the room.
Use pipe cleaners to remove stubborn dirt and dust that didn’t come off when you vacuumed. This step is a bit tedious, but it’s worth it to get the fins completely clean.
Wear gloves during this step. The metal fins are sharp and can easily slice your fingers.
Finish cleaning the fins with a gentle once-over with a clean microfiber cloth to pick up any leftover dirt and residue.
Seal Any Gaps Around the Pipes
Closely check the pipes running into your baseboard heater for gaps. These are another entrance for dirt and dust to get into your baseboard heating.
A couple of options for dealing with gaps are as follows:
Using Spray Foam Insulation
Seal the gaps around your baseboard heating unit with spray foam insulation. Make sure you use one that’s heat resistant.
Applying Aluminum Foil Tape
Stop dirt from getting inside your baseboard unit with good quality foil tape. Tear off some small strips and stuff them in and around the gaps. Add a longer piece on top of them to hold the strips in place.
Straighten the Heater Fins
Electric baseboard heaters function best when the fins are in good shape. Inspect yours to see if any are damaged or bent. Use needle-nose pliers and a putty knife to gently straighten them out.
If your fins look damaged, or there’s significant rust on them, it’s a good idea to find a local heating and air professional to make sure the heating unit is safe to use.
Once your fins are clean and straight, you’re almost finished with your baseboard heater maintenance.
Snap the Baseboard Heating Cover Back in Place
Before you put the heating cover back, wipe down the front and back with your microfiber cloth. This removes dirt, dust, and pet hair that’s accumulated.
Line the cover up with the metal tabs and gently push it forward until you feel it catch. Give it a tug to make sure it’s locked in place.
Turn the Thermostat Back Up
Now that you have clean baseboard heaters, turn your heat back up to keep your room warm and comfortable. Your home maintenance efforts will help your heaters function more efficiently, saving you money every month.
Why would baseboard heaters not get hot?
You followed the above cleaning protocol, but it didn’t do the trick. If your baseboard heaters are cold, check your breakers, as one may have tripped.
How much does it cost to replace baseboard heaters?
New baseboard heaters cost$300 to $500 for each one. This includes the heater and a professional to install it.