Best Practices For Electric Baseboard Heater Safety

According to statistics gathered by the National Fire Protection Association between 2009 and 2013, fires caused by heating equipment account for 16 percent of all reported house fires during that period. House fires are easily avoidable but only if the proper precautions are taken to prevent those fires from happening.

Close attention should be paid to your electric baseboard heater. A popular alternative to traditional electric and natural gas-powered furnaces, these devices can easily become fire hazards if they're not used or cared for properly. As with any other electric heating system, safety should always be a primary concern when it comes to operating electric baseboards. Here are a few best practices to consider when it comes to using and maintaining your electric baseboard heater.

Use the Proper Gauge of Wiring During Installation

When wiring a new electric baseboard heater to your home's existing electrical system, it's important to use the appropriate gauge of wiring. If the electrical supply wire is not strong enough to withstand the current passing through it, the current could cause the wiring to overheat and deteriorate until it's finally destroyed. This could cause a serious fire hazard that places you and other occupants of your home in grave danger.

The larger the amps and voltage, the larger the wiring gauge becomes. For example, a 16-amp 120-volt electric baseboard heater with a 1,500-watt output needs 14/2 wire, whereas a 24-amp 240-volt heater with a 6,000-watt output needs thicker 10/2 wire. Wiring gauges should be checked in addition to other electrical issues whenever there's a problem with your electric baseboard heater.

Keep Your Baseboards Clean

Another best practice for operating your electric baseboard heater safely is to keep them as clean as possible. Dust, dirt, and other debris can accumulate inside of a typical baseboard heater and prevent air from flowing past the heating element. Not only can this cause poor heating performance, but it could also create an unexpected fire hazard. In addition, the accumulated dust and dirt can also create a distinct burnt odor whenever the heater is in operation.

It's relatively easy to keep your electric baseboard heater clean. Simply remove the covers, and use a wet/dry shop vacuum with a soft brush attachment to vacuum the heating element from front to rear. Use a damp cloth to wipe away any leftover dirt and debris you encounter after vacuuming. Improving your home's overall indoor air quality can go a long way towards cutting down the amount of dust and dirt found in your electric baseboard heater.

Avoid Obstructions and Obstacles

Since most electric baseboards don't come with their own blower fans, these heating systems rely on the continuous flow of air generated by the convection process. Any obstacle placed over or in front of the baseboard could disrupt this process, potentially causing the unit to overheat and eventually fail. Here are a few things you can do to ensure your heater doesn't suffer this problem:

  • Make sure your electric baseboard heater sits at least a half-inch above the floor or carpet. Tall carpeting should be trimmed down to avoid obstructions.
  • When using window-length drapes, make sure there's at least 4 inches of clearance between the bottom of the drape and the top of the heater.
  • For floor-length drapes, provide at least 2 inches of clearance between the front of the baseboard and the drape in front of it.
  • Make sure all of your furniture, including sofas, tables, and chairs, are kept at least 6 inches away from your electric baseboards.

It's important to follow these and other best practices when using electric baseboards and other types of electric heating. For more information, contact a company like Feldman Brothers Electrical Supply Co.