On a chilly Winter’s night, there is nothing better than being tucked up indoors with your dressing gown and slippers on.

With a book in hand, or the latest Netflix series streaming on TV, is there anywhere else you’d rather be? That is of course until you notice a foul-smelling, burning odor. It’s auspiciously coming from your electric baseboard heater…

Electric baseboard heaters are widely regarded as one of the best alternatives to a furnace. They are a reliable heat source for smaller rooms or apartments.

Whilst they have been proven to be more cost effective and productive than a furnace, the electric baseboard heater can emit a less-than-desirable smell.

After not using your heater for several months, dust can form on the heat exchanger, burners, and other heating components.

When the burners ignite, the dust burns off and the smell protrudes from the heater air vents. The burning smell should fade within a few hours and is no cause for alarm.

Before you go running to the fire brigade with visions of your house disintegrating in front of you, keep in mind that the unpleasant smell is probably nothing serious or life-threatening. It’s also a common occurrence in baseboard heaters and in homes across the US.

Why Is There A Burning Smell Coming Out Of My Baseboard Heater?

As with all things electrical though, a safety-first approach is paramount. As soon as you notice any odor coming from your heater, the issue should be addressed.

Aside from it being a potential safety hazard, a burning smell coming from your heater could lead to less efficiency and higher electricity bills.

It is quite normal for an electric baseboard heater to produce an odor because the lubricant inside the valve burns as it heats. This should never continue for more than hour though. If it does, then it’s time to call an expert to have a look into the problem.

It is normal for a new baseboard heater unit to smell. For the existing heaters, accumulated dust on the heating element might be causing the odour

Aside from lubricant burning, a burning smell coming from an electric baseboard heater is most likely due to a build-up of household nasties like dust and grease that is being heated.

The smell is generally more prominent as soon as you switch on the heater and the heat comes on.

Many of us are familiar with this very scenario. We turn our electric heaters on and before we even have time to pour ourselves a cup of tea, the pungent, burning smell has filled the room around us.

This is normally caused by a build-up of residues that have formed a thick layer of dust on the heating element of your electric heater.

You’re likely smelling an array of burning dust particles. Hence, the unfavorable odor!

The smell is more likely to occur when you first turn on the heater after a prolonged period of not using it.

This is normally the case at the onset of cooler months.

After months of lying dormant in your home, these heaters can collect all manner of big and small particles of dust and debris.

As a result, there is always a spike in the number of service calls being made to HVAC technicians during late Fall and early Winter.

The burning smell is likely to gradually fade away after the heater burns off the dust and another residue.

This occurs after the heater has completed a cycle or two. If your heater still smells after three or four cycles, it is important that you contact an HVAC technician for assistance.

How To Get Rid Of Odor From Baseboard Heaters?

As if the smell of burning dust and grease wasn’t bad enough, one of the more unbearable odors is often that of burned hair.

This normally indicates that either pet hair or human hair is built up in the heater.

If you have pets that spend time indoors, then it’s recommended you clean your heater more often.

As a rule, if you have pets then you should clean your heater once monthly it stays clean and odor-free.

Sometimes rubber, plastic, and other materials can also build up in the heating element or the vents of the heater.

If this is the case then you’ll probably notice a slightly different, stronger smell.

You can self-examine your electric baseboard heater after you have turned it off and allowed it to cool down.

  • You should first take the cover off the heater. The heater cover is normally attached by one or two small screws.
  • You can remove these screws with a screwdriver, paying close attention to gently lifting the cover.
  • The screws or caps are generally located on the side of the unit. If the baseboard cover is a snap on variety, gently remove the cover and place it to the side.
  • After you have removed the cover of the electric baseboard heater, the heating element will be exposed and you will be able to see how much dust and residue has attached itself.
  • Remove visible pieces of debris. If there are large chunks of dirt or other particles, remove these with your hands and dispose of them. You can then clean the heating element with a vacuum or damp cloth.
  • It is important to be gentle when making contact with the heater and try not to bend or damage the heater fins.
  • You can remove any dust located under the heating element or in any other hard to reach areas with a damp toothbrush.
  • Alternatively, you can use a soft paintbrush to reach between the fins to dust off areas in the back of the heater.
  • Clean off the underside of the cover with a damp cloth before reassembling the heater.
  • Finally, replace the cover and reattach any screws.

If you ever smell an electrical burning smell, this could mean that there is an electrical problem. If it doesn’t go away after one or two cycles, it could be a more serious issue that needs investigating. In this case, it’s always recommended that you contact a trained HVAC technician straight away.

About Baseboard Heaters

Most baseboard heaters are electric, a clean and efficient energy source. The heater is comprised of a heating element that is enclosed in metal pipes.

Aluminum fins surround the metal pipes, allowing for heat transfer over a greater area.

These parts are contained in a housing or cabinet that is normally installed under windows along the perimeter of the home, where heat loss is greatest. Baseboards heaters come in 120 volts and 240 volt systems.

How Often Should Baseboard Heaters Be Cleaned?

Whilst you might balk at the idea of house cleaning, when you consider that a clean baseboard heater will be safer and will operate more efficiently, it simply must be done.

How often you clean your heater will vary on whether you have pets, but all heaters should at least be cleaned once at the beginning of the season. They should also be cleaned again mid-season.

Are you concerned over burning smells after firing up their heaters for the first time ? This could be due to various reasons including dust, hair of pets and dirt etc.

If you’re a dog or a cat owner and your pet takes pride of place indoors, then you will understand that animal hair can seem to congregate from one end of the house to the other.

If this is the case, then it is certainly recommended that you clean your heater more frequently. After all, the smell of burning hair isn’t exactly going to be inviting to guests! 

How Efficient Are Electric Baseboard Heaters?

It’s important to consider that baseboard heaters are most effective when used to only heat a smaller space, such as an average-sized room.

If you are seeking options to heat your entire home, then it is advised that you select either a standard furnace or boiler. These devices will heat both occupied and unoccupied spaces.

Whilst a furnace or boiler may cost less to operate than a baseboard heater (depending on usage circumstances), the cost of buying and installing these products is significantly higher than the cost of a new baseboard heater.

As with all electrical devices, you should keep in mind that the creation of electricity is generated mostly from coal or gas. This contributes to environmental pollution.

If you do choose to use electricity for heating, again it recommended that the heating device is used only for smaller spaces. This will then be more cost effective for you and be less harmful to the environment.

What Is The Best Temperature To Have Your Heater On?

Whilst you may be tempted to crank up the heat on those cooler nights, the extra energy expenditure will hurt your hip pocket. For every degree above 68F, you’ll pay an extra 5%. If you turn the heat down to 60F, you can save up to 10% on your electricity bill.

Obviously, there’s not much use in remaining cold on those especially chilly nights. The idea though is to your heater sparingly and appropriately as needed.

Is It Safe To Leave My Baseboard Heater On For An Indefinite Period Of Time?

The great thing about baseboard heaters is that with a programmable thermostat, can set the temperature to change at a certain time or to turn off completely.

That way you can sleep easy at night, comfortable in the knowledge that your baseboard heater will not overheat.

With a programmable thermostat, while you’re hard at work during the day, your heater can be keeping your living room warm as toast for you to come home to.

Where Should You Position Your Baseboard Heater?

Baseboard heaters are best placed underneath a room’s window. This is because the cold air coming through the window will be heated before it reaches people in the room.

Additionally, with the warm air of the heater rising, it reduces the condensation which would generally form on the glass of the window. By placing the heater below a window, you are slowing down the heat transfer and heating the room.

Make sure that you keep a small gap between the bottom of the heater and the surface of the ground. Your heater should sit at least two centimeters above the floor or carpet. This will allow the cooler air on the floor to flow through the electrical element of the heater.

It is vital that you keep foreign materials at an appropriate distance away from your heater. Fabric, plastics and other flammable material should never be put near an electric heater.

If you’re unsure around the guidelines surrounding foreign materials, an HVAC technician can assess your heater clearance and provide you with adequate support.

Electric baseboard heaters are an economical and popular method of heating homes across the US. They are reliable, affordable and provide a quick and reliable heat source to a room or small apartment.

Baseboard heaters are a safe option for people with either small children or pets. This is due in large part to the fact that they remain cool to touch.

They are also sturdy and unable to be easily knocked over. This makes them a valuable purchase for families on a budget.

In order to get the most value from your heater, it’s crucial that you clean your device – at least once at the start of the cooler season and once midway through the season. Again, if you have pets, then you will need to clean your heater more frequently.

While a burning smell being emitted from these types of heaters has been known to sometimes occur, this is generally no cause for concern.

This type of odor normally indicates that there is a build up of dust or grease with the heater fins. If this is the case, then a simple vacuum and wipe down of the heater’s interior should quickly solve the problem.

However, if the annoying smell still permeates the room, it’s time to call an HVAC technician to impact your baseboard heater’s efficiency and safety.

Baseboard heaters are generally inexpensive and come in a range of styles. You can purchase them from homeware stores or any number of reputable online department stores.