Electrical space heaters have become the preferred choice of heating in many homes located around the world. These heaters are usually categorized into two main forms:
- Convection Heaters
- Radiant Heaters
Both these heaters operate solely on electricity, and therefore are extremely efficient in radiating heat and providing warmth in an enclosed area.
In the case of convection heaters, this type of space heater is very useful in radiating thermal energy in large spaces such as basements, halls or even open-space-designed living rooms in modern homes.
As for radiant heaters, these space heaters are the perfect solution for heating up smaller spaces such as table tops in an office cubicle, or even a kitchen or the pantry.
Together, these two types of space heaters have become the staple heating device used to convert electricity into thermal energy (or also known as heat) in a miscellany of living quarters of various sizes in a silent and energy-efficient manner.
To date, it is estimated that the average cost of using an electrical space heater for 12 hours in any area is roughly $2.12 in the United States.
But just like any electrical device, both convective and radiant-based heaters are not infallible and are will run into problems eventually – the most common one being that the heater simply would not turn on.
But what can you do if you are faced with a space heater that stubbornly refuses to switch on and smother you and your loved ones with some much coveted heat during the icy folds of winter?
Why, identify the root cause behind your heater’s shut off and bypass it, of course!
How Do I Troubleshoot an Electrical Heater That Won’t Turn On?
Most electrical heaters fail to turn on due to problems associated with the power supply feeding your heater.
An average electrical heater usually requires approximately 1500 Watts (W) or 1.5 kilowatts (kW) to convert electricity into heat. This power consumption is variable however, and highly dependent on the size, design and type of heater you are using.
In order to determine how much power is consumed by your own personal space heater, you will need to check the label stamped at the back or the side of your unit, or look it up in the owner’s guidance manual that comes with your heater during the moment of purchase.
Once you have ascertained how much power your heater consumes on an hourly basis, you must ensure that enough power is provided to your heater via your electrical socket so that your device is able to function at its optimal capacity without any difficulties or obstruction.
In most cases, a heater that does not turn off has power supply issues – there is simply not enough or nil power being supplied to your heater for it to run.
In this case, you will have to check your electrical socket for the possibility of damage or burnout.
You might need to call in an experienced electrician to do this, if you are unsure about checking it yourself.
Before you check any power outlets or sockets however, you must switch off the main source of power in your home – the fuse box, or the circuit breaker switch that feeds the loop of electricity to that particular socket.
Remember, do not stick in any equipment – especially metal-based tools such as screwdrivers or pliers – into your socket when your circuit breakers are not turned off.
Doing so would result in a very nasty electricity shock that could land you in hospital, or worse.
Also, do check the wiring of your heater to ensure that the cords are intact and not frayed or damaged in any manner. Switch your heater off and unplug it first before attempting to correct any issues with it.
How Do I Reset My Circuit Breaker?
Another common problem afflicting uncompliant heaters is not the heater itself, but rather the circuit breakers in your home.
The circuit breakers are usually located in a gray circuit breaker box which can be found in the basement of your house.
In the event that you cannot locate the circuit breaker box, you may need to contact your electrician to find out where it is.
Most modern houses utilize circuits to supplement the electrical loops rather than fuses.
When you flip open the cover of your circuit breaker box, you will see multiple circuit breakers aligned neatly in several rows, with a single major breaker usually located at the top.
The major breaker is the major ‘switch’ that controls the entire electrical grid that supplies power to your entire home, including the attic, garage and the basement.
As for the circuit breakers, each individual breaker corresponds to a select room or area within your house. Sometimes, each breaker is meant for an individual equipment or appliance as well.
Your commercial heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system usually has its own individual circuit and runs separately from the other electrical loops.
Most of the time, each circuit breaker switch will be labelled, but in the event that it is not, you can locate the tripped breaker very easily because it will be ‘tripped’ and face the opposite direction as compared to the other breaker switches.
If you have difficulty telling apart which breaker confers to which dedicated circuit, ask a friend to help you discover which breaker is connected to which area of your home by flipping the switches up and down one by one.
Now that you have located and labelled your circuit breakers, the next step would be to reset the breakers themselves.
In order to do so, you must take several precautions including ensuring your hands and feet are not slicked with water, sweat or any form of liquid or moisture.
You may don a pair of thick, rubber gloves as added protection. Use a single hand to gently flip the tripped circuit breaker switch.
If the switch flips back to its opposing position on its own, there is a very high chance that the circuit breaker has been damaged and would require the additional expertise of an experienced electrician.
If the switch moves and stays in position, and is aligned with the switches of the other breakers in the circuit breaker box, then this should restore power back to normal.
If you flip the switch back on, but the outdoor unit remains turned off, there is a strong likelihood that you might have a separate outdoor power switch that has yet to be switched off.
In this case, you will need to locate the outdoor power switch and flip it back on yourself manually.
Look out for a separate power box in close proximity to your main unit. There might be either a lever, switch or even fuse nestled separated behind the confines of a different box that needs your touch.
How Do I Replace My Blown Fuse?
Whilst most houses use circuit breakers, some humble abodes still utilize fuses in a standard gray fuse box to serve as the main power source.
In this circumstance, you will need to replace a fuse if you come face to face with a blown fuse. You may do this by following these quick steps:
- Unplug your heater from the electrical socket and find the exact location of your fuse box in your home. The box is usually located in the basement and will be made out of metal coated in gray paint.
- Once you have located the fuse box, use a torchlight to help you detect the blown fuse. Look out for a fuse that is either broken, melted or even discoloured from the rest of its compatriots.
- Replace the damaged or blown fuse with a new fuse with the exact same specifications as the older fuse. This means the new fuse must have the exact same amperage (A), type and size as its previous precursor.
- Using a different fuse would result in a short circuit or worse, even a small explosion or fire. Always double check when replacing fuses to make sure they are a dead match for each other and do not deviate from one another in terms of specifics.
- Once the replacement is slipped in place, plug in your heater once again and try to turn it back on. If it successfully switches on, that means your problem has just been solved.
It is crucial that you always keep a spare set of fuses on hand just in case you come up against another blown fuse in the future. Remember, the replacements must be exactly the same!
If you are unsure about picking up a new fuse, you may bring the older, damaged, blown fuse to the store for assistance and consultation in selecting an appropriate replacement.
How Do I Check My Thermostat?
Another simple case of why your electric heater is not working could be due to the thermostat malfunctioning.
The thermostat regulates the internal temperature of the heater by modulating the device’s core temperature.
It does this by either heating up or cooling down the heater following the surrounding atmospheric temperature outside the unit.
In some cases, the auto-sensor that triggers the thermostat to kick in might be faulty – this too could lead to a start-up failure of the heating unit itself.
Most old-fashioned heaters come with an analog thermostat, but some modern-day electrical space heaters are designed with a digital thermostat which requires batteries to operate.
When the battery weakens or dies out, the thermostat will fail and the heater will not be able to be switched on.
Sometimes, a simple case of checking the batteries and swapping them out every tri-monthly or so could save you a lot of hassle.
Another simple issue could be the positioning of the thermostat itself.
In order to access the thermostat nestled with the confines of your electrical space heater, you might have to disassemble your heater first using a set of tools such as an adjustable plier or even a screwdriver with different sized heads.
In some cases, the exterior housing of your space heater is merely held together by sturdy clips or fasteners, and this can be removed by gently unclipping those pieces together.
Once you have successfully disassembled your heater and accessed the thermostat, take a peek at it to make sure it has not moved out of place or become loose.
In the event that the thermostat is not fixed correctly, readjust its position and try turning your heater back on to see if it starts working.
Thermostats may also become damaged or faulty over time. If you suspect the thermostat is spoilt or broken, then you may need to change the thermostat to a new one.
Do take note that human error is also applicable in the case of a malfunctioning thermostat.
You may have accidently switched it ‘off’ instead of turning it ‘on’, so always double check to see if you have pushed down the right button.
What About The Auto-Shut-Off Feature?
Some electrical space heaters come with a built-in safety feature called the auto ‘shut-off’.
This means that if your heater exceeds the core temperature it was designed to withstand as per your owner’s manual, the heater will automatically switch off to prevent the device from heating up further and burning up or even exploding.
This safety feature is extremely valuable because electrical heaters can pose as a fire hazard if they are defective, malfunctioning or even installed or used incorrectly.
To counter this feature, you will need to reset the auto shut-off by switching off the main power switch of the heater.
Unplug your heater from its respective electrical socket and allow the unit to cool down for approximately twenty minutes.
After the downtime, gently brush your hand against the exterior casing to ensure that it is indeed cool to the touch. If it is still warm, wait another ten minutes or so before the plastic housing is completely cool.
Then, plug your heater back into the socket and flip the switch back on. This should bypass any automatic safety features the heater has been designed with.
How Do I Check My Air Filter?
The last possible issue that you can troubleshoot is your air filter. If your heater is emitting a rather noxious or foul odor, there is a high possibility that your air filter is dirty and requires some routine cleaning and maintenance.
A dirty air filter might not sound too troublesome at first, but besides producing a rather unpleasant smell, trapping excessive dirt and reducing airflow, a dirty filter can result in an overheating space heater.
An overheating heater will quickly lead to a malfunctioning one, or one that switches off in an attempt to preserve the internal workings of the heater to prevent any of the components from sustaining damage or melting.
This would then cause your heater to stop working, and you will be unable to switch it on.
Cleaning out your air filter is therefore mandatory, and should be done on a bimonthly basis.
If you suspect your air filter is clogged or obstructed in any manner, then you can consult a serviceman to inspect the heater for any signs of long-term damage, and clean out the filter for you.
Thus, bypassing an electrical shut off in your electrical heater is actually quite simple and straightforward.
A variety of issues ranging from a faulty thermostat to a dirty air filter or even a blown fuse and incorrect power supply could all lead to a non-functioning heater.
If you follow the steps listed above, you should be able to troubleshoot any of these possible problems on your own.
In the event that you are not confident of tackling any of these issues in respect to your electric heater, then you may always contact a licensed professional to inspect your unit for you.