Space heaters have become thoroughly useful in radiating and retaining heat in a confined area or enclosed space such as a home or office.

Most space heaters run on either electricity, kerosene or gas. Just like any other heating device, they are prone to failure due to being defective, installed incorrectly or even misused.

Therefore, if you run into problems with your space heater, your primary prerogative would be to identify the underlying issue that had caused the device to malfunction in the first place before you either began repairing it yourself or calling over an experienced technician to give your heater a quick look over.

What Is Wrong with My Space Heater?

One of the more ubiquitous space heaters used in four-season countries around the world include the electric space heater, such as the ceramic-based space heater.

Perhaps, one of the more common issues attributed to electrical space heater problems include, but are not limited to:

  • The heater cannot be switched on.
  • The heater is not giving off any heat or giving off excessive heat.
  • A part of the heater breaks down or is not working (e.g. fan-heaters etc.)

In some severe circumstances, a faulty space heater might even give off a terrible electric shock or light up in a mess of flames and burning plastic, thus proving as both a fire and safety hazard to anyone near the heater.

This can be extremely dangerous, especially if a child or pet is wandering nearby when the heater breaks down or explodes.

Thus, you must first identify the main underlying issue that has caused your heater to break down before solving the problem.

Turn the electric heater off and unplug it. Check your house's fuse box for blown fuses or tripped circuit breakers. Replace the fuse or reset the circuit breakers if necessary.

You can do this by testing individual sections of the heater.

For example, if the heater cannot be switched on, you need to ensure that the circuit breakers within the heater is working and there is power being supplied to the unit in a steady fashion.

Likewise, if the heater does not generate a sufficient amount of heat to warm up your treasured cubby hole such as the living room, you will need to do a quick check of the heating elements to ensure that they are hot and glowing.

To properly check each section of your space heater to make sure all the sub-units within the interior are working in tandem with one another, you might need to disassemble your heater first.

How Do I Disassemble My Space Heater?

Picking apart your space heater is not rocket science, but it is not a walk in the park either.

You must first gather the appropriate slew of equipment before you begin your task of pulling apart your space heater, such as:

You may also don safety glasses to prevent the accidental spray of any liquids from hitting your eye – this goes especially when dealing with kerosene-based space heaters.

There are generally two main types of electric space heaters:

  • Radiant Electrical Heater
  • Convective Electrical Heater

Each type of electrical space heater listed above requires a different set of disassembly steps to remove and check each component of the heater.

Use these kind of tools to troubleshoot issues with space heater.

For radiant electrical heaters, you may want to follow the steps listed below:

  • Firstly, don your rubber gloves and switch off the primary power source feeding the heater.
  • Next, unplug the heater from the electrical socket and give it time to cool naturally. If the exterior plastic casing is still warm, do not disassemble the heater just yet.
  • Once the heater has cooled down, pull out the knob using a set of pliers and begin removing the electrical leads one by one. Mark each location of the edges using a piece of coloured tape.
  • Then, use your pliers again to rotate and remove the retaining nut that holds the thermostat in place. Once the thermostat is free, gently pull it out and set it aside.
  • If you wish to remove the main power switch inside the space heater, disconnect the leads and mark the areas with tape once more.
  • It is important to note that some switches in some heaters are held together by clips or screws. These will need to be removed using either pliers or a screwdriver before you can access the switch.

As for the convective electrical heater, here are simple steps for you to look over:

  • Slip-on your rubber gloves and unplug the heater from the electrical socket after turning off the main switch.
  • Allow the heater to cool down naturally and gently press your hand against the exterior housing of the heater.
  • Once the plastic casing is entirely cold to the touch, you may slowly begin disassembling it piece by piece.
  • The first two sections that need to be removed are the control knobs and the rear grille. You can remove the control knobs one by one using a set of adjustable pliers.
  • The rear grille can be removed by slowly unscrewing the fasters using a screwdriver.
  • Once the back of the heater’s exterior is removed, you may then proceed to remove the front grille.
  • You can do this by simply lifting the entire casing and gently tugging the grille out. This will then expose the fan, motor and the heating element of the space heater.
  • You may test all three of these sections one by one as you wish. But before you do, you will need to remove the thermostat and disconnect any wiring that holds the circuits together. You can do this by removing any screws or fasteners that secure the remnants of the housing together, and slowly disconnect the wires one by one before removing the thermostat.

Once you’ve successfully disassembled your space heater, you will be able to observe which parts of the space heater are broken and in need of repair.

In some cases, certain parts of the heater might need to be replaced, or a new space heater might need to be purchased.

But if a simple repair is required, you may be able to do it yourself without too much hassle.

How Do I Clean My Space Heater?

In most cases, your space heater will begin producing an unpleasant odour after a period of prolonged usage.

Once the pungent smell permeates the room, you will know that it is time for you to do a bit of maintenance – namely, cleaning your heater.

Since a lot of space heater issues are the consequence of having ‘dirty’ heater sub-units or components, it would be best if you invest a bit of time and effort into wiping down your heater once every three months.

The electric heater fan is responsible for pushing hot air out of the unit, which causes the back draft to pull new air in.

Turn off your heater and unplug it from any electrical sockets, before leaving it to cool.

Once the heater has been given sufficient time to cool down, use a damp cloth and wipe down the exterior plastic casing to remove any dirt or dust.

If the heater still produces an awful odour, there is a very high possibility that some grit and grime has adhered to the insides of the heater.

Here is a video explaining repair procedure

In this case, a manual, partial disassembly of the heater might be required to wipe down and clean out any dirt trapped inside the cabin space or even grilles of the heater.

In the case of ceramic-based electrical heaters, you might need to wipe down the ceramic plates or even heating elements of the radiator directly after disassembly.

As for kerosene or gas heaters, it is not uncommon for dirt to stick or encrust on the nozzles or flue pipes of the heater.

Be sure to wear a mask if you are wiping down any heaters that use gas as a source of fuel since the inhalation of residual vapours produced by the radiator can trigger respiratory problems or lung infections, especially if you are an asthmatic patient.

Do not use any cleaning agents or detergents such as window cleaners or bleach when you are wiping down your heaters.

These cleaning liquids are highly flammable when they interact with heat, and when you switch on your heater, they might cause your heater to light up in a charred mess of plastic and toxic fumes.

For particularly stubborn spots of dirt or stains inside a heater, you may use a small wire brush to gently scrape off any grit that has adhered to the interior plates, panels, fans or even flues of the heater.

Make sure that all the scrapings are then either wiped off quickly with a damp cloth or sucked up using a vacuum cleaner.

How Do I Check the Power of My Space Heater?

Most space heaters require an electrical power source to perform and generate heat.

This is even applicable to radiator-based heaters and electric heat pumps.

Old-fashioned space heaters usually utilize a three-prong outlet, but the more modernly designed devices use a standard two-prong outlet.

Each heater can generate a varied range of power in terms of Watts (W) or Kilowatts (kW), and thus have different amounts of heating capacity.

As a result, different heaters can put out a different radius of heat and heat areas or spaces of various sizes.

If a space heater does not function at its optimal heating capacity after being turned on, or, cannot be switched on at all, you must first check the power source that supplies electricity to the heater.

In most cases, a heater simply fails because it is either not plugged in very well, or the electrical socket that supplies electricity to the heater has been damaged or is faulty.

Using power strips instead of directly plugging your space heater into an electrical socket can also pose a problem.

Some power strips do not have any surge protectors, and in the event of a storm, can short-circuit or burn internally due to a burst of current.

That very same ‘burst’ is also capable of short-circuiting the internal wiring of your space heater.

In some cases, the space heater comes with built-in safety features whereby the fuses melt during a current upsurge, and this immediately stops the heater from working to prevent it from becoming a shock or fire hazard.

But most of the time, the wiring within space heaters will be irreversibly damaged (or melted) in such events.

You must also check both the external and internal wiring of the space heater to make sure it is not frayed, torn or damaged in any way.

Another more pressing issue in space heaters that refuse to start is a blown a fuse. In this case, the older, burnt-out fuse would need to be removed and swapped out with a new fuse.

How Do I Repair My Thermostat?

A good portion of space heaters have built-in thermostats nestled carefully in their interior.

A thermostat serves as a temperature regulator and determines the amount of heat that will be created and radiated by the space heater in concern.

Thermostats in space heaters usually have an auto ‘shut-off’ feature or individual sensors that can detect the temperature fluctuations within the radiator.

When the internal temperature of the heater exceeds its specifications, as listed in the manual your space heater comes with, the thermostat will usually switch off the heater automatically to prevent it from overheating or burning out.

Sometimes, the sensor that triggers the auto shut-off for the thermostat malfunctions.

In some instances, the thermostat itself fails to regular the temperature within the heater, thus leaving the heater to be either too cold or too hot, and either radiating too little or excessive warmth.

In the event that you suspect the thermostat may not be functioning correctly in your space heater, you must first disassemble your heater to access the thermostat.

Once you can see the thermostat, test it to see if it is working by simply removing it to expose and identify the wires hidden underneath.

The wires should typically be attached to terminals marked as Green (G), Red (R), Yellow (Y), White (W) and C (Common).

Depending on the type of thermostat you have in your space heater, it could be either connected to Red and Green or Red and White.

Take note of which wire is connected to which specific terminal.

You can do this by either sketching out a quick diagram of the connections on a piece of paper, take a snapshot of the configuration with your phone or camera, or simply use different parts of coloured tape to mark the terminals.

Using your screwdriver, carefully unscrew each wire from its designated terminal.

If you find yourself facing more than two different coloured wires, always select the Red and White wires since these are usually the designated colours attributed to power and heat.

Give a quick twist of the bare ends of your chosen wires, but make sure they are not in contact with one another or are not left hanging loosely.

Next, plug in your space heater and switch it back on. If the heater immediately begins to work and generate heat, then most likely the thermostat is defective or has been installed incorrectly.

You will then need to replace the thermostat with a new thermostat.

How Do I Perform an Element Check?

Most electrical space heaters contain an element that produces heat via electrical resistance once an electric current passes through the radiator.

This element usually consists of a protective layer of ceramic to serve as a buffer against the current.

However, as time flies and the years tick on, this coating can degenerate or bleach, thus losing its ‘protective’ capabilities.

If you come up against a broken space heater due to a possible element damage, you must first inspect the extent of the injury itself.

Take note of any cracks or changes in the colour of the element.

If there are any signs of wear and tear, then that is most likely the primary cause behind your heater’s malfunction.

Firstly, disassemble your space heater by removing all the screws and fasteners using the appropriate tools.

Remove the exterior casing and any other interior parts until the heating element is exposed.

To test each element, use a multimeter which has been configured on the resistance x1 (RX1) scale.

A multimeter measures the voltage (V), resistance (R) and current (A) of an electrical device. In this scenario, we need a resistance reading, and it should be roughly 10 ohms.

Your next step would be to remove the heating element itself. You can do this by disconnecting the terminal leads found on either side of the heating element.

Then remove the element out of the casing and replace it with a better and newer part.

Thus, if you find yourself in the presence of a broken space heater, do not panic or despair.

All you have to do is carefully disassemble the heater according to the guideline above, clean out both the interior and exterior of the heater thoroughly and test the three main issues that commonly afflict problematic space heaters: the power supply, the thermostat and the heating element.

Once you have identified the underlying issue and fixed it, your heater will be as good as new.

Remember, if you are unsure about repairing the heater yourself, contact a professional to do it for you instead.

After all, an improperly fixed heater can cause you even more problems than a broken heater, and we wouldn’t want that, right?