Space heaters are heating devices that are utilized to warm up specific areas within a home or building for short periods of time.
Over the decades, research and dedication into the development of more methods of space heating have birthed the evolution of electrical and gas space heaters that either use electricity or specific fuel sources such as kerosene or wood pellets to heat up larger enclosed areas at a more energy-efficient rate.
Although the power consumption of a space heater varies based on the type and size of heater used, the most agreeable consensus is that space heating is portable and powerful, and therefore provides adequate warmth in a common household or office tower during wintry months.
The most ubiquitously used space heaters are often convective and radiant heaters.
Convective heaters generate hot air in an enclosed area by allowing cooler air to drift to the floor, thus triggering a ‘convective’ circulation of air within a room.
Radiant heaters, on the other hand, provide warmth to objects and people directly rather than the surrounding atmosphere. Sometimes, a space heater may be construed from a combination of both convective and radiant aspects, thus providing warmth to both the room and the people or objects occupying an area.
However, just like all heating devices, both these types of heaters sometimes suffer from recurring problems – the most common one being: why does the heater keep shutting off?
Reasons For Space Heater Shut-off
Now, before you decide to lock horns with this issue and tackle it with some much-needed gusto, you must first understand the miscellany of reasons as to why your heater switches off on its own repeatedly.
Check Your Power Supply
A faulty or inadequate power source is one of the root causes behind an uncompliant space heater. Most of the time, power sources are overlooked in favor of internal problems with the heater.
But sometimes, it is a simple case of a power socket being damaged or faulty and in need of dire repair. The average space heater uses up to 1500 Watts (W) or 1.5 kW (kilowatts) to operate and generate heat at optimal efficiency.
Although this number is highly dependent on the size of the space heater in concern, the power consumed by the device you own needs to be taken note of.
In some scenarios, the voltage (V) and wattage (W) of the space heater are not compatible with the electrical socket the heater is plugged into.
In other cases, the socket itself has most likely been damaged – look out for any signs of charring or brownish ‘stains’ around the socket’s prong-shaped outlets. If you see any signs of discoloration, immediately unplug your space heater and consult an experienced electrician.
Simple human carelessness may also play a role in space heater issues. It is very common for us to forget about plugging in a heater into an electrical socket before attempting to turn it on.
This is why you must always double-check if your space heater is plugged in, and most importantly, plugged in properly.
A heater that is plugged in loosely or improperly might contribute to its failure to start, let alone work. Always check the power cords of your heater for any signs of wear and tear damage or even fraying from time to time.
A damaged electrical cord is dangerous because it can present as a shock hazard to anyone who accidentally comes into contact with it. This especially caters towards pets or young children who have a tendency to wrap a sticky little finger or brush a paw against an exposed electrical wire out of curiosity.
Do You Have A Blown Fuse?
Most modern space heaters come equipped with thermal fuses nestled carefully within the confines of their tough plastic casing.
A thermal fuse is a tiny device that protects the heater from overheating, and either blows out or melts to preserve the rest of the components located inside the heater from doing the same.
A standard thermal fuse usually has a rated voltage of 120 to 250 Volts (V) and a rated current of 10 to 15 amps (A).
When a space heater malfunctions in any form, the thermal fuse located inside the heater are usually the first barrier of protection to prevent total equipment failure.
A blown fuse can also result in the inability of your space heater to be switched on at all.
If you suspect you have a blown thermal fuse inside your heater, you might first need to disassemble your heater using a set of proper tools such as adjustable pliers and screwdrivers with multiple heads to remove and detach any clips, fasteners or screws that hold pieces of your heater exterior and interior together.
Once the disassembly is complete, locate the thermal fuse and check it to see if it is burnt, melted, damaged or broken. A blown fuse will need to be replaced with a new fuse with the exact same specifications as its original compatriot.
Has Your Circuit Breaker Been Tripped?
Various households scattered around the globe use circuit breakers instead of fuses. The modern home usually comes equipped with a single gray box that houses a series of breakers aligned neatly in rows, with a single major breaker located at the very top.
The major circuit breaker is the main control point for power to your home.
As for the smaller breakers, each switch corresponds to a dedicated electrical grid found in a specific area of your house, such as the bedroom, living room, kitchen and so on.
Sometimes, an entire breaker would be devoted to a specific power outlet that feeds a single appliance or an electric-based device.
In the event that a breaker ‘trips’, this immediately cuts off the power supply to the electrical loop in the designated area under the breaker’s purview.
A tripped circuit is usually caused by a surge of electricity through the main grid of the house – such as following a severe thunder or lightning storm.
The tripped breaker acts as a silent protector to prevent more electricity from flooding the grid and ruining any device or appliance that might be anchored to an electrical socket in a particular room or area.
If the circuit breaker trips, you will be unable to start your space heater. In the event that you do manage to switch on your space heater, the device will most likely shut itself off again.
In order to draw electricity back into the room to supply power to your space heater, you must manually open the breaker box and flip the tripped breaker back to its original position.
If the breaker keeps ‘tripping’ or is burnt or damaged in any way, you will need the expertise of a proper electrician to replace the breaker and reconnect the circuit.
What About Your Thermocouple?
You might need to check your thermocouple if you are unable to detect any problems with your thermal fuse or your circuit breakers.
Unlike a circuit breaker, which is located externally and coordinates the power supply to an entire house or building, a thermocouple is a small device located within the space heater itself.
The thermocouple is responsible for shutting the device off but functions the same way a circuit breaker does.
If it ‘trips’ or detects an abnormal surge of electricity flowing through the space heater, it turns the device off every time you attempt to switch it back on and keeps it off until the internal problem can be located and corrected.
In most cases, the thermocouple is triggered into action when the space heater overheats. In the event that this happens, you must give your heater sufficient time for it to cool down on its own before nipping the deeper issue in the bud.
Therefore, a thermocouple is merely a secondary warning system to another bigger problem that needs tending to.
Is Your Thermostat Working?
Just like a thermocouple, the thermostat is also located inside your space heater. Unlike its compatriot, however, a thermostat serves as a temperature regulator for the heating system and is usually set to your preference.
However, the thermostat can switch off automatically if the space heater overheats, or if the core temperature of the heater exceeds its manufacturer’s designated temperature range.
Although space heaters are extremely sturdy by nature, much of the internal components and wiring are sensitive and are unable to tolerate excessive heat beyond a certain range to operate safely.
A space heater that is left to overheat can either explode or set off in a fiery conflagration of melted elements and plastic.
Since space heaters have been responsible for the majority of the household fires in the United States every year, this can pose a serious health and safety risk.
Therefore, a melted, damaged or broken thermostat might very well be the only thin lifeline that saves you and your loved ones from harm.
Sometimes, a thermostat might be jostled loose from its contact points, either as a defect of the product itself or if you knock over your heater by accident.
In this case, the space heater will keep shutting off unless you disassemble your heater and readjust the position of your thermostat back into its proper place.
Any damages acquired by the thermostat will require a replacement of the thermostat itself with a new one.
How About Your Auto-Safety Shut-Off Feature?
Old-fashioned space heaters did not put much priority into safety as compared to its modern-day successors.
With space heaters leading as the primary contributor of all household-related fires across the world as compared to other heating devices, the question of safety has become a big issue that has been volleyed back and forth across boardroom tables for decades.
To combat this, the recent models of space heaters all come equipped with an auto-safety shut-off feature. What does this feature do?
It is simple, really. When a space heater tips over or overheats, or malfunctions in any form or manner, the tiny sensors wedged between the internal components of the space heater will immediately be set off to turn off the device.
Although this feature can be bypassed, it is recommended that you identify the root cause of the auto-safety trigger points.
Sometimes, the sensors are simply alerting you to the possibility that your unit is no longer capable of generating heat safely, and now presents as either a safety or fire hazard.
Other times, the sensors themselves might be malfunctioning and cause your device to switch off repeatedly.
In this case, you will have to contact a heater serviceman to either exchange the sensors with new ones or repair the present sensors until they are in proper working order.
Is Your Air Filter Dirty?
A dirty or unclean air filter can also cause your space heater to shut off repeatedly without warning. An air filter that has been clogged with dust or debris will off exude a rather foul or unpleasant smell.
The odor alone is the first tell-tale sign that it is time to clean out your air filter.
Air filters that are filthy will often reduce the amount of air flow that oscillates through the heater, thus reducing the internal capability of the device to cool itself down during and after use.
A heater that cannot cool down sufficiently will quickly overheat, and this will trigger the internal sensors to go off – thus causing a medley of other issues, including a failed thermostat and an activated built-in safety shut-off.
Therefore, it is highly recommended that you clean out your air filter every bimonthly before it even begins to produce any nauseating smells.
Is Your Heating Element Working?
Most space heaters, especially electric-based devices, contain heating elements that help to preserve and generate heat inside the heater to produce warmth to a nearby area, person or even object.
In the case of oil-based space heaters, the heating element often has a greater surface area to produce heat as compared to a ceramic or micathermic electric-based heater.
This works in your favor because these type of space heaters are less likely to pose as a fire hazard since the oil reservoir is usually not heated up enough to trigger a fire.
Also, the heating element is completely enclosed and therefore better protected and much safer to use.
However, if the heating element becomes cracked, damaged or discolored in any way, it will malfunction and need to be repaired. A damaged heating element usually reduces the surface area in which heat is produced.
This greatly increases the risk of the heating unit to overheat, and therefore poses as a safety risk towards its user.
Heating elements that are faulty will usually cause the heater to shut off, even if you attempt to turn the heater on multiple times.
A quick way to test and see if your heating elements are in mint condition is by switching on your heater and taking a quick peek at the elements themselves.
A heated-up element at its optimal condition will glow bright orange, like the glowing embers of a dying flame. If the elements do not glow or glow very faintly, there is a possibility that the elements might need to be replaced.
Thus, these are simply a fraction of a myriad of reasons behind the noncompliance of your space heater.
If you have looked through everything listed above and still encounter the same issue of your heater shutting off on its own repeatedly, then you either have a defective unit on your hands or you might need to get a heater serviceman to take a look at your device.
Remember, in the event that you do not feel comfortable or are not confident enough to tackle any of these problems alone, you can always request for the aid of someone with more experience than you. Always unplug your device before you begin to fiddle around with it or disassemble it – it is always better to be safe than sorry!