Are Baseboard Heaters Safe?

Baseboard heaters form a valuable source of additional heat in indoor spaces. These types of heaters have a considerable advantage over space and wall-built heaters because they require very little maintenance if any.

In addition, they operate in the background with minimal noise to keep the indoor environment comfortable.

In this article, we will examine the most critical safety features of baseboard heaters. We will answer all the essential questions about the safety levels of using baseboard heaters. We will also give you valuable tips on getting the best from your baseboard heater while maintaining high safety standards. 

Are Electric Baseboard Heaters Safe? 

Electric baseboard heaters are generally safe. This is because they have a shallow level of risk of a fire hazard. However, some other heaters, including portable and wall-mounted electric heaters, carry a high fire risk. For space heaters, they can easily catch fire if they come into close contact with highly combustible materials.

Besides, cables and extensions increase the risk of these heaters falling when one trips on the cables. However, baseboard heaters do not come with this risk because they are permanently installed on a house’s lower side of the wall. 

Are Plugin Baseboard Heaters Safe? 

Although plugin baseboard heaters come with an electric cord that you use to connect them to the 120 volts mains, they are generally safe. This is because your plugin baseboard heater steadily produces a low amount of heat to create a comfortable indoor environment.

Moreover, it comes with a thermal cutout that automatically switches it off with a severe problem. Thus, using a plugin baseboard heater is relatively safe because of the shallow risk of a fire hazard associated with this type of heater. 

Are Hot Water Baseboard Heaters Safe?

Hot water baseboard heaters are safer than electric baseboard heaters. This is because the risk of hot water baseboard heaters causing fires is minimal. These heaters have heat fins that continuously distribute hot water or even oil in the reservoir.

If your hot water baseboard heater is connected to your central heating system, the device will distribute heat from the water in the system. These heating devices are safe because they generally have low temperatures than other types of heating devices. Thus, they carry minimal risks of fires as well as burns. 

Are Baseboard Heaters Safe for Babies?

Although baseboard heaters are generally safer than the other heaters, including space and wall-mounted heaters, they are not entirely safe for babies. Your crawling baby can easily reach and touch the surface of the baseboard heater in your house. Furthermore, the baby can stick their toys into the groves on the surface of the baseboard heaters. Therefore, you need to child-proof your baseboard heater. 

The best way of child-proofing your baseboard heater is to install a baseboard cover. Baseboard covers are made of galvanized steel. They protect the surface of the baseboard heater and make it safe for the kid to touch it. They come in various sizes and shapes. The good news about using baseboard heaters is that you can easily install them. 

How does a Baseboard Heater Work? 

A baseboard heater has a heating element and a thermostat. When the temperature falls below the desired range, the thermostat triggers the baseboard heater to initiate the heating process.

The heating element converts electric power into heat energy. The heat energy is then used to warm the air currents around the surface of the baseboard heater. As the air currents get warm, they rise and get replaced by cool and heavier air currents from the outside.

This process creates a convection current that steadily increases the air temperature in the entire house over time. Hydronic or hot air baseboard heaters utilize the hot water or oil heat to warm the surrounding air currents. 

Baseboard Heater Temperature

Baseboard heaters allow you to control their temperature using their operating thermostats. One massive advantage of using baseboard heaters is that you can independently adjust the temperature in every room.

The thermostats that come with the baseboard heaters allow users to adjust temperatures in intervals of either 1 or 5 degrees at a time. Once you select the appropriate temperature for your room, you can forget about the baseboard heater.

The device will automatically increase the temperature in the room to the desired levels before shutting off. When the temperature falls below the desired levels, the device will also start warming the air automatically. 

Do Baseboard Heaters Get Hot? 

Baseboard heaters do get hot over time. This is because the heating element must be pretty hot to warm the air near the device’s surface effectively. The surface of the heater may not immediately get hot; however, after some time, it does get hot as well.

Thus, if you leave your baseboard heater on for a long time, you will realize that it gets pretty hot. The level of hotness may be high enough to pose serious dangers to children and even adults. However, many people regard baseboard heaters as safer than the other types of heaters. 

How Hot do Baseboard Heaters Get? 

Baseboard heaters can reach a temperature of 150 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature level is high enough to pose all manner of dangers to you, the children, and even pets.

For example, if children touch a truly hot baseboard heater, they may get burnt. A person may also get burns if they accidentally brush against the surface of a truly hot baseboard heater.

It is because of this risk that many users of baseboard heaters install a baseboard heater cover. The cover reduces the risk of burns and accidents due to the baseboard heater getting very hot. 

Baseboard Heater Clearance Requirements 

Observing the right clearance requirements for your baseboard heater is necessary to keep everyone safe. Also, this is necessary to ensure that your baseboard heater functions perfectly. 

  • Baseboard heater and the floor: You can install your baseboard heater directly on the floor. Baseboard heaters have a unique cover that protects the air intake unit from directly touching the floor. 
  • Baseboard heater height: Manufacturers of baseboard heaters do not indicate the maximum or minimum height to install their baseboard heaters. Nevertheless, it is good practice to install your heater as close to the floor as possible. This is because the cool and heavy air in your house is found around the floor. The baseboard heater raises the temperature of your room by heating this air. Moreover, you need to leave about 12 inches between the heater and materials such as drapes.
  • Baseboard heaters and furniture: Ideally, place furniture at least 12 inches from the surface of the baseboard heater. Maintaining this minimal distance is necessary for safety. If your heater has a fan, it may be necessary to increase the front side clearance distance to at least 3 feet. 

Baseboard Heater Safety Tips

Although baseboard heaters pose a relatively low-risk level, they can trigger fires and cause burns. Thus, it would help if you observed the following safety tips when using a baseboard heater. 

baseboard heater safety
  • Avoid placing objects close to the baseboard heater: Ensure that your furniture and drapes are far away from the surface of the baseboard heater as it is possible. This practice will enable you to minimize the risk of fires when using your baseboard heater. 
  • Avoid setting the thermostat to very high temperatures: Baseboard heaters typically warm the air around your room slowly. The convection currents of warm air rising and cool air rushing in from outside take a long time before their effect is fully felt. Avoid setting the thermostat at very high-temperature levels. 
  • Keep the airways clean: Remove all the dirt that may clog the airways of your baseboard heater. If the airways are blocked, the baseboard heater will not work as effectively as you would expect it to do. 
  • Use baseboard heater covers: The baseboard heater covers provide an excellent solution to the safety hazards that your baseboard heater poses to children and pets. The covers prevent the surface temperature of your baseboard heater from rising to very high levels. Thus, it can be safe for your children or even pets to touch the surface of the cover without getting burnt. Despite the usefulness of the baseboard cover, it is still advisable to keep kids and pets as far away from the surfaces of your baseboard heaters as it is possible. Children can insert toys through the airspaces, while pets can also put their tiny claws through the spaces. 

Can baseboard heaters cause fires?

Baseboard heaters can cause fires if one fails to observe basic safety measures when using them. The surfaces of baseboard heaters can become very hot after the devices run for a long time.

The temperatures may at times rise to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If they come into contact with highly combustible material, they can cause a fire. The combustible material may be drapes, other fabrics, paper, some chemicals, or even matchsticks. 

Can hot water baseboard heaters cause fires?

Although hot water baseboard heaters are relatively safer than electric ones, they can as well cause fires. Heaters generally cause fires when their hot surfaces get in touch with a material that is highly combustible.

Hot water baseboard heaters take a long time before they reach their ideal internal temperature. But once they reach a high temperature, their surfaces become hot. The hot surface of a hot water baseboard heater can trigger a fire if the conditions are right.

Thus, although hot water baseboard heaters are safer than electric baseboard heaters, they can also trigger fires if they are not appropriately handled. 

Furniture in front of the baseboard heater

How you place your furniture in front of the baseboard heater determines how safe the place will be. When furniture is too close to the surface of the baseboard heater, it may impede the free movement of air.

Baseboard heaters warm the air through convection currents. This means that the heated air must rise freely to create room for the cool and heavier air. Also, if your place your furniture too close to the surface of the heater, you may be running a fire risk.

The material of the furniture may get hot enough to ignite a fire in your premises. Because of these reasons, you should place your furniture at least 12 inches from the baseboard heater. If the heater has a fan, the distance should be at least 3 feet to function correctly. 

Bed against a baseboard heater

Although the wooden part of the bed is likely to be higher than the baseboard heater, it is not recommended to place the bed against the baseboard heater.

You will block the space in front of and directly above the baseboard heater if you do this. This space is necessary for the currents of warm and cool air to move freely.

Thus, your baseboard heater will not function if you place a bed directly against it. Besides, the fabric of your beddings may get into contact with the hot surface of the heater. This will present you with the real risk of a fire. 

Banquette seating over baseboard heater

It is not a completely bad idea to build a banquette seating over the baseboard heater. Many people prefer to do this for aesthetic and practical reasons.

The only important thing to remember is to take all the necessary precautionary measures when you decide to build a banquette seating over your baseboard heater. It may be an excellent idea to let a professional assess the configurations and make a banquette seat over your baseboard heater. 

Can baseboard heaters cause carbon monoxide?

Baseboard heaters cannot cause carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of the combustion of fossil fuels, including natural gas. Baseboard heaters do not burn any fossil fuel to produce heat. Instead, they rely on an electric heating element to directly produce the heat.

Hydronic baseboard heaters rely on hot water from their inbuilt reservoirs or the central heating system to produce the heat. Therefore, they cannot produce carbon monoxide. 

Can a baseboard heater explode? 

A baseboard heater can explode if there is an electrical fault in its wiring. If the fault goes undetected and one of the fuses or any other component in the heater gives way, there may be an explosion. The explosion may be dangerous enough to cause injuries to anyone who may be close by the heater.

Hydronic baseboard heaters can explode if one of the pipes inside the reservoir or supplies hot water from the central nervous system bursts. 

Baseboard heater smell

New baseboard heaters emit a characteristic metallic odor when they are switched on. The odor comes from the industrial paint that is used to coat the surface of the heater.

As the surface of the heater heats up, the paint begins to emit the odor. However, the odor dissipates quite quickly because it wears off.

Later, you will not sense any smell from your baseboard heater even if you leave it to run for a long time and at high temperatures.

Bookcase in front of a baseboard heater

You can put your bookcase in front of your baseboard heater if you observe basic precautions. First, ensure that no part of the bookcase blocks the airways of the baseboard heater.

Besides, ensure that the bookcase is a safe distance from the surface of the baseboard heater. At least 12 inches is ideal as a safety precaution. 

Bench over baseboard heater

You can comfortably build a bench over your baseboard heater. The bench will not interfere with the flow of air into and out of the baseboard heater.

It may be a good idea to get a professional to assess the situation and ensure that all the necessary safety requirements are fully met before constructing the bench over your baseboard heater. 

Can you build cabinets over baseboard heaters?

Yes, you can build cabinets over your baseboard heaters. Putting cabinets over heaters is a good idea for aesthetic and practical reasons. The cabinets need not interfere with the flow of the air currents to and from the baseboard heater. Also, the cabinets will not obstruct the heat from the baseboard heater at all. 

Curtains over baseboard heaters

Curtains are combustible materials. If they get hot enough, they can easily trigger a fire. It would help if you were cautious about the height of the curtains over your baseboard heater because it is ideal for placing baseboard heaters under windows.

The curtains should be at least 12 inches from the top surface of the heater. If the distance is too small, the curtains may become quite hot and start a fire. This is common when the heater runs for a long time, and the surface temperature rises. 

TV stand over baseboard heater

You can place your TV stand over the baseboard heater. However, it would help if you were careful to ensure that the stand does not interfere with the heat flow from the heater. Your baseboard heater needs free space to function ideally.

However, if you insist on having a TV stand over the baseboard heater, then get an expert to fix it for you. Ensure that all the necessary safety measures and requirements are observed. 

Trim under the baseboard heater 

It is not necessary to install a trim under the baseboard heater. Doing so will block the airways that are found under the baseboard heater. This may interfere with the level of effectiveness at which the baseboard heater warms the air in your house. 

Outlet above baseboard heater

It is not advisable to have outlets above baseboard heaters. If you plug in a cable in the outlets, the cable may end up sagging over the surface of the heaters. When the cable is directly exposed to the surface of the heaters, it will pose a fire hazard.

In addition, the heat from the heater will heat the cable to dangerous levels. This, putting outlets above your baseboard heaters, exposes you to fire hazards. 

Moving baseboard heaters

Moving baseboard heaters is an arduous and time-consuming task. First, you need to figure out the type of baseboard heater in place, disconnect all the wiring and pipes, if applicable, before moving the device to a new location.

For example, if you have a hydronic baseboard heater, you should first disconnect it from the central heating system before removing the trims from the sides of the baseboard heater. 

Electric baseboard heater in the bathroom 

Although it is possible to install a baseboard heater in your bathroom, this may not necessarily be the best idea. There are many other alternative sources of heat in your bathroom apart from a baseboard heater. A wall-mounted electric heater may provide the heat you need to keep the bathroom cozy, for starters.

In addition, a wall-mounted electric heater is better and more convenient than a baseboard heater because it instantly warms the air. A baseboard heater takes a long time to raise the temperature to the desired level. 

Electric baseboard heater safety covers

Electric baseboard heater safety covers provide the most reliable way of minimizing the risk of burns and fires associated with electric baseboard heaters. The covers are placed on the surface of the heater. Therefore, they do not interfere with the flow of air around the heater.

There are three types of covers, based on the materials used to make them: wooden, plastic, and galvanized steel. They come in different shapes and sizes to fit electric baseboard heaters. 

Are wood baseboard heater covers safe?

Wood baseboard covers, just like galvanized steel baseboard covers, are safe. They effectively keep the surface of the heater out of reach of children and pets. However, wood baseboard covers have one main disadvantage: they tend to crack after some time.

This is because the moisture evaporates slowly from them over time due to exposure to heat coming from the baseboard surface. Therefore, you will have to replace your wood baseboard heater cover regularly. 

Baseboard heater cleaning

It is necessary to clean your baseboard heater regularly. Dust and other particles usually accumulate on the surface of your baseboard heater over time. When left unchecked, the dust may clog the ducts used to release the heat to the air currents near the surface of the heater.

This may undermine the ability of your baseboard heater to increase the temperature effectively. Therefore regular cleaning helps remove the particles and prevent a buildup of dirt on the surface of the heater. 

Conclusion 

Both electric and hydronic baseboard heaters are reliable and relatively safe sources of additional heat on your premises. However, despite their safety records, baseboard heaters pose a degree of risk to occupants of any premises where they are installed.

Apart from the risk of starting fires, this type of heater can cause burns. On rare occasions, they may explode. Thus, it would be best if you took all the safety measures to minimize the risk of these baseboard heaters causing fires or burns in your home.

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