Why Is My Baseboard Heater Making Noise? (And How Do I Fix It?)
Baseboard heaters are among the best heating solutions around. And it’s easy to see why: they’re easy to install, highly efficient, and don’t take up too much space. They’re also surprisingly quiet. That is ... until they’re not.
When your baseboard heater starts making strange noises, it can be alarming. After all, when is a buzzing, popping or clicking sound ever a good thing? But a noisy baseboard heater isn’t always a cause for concern. In fact, most of the time, the solution is a pretty simple one that doesn’t require the hiring of a professional.
Is your baseboard heater making noise? We’ll help you zero in on what’s happening and how to fix it.
It should be noted here that, before attempting any work on your baseboard heating system, you need to make sure that the unit has been switched off at your breaker panel and that the unit has had time to sufficiently cool off. And, as always, if you ever feel like you’ve gotten in over your head, it never hurts to call a technician to come out to examine the issue more thoroughly.
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What Type of Baseboard Heater Do You Have?
In order to properly diagnose your noisy baseboard heater, it helps to determine what type of baseboard heating system you have. There are two main types of baseboard heaters: convection and hydronic. Each one works differently, and each can experience different issues.
Convection Baseboard Heaters
It’s common knowledge that warm air rises and colder air sinks. Convection baseboard heaters pull in the cool air that accumulates near the floor, warm it up using electrically heated metal fins, and let it rise back into the room. Convection heaters are the most basic type of baseboard heating system and are typically hardwired into your home’s electrical system.
Convection heaters are inexpensive and easy to install. They’re also known to emit certain clicking or buzzing noises during normal use. If your convection baseboard heater is making these noises, don’t worry, the sounds are caused by the metal reacting to the sudden change in temperature when it begins to heat up. The buzzing and clicking noise is caused by the expansion and contraction of the metal fins in the heater. That said, if the noises are constant, loud and disruptive, it’s probably a sign that something else is afoot.
Clean the Metal Fins
A common cause for convection baseboard heaters making more noise than they should is a dirty heating element or dirty metal fins. To take a look, make sure the heater is cold, then carefully remove the front cover from the heater. It should snap right off when you apply upward pressure. With the cover off, look inside the unit at the metal fins to determine if they’re dusty or full of debris. If so, take a brush and gently clear it away.
Adjust the Heating Element
When the debris has been cleared away, examine the heating element. Every convection-powered baseboard heater has a heating element made of electric coils, the exact placement of which typically varies according to the make and model of the unit. If you can’t find it, be sure to check your owner’s manual for the location.
Sometimes, a heating element that’s too tight (or too loose) can cause noises to occur. To rectify the issue, simply readjust the heating element’s screws. If the heating element is too tight, loosening the screws will let the metal expand and contract freely without getting stuck and making a loud popping sound. Similarly, if the heating element is too loose, it will rattle and buzz. It may take some trial and error, but adjusting your heating element can improve those annoying noises.
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Hydronic Baseboard Heaters
The other type of baseboard heater is hydronic. Similar to a radiator, these heaters use internal reservoirs of hot water to generate heat and distribute it around the room. While they might have higher upfront costs, hydronic heaters are more energy efficient than convection heaters. They’re also less likely to be noisy. Still, hydronic heaters are known to make a few disruptive noises from time to time.
Insulate the Copper Pipe
In many cases, loud banging noises can be caused by the expansion of the copper pipe as the hot water enters it. To solve the issue, place insulating foam — or even duct tape — between the pipes and the surrounding components so that the noise is significantly reduced.
Bleed the Radiator
Sometimes, a water-powered baseboard heater might make a continuous sound like running water. Most likely, this means that you have air bubbles forming in your copper pipe. This can happen when air pockets form inside the copper pipe; when water passes through, it creates bubbles. In order to fix the problem, you’ll need to use the bleeder valve on your heater. Using a screwdriver, slowly open the valve, and the air should be released. Note here that some water will come out with the air, so it might help to have a small bowl handy to catch the water.
Enjoy the Benefits of Baseboard Heat … Without the Noise
Regardless of which type you have, a baseboard heating system can be a worthwhile investment. Its ability to heat up a room quickly and efficiently is unmatched. That said, they aren’t without their issues, and noises are certainly one of them. Luckily, most noises can be fixed (or significantly reduced) cheaply and easily, without having to call in the help of a professional.
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