Fixing Noisy Electric Baseboard Heaters

I’ve dealt with the problem of noisy electric baseboard heaters for a decade now in my second floor bedrooms.

Electric baseboard heating systems are terrific for supplementing the primary heating system (the furnace) in the home. However, unless you’ve spent the extra money for a quiet hydronic heater, electric baseboard heaters generally tend to be noisy. They ping, pang, pop, squeak, squeal, and ring even, when energized, as the warming parts change size. buzz, and vibrate. Then, when the thermostat turns them off, these heaters make the same noises as their metal parts and the heating element itself shrink during cool-down.

Here are a couple of the tricks I’ve attempted with moderate success, to   fix or   reduce the electric heater noise. Note that these procedures apply only to convection type electric baseboard heaters, as these tend to exhibit lower surface temperatures than the hotter, radiant units.  Do not use lubricants on or near any glowing-type heating elements found in radiant heat sources.

  • Lubricate all brackets, joints, and any places where different pieces of metal meet and could rub and bind. Since many of these joints get quite hot during normal heater operation, be sure to use a thick oil or grease that can withstand these high temperatures without drying out, catching fire, or otherwise breaking down. I’ve used the WD-40 Specialist Water Resistant Silicone Lubricant, and various brands of white lithium grease with some success. Unfortunately however, I’ve found no oil or grease that keeps my electric baseboard heaters quiet without periodic re-application. Typically, I’ve had to “re lube” the heaters biannually.
  • Reinforce all the brackets and joints. Hoping to reduce the need for lubricants mentioned above, I’ve reinforced the four metal stand-off brackets in typical electric baseboard heaters. These brackets suspend the resistive heating element (which resembles a long, thin bar that sports many heat fins). During warm-up and cool-down, I determined that the places where these brackets are fastened to the heater cabinet created much tapping, squealing, and clicking. So I drilled a single hole in each bracket where it meets the cabinet, and then drove a sheet metal screw through. For my eight foot long 2500 watt electric baseboard heaters, this required eight holes be drilled and eight screws to secure (two screws per bracket). This step showed the greatest noise-reducing effect on my heaters. While they still click and pop some, they do so far less than before the sheet metal screws were applied.  The squeaks and squeals completely disappeared.
  • Tighten   all screws that secure the heater to the baseboard or wall.  Preferably, the screws should be driven into studs to provide a more solid backing for the electric baseboard heater.
  • Secure   the heating element.  Electric baseboard heaters also tend to hum while operating; especially the higher power residential units like mine. This hum problem wasn’t as easy to address as the squeaks, pings, and pops were. But I’ve minimized it by assuring that the heating element is secure in the standoff brackets mentioned above. This can reduce the buzzing sounds that result when a loosely secured heating element vibrates within the standoff bracket.
  • Choose wisely, a high-quality thermostat to control your electric baseboard heaters.  This becomes critical now that electronically switched (triac based) thermostats have made their ways into mainstream markets.  These devices employ the same device (a triac) for switching as do light dimmers, and anyone who’s ever experimented with a light dimmer knows that the light can buzz loudly when the dimmer is not set at the brightese (fully on) position.  Well, a poorly designed electronic thermostat may not always turn the triac fully on and can lead to louder-than-usual buzzing in your electric heater. Thus, replacing your thermostat may solve some buzzing problems.

Sadly, the cheaper, non-hydronic electric baseboard heaters are inherently noisier, and so, may not be suitable for bedrooms or other areas requiring the quietest possible environment. I may eventually replace them with hydronic baseboard heaters. But in the meantime, the steps I’ve outlined above make the heaters I have quiet enough to tolerate; especially with a white noise sound conditioner operating nearby to mask their noises.

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