Electric Heater is Not Working – Solutions of 7 Common Problems

Issues of an electric heater not working when you need it most can drive you out of your mind. If you live in cold places and you have to have heat, an electric, wall-mounted heater can help you a great deal. However, just like any other appliance that you use at home, your heater could have issues every now and then.

If it stops working, you will have to troubleshoot, find the problem, and repair it. The good news is that electric heaters are simple in design and in operation. Therefore, it should be simple to diagnose any issues.

Heaters develop different problems with time. Some can be easy to fix and some can be complex. However, if you crank the electric heater and it fails to work, meaning it fails to produce heat, don’t jump into conclusions. Think about the possible causes of failure. Think even beyond the heater because the problem could be with your main grid electricity.

Keep reading this comprehensive guide on troubleshooting your heater. You will see why you should never spend a moment in a cold house.


What Do I Need for Electric Heater Repair?

  • Electrical tape
  • Multimeter
  • Long nose pliers
  • Cordless drill
  • Flashlight
  • Cable ripper
  • Shop vacuum
  • Voltage tester
  • Wire stripper

Common Problems of  Heaters

1. Heater keeps going on and off

This is a common problem with wall-mounted electric heaters. Remember, electric heaters come in two types. First, we have the wall-mounted units that are more “permanent” and secondly, we have the plug and play kind of heater that is portable and is mostly used for small rooms. Whichever heater you may be using, if you find that it keeps going on and off, the chances are that there is not enough airflow into the appliance.

2. Fan is on but there is no hot air

 When you move close to the electric heater, you should at least feel the warm air. However, sometimes you will hear the faint whir of the fan but there will be no heat coming from the heater. If this happens, it means there could be a problem with the heating element. It is not heating the air. Perhaps it is broken or it has burned out.

3. The heater is always chugging along non-stop

This is not exactly a problem of a heater not working, but we thought it would be good to include it here. Some people complain that their heaters never go off. There is a reason for this. It could be that the ideal temperature set is never attained. Therefore, the thermostat will never be triggered to stop the electric heater. If you run a small capacity electric heater in a big space, it might fail to turn off and just keep on going. Check the space for which your heater is rated.

4. The heater fan does not work

This is one of the most common problems of an electric heater not working. You will realize that the heater gets hot alright, but the fan does not work. A few things could be wrong with the fan. One of them is the wiring. So you would have to open the unit up and check. It could also be that the fan motor has failed.

5. The heater produces a bad smell

With time, electric heaters collect different kinds of debris from their surroundings. Therefore, you might experience the smell of burning. This comes from hair, lint, dust and other particles that float in the air. The smell comes from the heating element because this is where the particles burn. If you continue using your electric wall heater with this smell, it will eventually damage the heating element and cause the heater to fail completely.

6. Heater stops working completely

Sometimes, the heater will just not work. You switch it on and there is … nothing! So many things could be wrong. To rule them out one by one, start by checking the physical things. Look at the power cords. Check for cuts, nips, exposed wires, and so on. Move on to the fuses or circuit breakers in your house. If the breaker for the room where the heater is installed is tripped, it will not work. If all that is good, move on to the power supply – the socket where the heater is plugged. If there is a loose connection somewhere, the heater could fail to work.

7. Thermostat issues

The thermostats are installed for one purpose only, and that is to tell the appliance how much heat it should produce. However, sometimes, thermostats develop issues due to age, accidents and other factors. When the thermostat is not working correctly, the heat output will be wrong. Therefore, you could live in a cold room and have the electric heater running all along. If there are loose connections somewhere in the wiring system, blown fuses and tripped breakers, the thermostat may need resetting.

Reasons why your heater not working

  1. The heater has dirty air filters that are clogged with dust. Therefore, it is not getting enough air inside to cool it and that is why it is overheating.
  2. When a heater overheats, it triggers the auto shut off feature and the heater goes off. At the same time, without enough air getting into the heater, it will blow cold air back into the room.
  3. There is some loose wiring inside the heater. This is dangerous too, as it could cause a fire risk. With age, some things inside the heater just become loose. The newer models will switch themselves off if something is wrong for both their safety as well as that of the users.
  4. Incompatible wattage/voltage is a common problem. If you connect your heater to a low wattage outlet, it will fail to start. If you connect it to a higher wattage/voltage outlet, it will shut off automatically for protection.
  5. Improperly plugged in heater will not work. Check whether the socket plug is plugging in fully. If it uses a fused cable, check whether the fuse is intact. If it is, unplug the cable and plug it back in, and see whether that works.
  6. Breakers and blown fuses will definitely cause your electric heater not to start. You may check the fuses if you have a fuse box in the house. If there isn’t a fuse box, check for the circuit breaker somewhere on the wall. There will be breakers for almost every room, and then there will be a big one for the entire house. If you see any tripped breaker, wait for the heater to cool down before raising it again.
  7. Check the electric cord for fault. This is the cord connecting your heater to the socket. Even if it appears intact, you should give it a more thorough examination. Check for brownish spots that could suggest burning. If there is something wrong with the cord, a technician can change it for you.
  8. If your heater has a faulty auto-stop feature, it will not work properly. You can see whether the auto shut off feature is in the on or off position. If you correct it and still the heater fails to work, the auto shut off feature could have gone bust.

Solutions for the heater not working

The problem of wall mounted electric heater not working will not just go away. You will have to rectify whatever is wrong. Follow the steps below:

Step 1: Shut down the power

On the electric consumer unit/service panel, look for a double or single pole circuit breaker that controls the power to the heater. A double pole is for a 240V heater and a single pole is for a 120-V heater. Turn it off. The double pole is easier to identify because it is usually slimmer.

Step 2: Cleaning the grille

With your shop vacuum, clean the grille. It cleans better when it is still intact on the heater box. You can use a drill to remove the screws holding the grille cover to the heater box and remove it. Do keep the screws in a safe place because you will need them later.

Step 3: Test for power using your voltage tester

First, make sure that the voltage tester is working correctly. You can do that by testing it on a live wire somewhere else. After that, check for power inside the box. The point here is to make sure that there is no power at all. You can check for power in various places throughout the heater box.

Step 4: Examine the pigtail connection

Inside the heater box, you will notice an electrical cable that comes in, and then it is attached to another cable or wires that have been soldered onto the heater. The two wires are then twisted together and then covered with a plastic cap. You can examine the connection and see whether there are loose wires.

If there is, you need to reattach it tightly again. If one of the wires is disconnected especially with aged heaters, you may have to redo this connection all over. Just cut the wires beneath the area where they are twisted, strip the casing to expose more wire, and twist to make a new pigtail connection.

Step 5: Check the health of the wires carefully

Check all the cables in the heater box carefully and if you see any nips or exposed parts, examine them closely. If only the casing is cut, you can use electrical tape to seal it up again. If the wires inside appear cut or disconnected, peel some casing away, reattach the wires and seal with electrical tape. If the wire casing is too worn out, you may need to replace the entire cable length.

Step 6: Clean the electric coils

Attach a narrower nozzle to the vacuum cleaner and then use it to clean the electric coils inside the heater box. The collection of dust can hinder the working of electric components. Clean with the nozzle a short distance away, without touching the coils.

Step 7: Examine the coils keenly

With the coils clean, it is time to examine them keenly. If there is a speck of dust remaining, remove it. Any debris on the coils can catch fire, or it will give a nasty smell, and you do not want that.

Step 8: Vacuum the fan

The vanes of the fan are fragile and if there is too much debris on them, they could break. Therefore, vacuum them carefully, the same way that you did the coils. It is important that you do not get too close to the vanes so that you do not cause any damage.

Step 9: Cover with the grille, tighten it up and turn the heater on

This is the final step. However, there is no guarantee that everything will work because there haven’t been any big repairs so far. Once you screw the grille back into place, turn on the power to the heater and switch it on. If it does not work, check the following items:

Circuit breaker (again), you may have to replace it if it trips too many times. Faulty circuit breakers trip all the time for no reason at all.

Ensure that the voltage/amperage of the heater is not higher than 80 percent of the amperage the circuit breaker is rated for.

Step 10: Get a technician

If there are things that you need to change which require you to tamper with the electrical system, call a technician. If you have done all the things that we have advised you to do and the wall-mounted heater still fails to work, call a technician for assistance.


Final Verdict

The challenge of an electric heater not working can make you spend cold nights at home. However, as you have seen in this writeup, it is not that hard to know what is wrong and correct it. Just follow our step-by-step guide and you will diagnose the problem. However, know when to call a professional especially if you do not feel confident enough playing around with electrical parts. Perform regular maintenance and care of your electric heater. That way, you will notice anything wrong early enough and rectify it before it escalates.

Further Reading: Top 10 Kerosene Heater for Indoor Use