Troubleshooting Garage Heaters

free standing space heater in a workshop with gritty splatter patterns

Having a functional garage heater is crucial for creating a comfortable workspace during cold weather. However, issues may arise, and your garage heater may stop working or exhibit unusual behavior.

In this comprehensive guide, we will cover common problems that electric garage heaters may encounter, including not working at all, fan malfunctions, heating element failures, and more.

We'll provide step-by-step troubleshooting methods and maintenance tips to help you address these issues and keep your garage heater running efficiently and safely.

Heater Doesn't Work

If your garage heater isn't turning on, start by checking the basics. Ensure the heater is properly plugged in and that the circuit breaker or fuse has not tripped. If everything seems fine, inspect the thermostat settings to make sure they're not too low, preventing the heater from starting.

Additionally, check for any obstructions blocking the airflow, which may hinder the heater's operation. If none of these issues are the cause, the problem might be with the heating element itself.

Fan Won't Run

When the fan won't run, it's crucial to determine if the issue lies with the switch, motor, or blade obstruction. First, check the fan switch to ensure it's functioning correctly. If the switch is fine, inspect the blades for any obstructions that might prevent them from spinning freely. If the blades are clear, use an ohmmeter to test the fan motor for continuity. If the motor fails this test, it needs replacement.

Fan Works, No Heat

If the fan is running, but the heater produces no heat, focus on the heating element and wiring. Check for loose or disconnected wires in the heater and solder them back securely (ensuring the heater is unplugged). If the issue persists, it's likely a defective heating element. When replacing the heating element, ensure you select one with the same voltage and wattage rating as the original.

Turns On and Off Rapidly

Rapid cycling of the garage heater might occur due to blocked airflow or issues with the control switch or thermostat. To address airflow blockages, ensure the heater has adequate clearance from any obstacles, such as drapes or furniture. If that doesn't resolve the issue, consider replacing the control switch or thermostat to fix the problem.

Won't Turn Off

If your garage heater refuses to turn off, the problem might not lie with the heater itself, but with the room conditions. A poorly insulated garage or an undersized heater may result in the heater running continuously to maintain the desired temperature. To remedy this, either invest in a larger garage heater or improve the insulation in the garage.

Burning Smell

A burning smell from your garage heater requires immediate attention due to the potential fire hazard. In most cases, the burning smell is caused by hair or dust accumulated on the heating element. To address this issue, disconnect the heater and carefully open it up to access the heating element. Clean the heating element thoroughly, removing any dust or debris to eliminate the burning smell and prevent fire risks.

Troubleshooting Garage Heaters FAQ

What are common reasons a heater may not work properly?

Heaters may experience various issues that can disrupt their proper functioning. Some common reasons why a heater may not work properly include:

Dirty Air Filters

Air filters in heaters play a crucial role in maintaining indoor air quality and ensuring efficient heat distribution. Over time, these filters can become clogged with dust, dirt, and debris, restricting the airflow. A clogged air filter can hinder the heater's performance, leading to insufficient heat output and potentially overheating the system. Regularly checking and cleaning or replacing the air filters is essential to ensure smooth operation and prevent strain on the heater.

Malfunctioning Thermostat

The thermostat is the control center of a heater, responsible for regulating the temperature and turning the heater on and off as needed. If the thermostat malfunctions due to short circuits or loose connections, it can cause irregular temperature fluctuations or prevent the heater from turning on altogether. Verify the thermostat's condition and ensure it accurately reflects the desired temperature setting to maintain a comfortable environment.

Dust and Dirt Buildup

Heaters have various components like the blower motor and flame sensor that require regular maintenance. Over time, dust and dirt can accumulate on these components, affecting their functionality. A clogged blower motor may reduce airflow, while a dirty flame sensor might lead to ignition issues. Cleaning these parts regularly is vital to keep the heater running efficiently and prevent potential breakdowns.

It's important to address these issues promptly to maintain the heater's efficiency and extend its lifespan. Performing regular maintenance, such as cleaning or replacing air filters and inspecting and cleaning components, can significantly improve the heater's performance and ensure a comfortable and warm living space. If you encounter complex problems or are unsure how to address specific issues, seeking the help of a qualified HVAC professional is recommended to perform a thorough inspection and any necessary repairs.

What causes electric heaters to stop working?

Electric heaters can encounter various issues that may cause them to stop working. Some common causes include:

Malfunctioning Thermostat

The thermostat in an electric heater is responsible for regulating the temperature and turning the heating elements on and off. If the thermostat malfunctions, it may not accurately detect the room temperature or fail to control the heating elements properly. This can result in the heater not producing any heat or not reaching the desired temperature.

Loose or Damaged Wiring

Over time, the wiring inside the electric heater may become loose or damaged due to wear and tear. Loose connections can disrupt the electrical flow, leading to a loss of power to the heating elements. Similarly, damaged wiring can cause short circuits, resulting in the heater not functioning at all.

Overheating and Safety Features

Electric heaters are equipped with safety features to prevent overheating and potential fire hazards. If the heater overheats due to blocked airflow, a malfunctioning thermostat, or other reasons, the safety feature may automatically shut off the heater to prevent further damage or danger.

Power Supply Issues

Electric heaters rely on a steady power supply to function correctly. If there are electrical problems in the building, such as a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse, the heater may stop working. Additionally, using extension cords or power strips that cannot handle the heater's wattage can also cause power supply issues.

Heating Element Failure

Electric heaters have heating elements that generate heat. If one or more of these elements fails, the heater will not produce heat properly. Heating elements can wear out over time, especially with frequent use, and may need replacement.

Thermal Fuse Tripping

Some electric heaters have thermal fuses as an added safety measure. If the heater overheats, the thermal fuse will trip, interrupting the electrical circuit and causing the heater to stop working. In such cases, the thermal fuse must be replaced before the heater can function again.

To troubleshoot and fix electric heater issues, it's essential to follow safety guidelines and refer to the manufacturer's instructions. Simple tasks like checking for loose wiring or cleaning dust and debris can sometimes resolve the problem. However, for complex issues or any concerns related to electrical components, it's best to seek the assistance of a qualified electrician or HVAC technician to ensure a safe and effective repair.

Why does my electric heater click but won't turn on?

If you hear clicking noises coming from your electric heater, but it fails to turn on and produce heat, there are several possible reasons for this issue:

Faulty Capacitor

The clicking sound might be indicative of a faulty capacitor. The capacitor is responsible for providing the initial electrical boost to start the motor or heating elements. If the capacitor is damaged or malfunctioning, the heater may not receive the necessary electrical jolt to begin the heating process.

Defective Heating Element

Clicking sounds accompanied by no heat output could indicate a problem with the heating element. Electric heaters rely on heating elements to generate warmth, and if one or more elements are burnt out or damaged, the heater will not produce heat even if other components seem to be working.

Tripped Safety Feature

Electric heaters are equipped with safety features, such as thermal switches, to prevent overheating. If the heater's internal temperature exceeds a safe threshold, the safety feature will automatically shut off the heating element or the entire unit. In such cases, the heater will click as it tries to turn on, but it won't produce heat until the unit cools down and the safety feature resets.

Worn-out Relay

The clicking noise could be the result of a worn-out relay, which is responsible for sending electrical signals to the heating element. A malfunctioning relay can prevent the heater from receiving the necessary electrical current to produce heat.

Electrical Supply Issues

Problems with the electrical supply, such as voltage fluctuations or inadequate power reaching the heater, can cause clicking noises without proper heating. This could be due to issues with the power outlet, wiring, or even the circuit breaker.

Faulty Thermostat

A malfunctioning thermostat can also lead to clicking sounds and prevent the heater from turning on. If the thermostat is not accurately detecting the room temperature, it may not send the signal to activate the heating elements.

Troubleshooting the specific cause of the clicking issue may require some electrical knowledge and safety precautions. It's best to unplug the heater and avoid further attempts at starting it until the problem is identified and resolved. If you are not confident in diagnosing and fixing the issue yourself, it's advisable to seek the help of a qualified electrician or a professional HVAC technician to ensure proper repairs and safe operation of the electric heater.

Why is my heater not pushing out heat?

If your heater is running, but no warm air is being emitted, there are several potential reasons for this problem:

Clogged Air Filters

One of the most common reasons for insufficient heat output is clogged air filters. Air filters in heaters and furnaces help trap dust, debris, and other particles, but over time, they can become dirty and obstructed. This restricts airflow and hinders the heater's ability to push out warm air effectively. Regularly check and clean or replace the air filters to ensure proper airflow and heat distribution.

Dirty Heating Elements or Burners

For heaters with heating elements or burners, accumulated dirt, and grime can reduce their efficiency. If the heating elements or burners are coated with debris, they may not generate enough heat to warm the air passing over them. Cleaning the heating elements or burners can restore their effectiveness and improve heat output.

Blocked Air Vents or Registers

Ensure that all air vents, registers, and grilles are unobstructed. Furniture, curtains, or other objects placed in front of vents can disrupt airflow, preventing warm air from circulating throughout the room. Keeping the vents clear allows for better heat distribution.

Thermostat Issues

A malfunctioning thermostat can interfere with the heating process. If the thermostat is not accurately detecting the room temperature, it may not signal the heater to produce heat. Check the thermostat settings and consider calibrating or replacing it if necessary.

Insufficient Fuel or Power Supply

For heaters that use fuel (such as gas or oil), ensure that the fuel supply is adequate. If the fuel levels are low, the heater may not produce enough heat. For electric heaters, check the power supply to ensure there are no issues with the electrical circuit or outlet.

Faulty Blower Motor

The blower motor is responsible for pushing heated air through the ductwork and into the living space. If the blower motor is malfunctioning or not running at the proper speed, it can impede the airflow, resulting in reduced heat output.

Leaking Ductwork

Damaged or leaking ductwork can cause heat loss before the air reaches the intended rooms. Inspect the ducts for any visible damage or leaks and have them repaired promptly to maximize heat distribution.

Heat Exchanger Problems (For Furnaces)

In gas furnaces, a cracked or malfunctioning heat exchanger can lead to heat loss and reduced efficiency. A faulty heat exchanger can also pose safety risks by leaking harmful gases into the living space. If you suspect a problem with the heat exchanger, it's essential to have it inspected and repaired by a qualified HVAC technician.

If you have checked the simple troubleshooting steps and the heater still doesn't push out heat effectively, it's best to contact a professional HVAC technician. They can diagnose the specific issue with your heater and perform the necessary repairs to restore its proper function and efficiency.