Late summer is an ideal time of year to get your baseboard radiators ready for the heating season ahead. Believe it or not, few people actually take the time to clean out the lint and dust bunnies that accumulate inside the heater. The job is essentially the only regular maintenance hydronic baseboard heaters need, however there seems to be some kind of false logic out there that baseboard radiators don't require regular maintenance. Don't be fooled just because it's the one major appliance in your home that doesn't have moving parts.
Baseboard heaters work by creating lots and lots of surface area using little wafer-like aluminum "fins". These fins are positioned side by side with only a minimal amount of spacing. When air comes into contact with the fins it is heated and accelerated upwards. The air currents eventually cool, fall to the floor and the process starts again. This ongoing cyclical event means your finned tube element is a very high traffic area for all sorts of particulate in the air. Those tight spaces and sharp edges within the heater cover offer a great place for dust to gather. Problem is, when there is enough debris on the element, the amount of airflow that effectively encounters the heated fins will decrease significantly. This of course means your home heating system is losing efficiency.
Cleaning baseboard heaters is very simple. Hot water baseboard radiators have a front plate that easily detaches. With the finned tube element fully exposed, vacuum in between and below the fins to ensure the convection air currents are not hindered in their travel. If like most homeowners with hot water baseboard heat, you've made the move to modernize your heaters with easy slip-on Baseboarders, the job is even easier. Nothing to remove. Just position the vacuum along the outside of the Baseboarders panel (photo above) and the cleaning is done right through the many holes that run the length of the panel.