Simple, thorough vacuuming helps hot water baseboard heat more efficiently and you breathe easy.
Many homes in the Boston area are heated with hot water baseboard radiators. Some houses were converted from steam radiators, as their popularity faded in the mid-20th Century and hot water baseboard stole the spotlight by being more discrete. We’ve heard dozens of home inspectors say something to the effect of “Heat by hot water is a very comfortable method of heating”. If you have hot water baseboard (with a boiler burning natural gas, propane, or oil) regular maintenance keeps them heating efficiently. And if you DON’T have hot water baseboard, you can take this tip as a reminder to get your forced hot air system professionally cleaned, as complex vents are hard to access without special tools and can harbor harmful amounts of accumulated dust if not regularly cleaned. If you have radiant heat, sit back and laugh at the rest of us while your feet enjoy their personal sauna!
With some furniture rearranging, I took the opportunity to take the cover off the front of the radiators and used both the brushy tip and the long, pointy tool on my vacuum to clean out the fins and remove dust from below and around the radiators. It’s easy when you know how to unclip the covers, which, on my baseboard radiators, are clipped on top and bottom of the cover piece at about 3′-4′ intervals. By lifting UP on the vertical cover panel, it releases from the top clip. Lifting the corner and edge “gates” which have little hinges, help expose the anatomy of the radiator cover (and hide some of the grossest dusty build-up).
You can also see where the pipes enter the floor, and, if need be, take the opportunity to stuff a little steel wool in there to make it harder for critters to enter.
All this will help reduce the dust that circulates when the air passes through the fins and help make the heat transfer more efficiently. It’s one of those #HomeTipTuesday home tips that — done once or twice a year while you’re in your home — will mean fewer problems when it’s time to sell. For fun history about radiators, check out this New York Times archived article!