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Baseboard Heater Making Noise? Here’s How to Fix It

Ask This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey helps a homeowner diagnose and solve a baseboard hot water system that makes noise.

How to Quiet a Noisy Baseboard Heater

  1. Remove the baseboard covers to see how the piping is run. Copper pipe will expand when heated, so look for places where the pipe is too close to walls or corners to allow for proper expansion.
  2. Before modifying any piping, close the valves for the zone that needs repair.
  3. Drain down enough water to ensure the work area will be dry.
  4. Clean the pipe before cutting it using plumber’s sandpaper.
  5. Use a small tubing cutter to cut the existing pipe.
  6. Determine how much pipe needs to be removed to allow expansion room and cut that using the tubing cutter.
  7. Add flux to the cut pipe and a cleaned copper coupling.
  8. Apply heat with a torch and when the flux bubbles, touch the solder to the joint to make a watertight connection.

Resources

  • Richard found the origin of the noise coming from a forced hot water return pipe. The original installer didn’t account for the expansion and contraction so when the heat turned on, the copper return line expanded into the drywall, causing a tapping noise.
  • For every 100 feet of copper pipe, the pipe can expand or contract between 1-2 inches.
  • Richard was able to quiet the noisy baseboard heating system by removing two inches of copper pipe from the return line, giving space for the pipe to expand and contract without rubbing or touching on the drywall.
  • The copper fittings, solder, and torch used to fix the noisy baseboard heating system can be found at a home center.

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