One of the most popular types of heating systems currently available, electric heaters offer a clean and affordable alternative to fuel-based heating systems. One of the perks of using an electric heating system is that it never has to be refilled, and it doesn’t need to be changed out very often. After installation of an electrical heating system, the user simply has to push a button or turn a knob to make it function.
Another perk of using an electrical heating system is that you don’t have to worry about the fluctuating price of fuels. When you have an oil, natural gas, or propane heater, any deviation in fuel prices can cost you hundreds to thousands of dollars a year on top of what you were already paying. With other fuel sources, you also have to worry about the fuel efficiency of your heating system. The average efficiency of an electrical heating device is close to 100 percent, because all the energy that you pay for is used. Other than a few buttons and switches, all the energy goes towards generating heat. There’s aren’t any waste products that you need to clean up with electrical heat either, so that’s a major plus if you’re used to Oil, wood-burning, or pellet-burning heating systems.
As with any other type of heating system, electric heating systems have three parts: the heat source, the heat distribution system, and the control system (wiki). The heat source is where electricity is used to generate heat though different processes, usually providing warm air or water to heat the house. The heat source usually comes in the form of a furnace, boiler, or heat pump. It’s important to remember that furnaces and boilers are often called central heating systems because the heat is generated in a central location, and then distributed throughout the house. The next part is the distribution system, which moves warm air, steam, or hot water through the home. A common example of a heat distribution system is a radiator or a forced-air system. Finally, the control system, which usually comes in the form of a thermostat, regulates the amount of heat that is distributed. Some heating systems leave out one of these parts, or combine all three parts into one unit, but the basic formula for a heating system remains the same.
Popular Types of Electric Heaters
One of the most common heating systems found in a modern house, a furnace heats air and uses a blower motor and air ducts to distribute warm air throughout the house. Furnaces are typically not as expensive as other appliances, but the overall efficiency of the system degrades over time. An electric furnace is very safe to operate and requires very little maintenance. Furnaces are ideal for homes, apartments, mobile homes, offices, and other buildings. The furnace isn’t very complicated, so the whole system can be fit in one compact design for easy installation.
Another common heating system, a boiler heats water to make hot water or steam for heating. After the water is turned to steam or heated to a high temperature, it’s then distributed though the house with a series of pipes. Boilers are very simple to use and easy to maintain, but their overall efficiency drops as the system ages. A boiler also makes it much easier to heat your house in zones, instead of having the entire house at the same temperature. One of the main issues with boilers is that they can be expensive to install and a minimum temperature must be kept in the house to keep the pipes from freezing.
A system that’s becomes popular with many homeowners, heat pumps pull heat from the surrounding air, and use it to warm the house. Heat pumps can also be used for home cooling, so they are commonly found in HVAC systems. If you live in a moderate climate, heat pumps are an excellent choice, but they can sometime be inefficient in colder regions. Also, some types of heat pump can be expensive to install.
Distribution for Heating Systems
Sometimes referred to as point-of-use heater, space heaters provide supplemental heat to a specific room that isn’t being fully heated by the central heating system. Space heaters also help users reduce their energy bill by diversifying the types of fuel they use, so a house with an oil furnace might have several electric space heaters to even out any inconsistencies in the heating system. There are several different types of space heaters, but they all run on a similar principle. Space heaters are self-contained systems that include heating, distribution, and regulation, all in one small package.
In a convection heater, the heating elements either warm the air directly or heat oil, which then transfers heat directly to the air. Convection heaters are excellent for producing constant heat in well-insulated rooms, and they are typically only used indoors. Convection heaters that include oil in their design warm up slowly, but do not reach dangerous surface temperatures and are less likely to burn the user. Wire-element heaters reach a higher operating temperature, but the heating elements will be hot to the touch. Nearly all convection heaters offer some form of grille that keeps the user form getting to the heating element. Many convection heaters include an internal fan and act as a separate forced air system inside of the space heater. Heaters with fans are much more effective at heating an entire room than one that simply allows the heat to drift from the device.
Usually comprised of a tungsten filament in a heat-resistant quartz envelope, infrared heaters operate similarly to a heat lamp. They operate much like a halogen light bulb except the energy they radiate is primarily in the infrared spectrum. Infrared heaters can convert up to 86 percent of their input power into radiant energy, losing the other 14 percent to conductive and convective heat. One of the main advantages of using an infrared heater is that the heat is absorbed directly by clothing, skin, and the surrounding furniture, which decreases the amount of time it takes for a person to feel warm when in the room with an infrared heater. Infrared heaters can be used indoors or outdoors, because they are suitable for warming people in poorly insulated environments.
One of the newest developments in home heating, radiant heating can be installed as a floor, ceiling, or wall panel, and each panel transfers heat directly into the room. Typically found in bathroom floors, radiant heater can also be used to heat your entire house. One of the major perks of a radiant heating system is that it doesn’t distribute allergens, inhibit or change airflow, or alter the content of the air. The systems can be expensive to install, but you won’t have to deal with noisy ducts or pipes.
One of the oldest and most widely used heating systems on the market, steam radiant systems use radiators to distribute heat to each room. After the radiators are installed, the radiator is relatively maintenance-free. Homeowners who own a steam radiant system are advised to bleed trapped air from the hot-water radiators to increase the efficiency of the system, but that isn’t required. One of he only drawbacks of a steam radiant system is that they require separate distribution systems for cooling and the extra piping can add to the overall cost.
Forced Air System
One of the most common types of distribution systems is the forced air system. The heater distributes heat from the furnace to every room in the house though a series of ducts and vents. Forced air systems and similar ductworks are typically used in HVAC systems. One of the only things that you have to do to maintain a forced air system is clean the air filter every month and replace the filter regularly.
Hot Water Baseboards
A modern version of a steam radiant heater, hot water baseboards use hot water to heat a space via a wall-mounted baseboard unit. This distribution system gives the user precise temperature control, which can help the user save money on their electrical bills. A programmable thermostat is a must-have for anyone who owns a hot-water baseboard heater.
Another type of zone heater, an electric baseboard heater releases hot air out of the top while pulling cool air into the bottom of the unit. The device uses electricity to excite a heating element inside of the baseboard, which then produces heat. Electric baseboard heaters are quiet to operate and require very little maintenance. They combine the heat source, heat distribution system, and control system into one package that is easy to operate and regulate.
Popular in England and Australia, storage heaters (info), also known as storage banks, store thermal energy during the evening when base load electricity is available at a lower cost. Then, during the day, the heat is slowly released throughout the house as required. Storage heaters are cheaper in the long run because the electricity they use is much less expensive than it would be at peak hours. Compared to gas central heating systems, and other fuel-based systems, storage heaters have next to no maintenance costs and are expected to run for over fifteen years.