Electric energy

Electric heating, what it is, how it works and types

Electric heating, what it is, how it works and types

Electric heating is an alternative to using natural gas to heat your home. The electric heating system is an example of the use of electric energy. 

There are many types of electric heaters but they all work on the principle of Joule's law: an electrical resistance is used that generates heat when an electrical current circulates inside it.

What is electric heating?

Electric heating is a system to generate heat in the home using electrical energy as an alternative to heat accumulators with a gas boiler.

Electric heating systems are a solution for those who do not want to depend on natural gas or do not intend to purchase a wood burning fireplace.

What are the advantages of electric heating?

Considering that electricity is priced higher than gas, electric heating is especially suitable for second homes or if you live far from the gas distribution network. Advantages also include:

  • Lower installation cost

  • Lower ordinary and extraordinary maintenance costs

  • No maintenance costs for chimney or boiler efficiency checks

  • Less frequency of breakages and breakdowns.

Before making a decision on the decision to install a natural gas or electric heating, a cost study must be carried out:

  • Find out if there are statutory state benefits or incentives in each country.

  • The cost of the price of the electric kWh taking into account the hourly discrimination compared to the cost of gas.

  •  Low consumption electric heating is a winning option to complement an existing system, if you live far from the gas distribution network or are firmly aiming towards sustainable forms of consumption.

What are the drawbacks of electric heating?

First of all, it is essential to know the size of the house. For apartments of more than 50 m2, this solution begins to be especially expensive, even when combined with radiant plates.

The biggest disadvantage, however, is represented by the costs of the energy consumed by the heating system. For the same energy used, gas costs less than a third of electricity. In addition, before deciding it is always advisable to evaluate the absorption of all appliances. This assessment is essential to calculate the required power and understand the usefulness of evaluating additional options such as self-production of energy through the installation of photovoltaic panels.  

Electric heating models

There are different types of electric heating on the market. If electric heaters for water heating and electric radiators are the masters:

Electric radiators: types and advantages

Electric heaters are used to heat rooms without a thermal plant. Appreciated for their convenience in transportation, which makes them one-room mobiles, they fall into two broad categories:

  • Thermal fans: small in size and low prices, they are ideal for heating rooms of less than 30 square meters

  • Electric radiators: they use an electrical resistance to heat a fluid (water or oil in the case of oil radiators) contained in the device. Compared to fan heaters, they cost more and can heat larger rooms.

The efficiency of the electric radiator depends on the material from which it is made. Based on this (ceramic, cast iron, volcanic stone), the price and energy efficiency change.

Swedish radiators, the alternative to common electric heaters

The Swedish radiator is becoming more and more popular among electric radiators. It is a variant of the classic electric stoves, equipped with ceramic heating elements. This convector is not equipped with fans and has its heating part inside the radiator.

Swedish electric heating works in the same way as an air conditioning unit that instead of generating cold air, it spreads warm air into the room. These electric heating systems have a thermostat that detects the difference between the inlet air temperature and the temperature set by the user.

Compared to electric heaters, in addition, Swedish radiators do not raise dust, do not burn oxygen or dry out the surrounding air. Against an initial cost of a few hundred euros, they are characterized by their longevity and low maintenance costs.

Electric underfloor heating

Relying on electric heating means limiting energy consumption. There is no shortage of alternatives to Swedish radiators and they can be powered, without distinction, by photovoltaic or solar thermal systems, heat pumps or traditional boilers.

One form of energy-efficient electric heating is undoubtedly represented by the electric floor.

This system can be equipped with both a water system and an electrical system and requires a thermostat in every room in the house. It is preferable to a baseboard heating, that is, it runs along the wall of a room, for aesthetic reasons (since it does not require additional appliances in the room), because it does not raise dust and because it allows furniture to be brought closer to the walls.

The main drawback of electric underfloor heating is the initial cost. However, the initial cost is quickly amortized thanks to the considerable savings obtained in the electricity bill. 

Electric wall heating: better alone or with someone?

Invisible and quiet, electric wall heating works well both independently and in combination with other forms of heating, perhaps in the coldest areas of the house.

This system transforms the energy produced into heat in contact with bodies and surfaces, while the installation can be carried out under the plaster of the wall or a sheet of plasterboard. You can manage the heat, as well as the temperature and the times of use.

Like underfloor heating, it does not generate dust or take up space. However, it does not allow furniture to be brought close to the walls where the implant is inserted. The cost is high, but it can be amortized in the medium and long term.

Pros and cons of electric baseboard heating

The electric heating base is instead a more convenient solution, but it has some limitations.

The system is placed inside the plinth along the perimeter of each room and the heating modes are electric, water or mixed.

The most obvious disadvantages are two:

  • The impossibility of heating the central areas of large rooms

  • Incompatibility with furniture.

Electric ceiling heating or infrared?

If wall or floor heating solutions are not suitable for your needs, you can consider a ceiling heating system. In this case, the system is covered with the plasterboard ceiling and the heat is released from the warmest to the coldest surface.

The cost per square meter is close to that of electric underfloor heating. However, as we have seen, these systems make it possible to optimize savings if they are associated with photovoltaic energy.

If you are considering opting for this solution, you can only consider infrared heating. In this way, the electromagnetic waves will generate heat, exploding the ceiling and walls.

Publication Date: October 25, 2021
Last Revision: October 25, 2021