Types of electric heating

Heating our home is one of the highest household expenses in general terms.

Although we only need it during the winter months, the economic expense that this entails is high, so it is convenient to know well the types of heating that exist.

In this post we are going to analyze everything related to electric heating, both its types and the characteristics of each one.

What is electric heating?

We can fall into the error of thinking that electric heating is only electric radiators, but the truth is that there are several electrical systems to heat the house.

We call electric heating any system that generates heat using electricity as an energy source.

Normally they will be system with an electrical resistance, but we will see some more variety.

Types of electric heating

Let’s now analyze the different systems that we can find.

1. Electric radiators

It is the most “classic” electric heating. It consists of a radiator-shaped element inside which there is an electrical resistance that heats up when ignited.

Depending on the element you have inside we will be talking about one type or another of electric radiator.

1.1. Oil radiators

Oil radiators are those that present inside a heat transfer fluid responsible for distributing heat over the entire surface and dissipating it evenly and moderately.

In other words, when you turn on the radiator you will notice how it heats up little by little, and once you turn it off you can check that it maintains the temperature for a while.

They usually incorporate wheels to be placed anywhere in the house and be able to move it easily.

1.2. Air radiators

They may seem similar to the previous ones but there are important differences. Instead of having a liquid inside, they are empty.

The heat generated by the electrical resistance will dissipate directly into the air. This has consequences when it comes to heating: when you turn it on it will raise the temperature of the room quickly, but once you turn it off it will cool down immediately.

In these cases instead of wheels will bring legs or will be adapted to be placed on the wall. They also incorporate programming systems to decide the hours at which you want to turn it on.

1.3. Ceramic radiators

Thirdly there are also what are called ceramic radiators. These thermal emitters have inside a ceramic panel that what it does is take temperature when turned on.

In this type of radiator, what is called thermal inertia comes into play. It will have a high inertia, causing that when it turns on it takes a long time to warm up, but when you turn it off it will spend a lot of time emitting heat.

It is a way to heat the house much smoother, without sudden changes in temperature.

We can summarize electric radiators as an element with an electrical resistance and another material that will cause the heat to dissipate more or less gradually.

2. Heaters, halogens and braziers

I have grouped these 3 electric heating systems because they share the same characteristic: they are small elements.

Let’s look at each of them further.

2.1. Heaters

Heaters are small elements that have an electrical resistance and a fan.

The resistance is responsible for generating heat, but the fan will cause this heat to be distributed throughout the room. Thanks to this they are able to heat up in a short time.

But they have a big problem, just as they heat up fast you will also notice that the room cools down quickly when you turn it off.

They can be portable, standing or wall heaters.

2.2. Braziers

A brazier is very similar to a heater but is designed to be placed under stretcher tables.

Its use is very specific. Although they can be placed anywhere in the house, they are designed to be placed under the table where you are going to eat or work.

It is one of the least safe systems, because if it is covered with a blanket or a tablecloth it will be dangerous.

2.3. Halogens

Halogen radiators have an important difference from the other two types: they heat mainly by radiation.

This means that they will only heat the elements that have a line of sight with the radiator. Being an infrared system does not heat the air, but the elements that are exposed to it.

Its use is ideal for small rooms such as the bathroom, where they can directly heat the skin.

3. Heat pump

We arrived at an electric heating system completely different from those seen so far. This is the heat pump, which we could summarize as an air conditioner with heat function.

Its operation is more complex than that of radiators. It uses the temperature of the outside air to extract energy. What it does is extract that heat and, through a compressor, raise the temperature to provide heat to the house.

To do this, it uses a gas that increases in temperature when the pressure increases.

It is the most efficient system. It may not seem that it will work in the middle of winter, but it is capable of generating heat even on very cold days.

4. Electric boiler

It is not common to see this type of boilers in Spain, but they exist. It is nothing more than an element that heats the water of a circuit using electrical resistances.

It serves both for heating and for obtaining domestic hot water. They look very similar to gas but run 100% on electric power.

5. Electric underfloor heating

Another system that has its electric version is underfloor heating. When we talk about electric underfloor heating we refer to a system of electrical resistances that is placed throughout the floor of the house.

What you get is a very homogeneous and comfortable heat. It provides a very well distributed heat and facilitates the natural convection that leads to the hot air to rise.

Electric heating vs gas heating

To give you a general idea of the differences between the different heating systems, we will analyze the electrical systems based on electrical resistances, heat pumps and gas heating systems.

Electric heating Heat pump Gas heating
Fuel price High High Low
You need natural gas supplies No No Yes
Needs gas outlet No No Yes
Approximate yield 100 % 300 % 100 %
Power consumption High Middle Null

Energy-efficient electric heating

Since electric heating has a high electricity consumption, it is normal for electricity bills to skyrocket. That is why it is not uncommon to look for a low-consumption heating system.

Let me be clear on this point: electric heating systems based on electric heating elements cannot be low consumption. The operation is always the same, so consumption will not vary from one brand or model to another.

It may have greater or lesser thermal inertia (more or less rapid cooling) but the consumption is always the same.

If you are looking for a low consumption system you should choose the heat pump. Its operation is much more efficient, so the electricity consumption will be lower.


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By Catharine Bwana