What is electric heating?
Do you know what electric heating is and the products available? Here you'll find more information on the different types of electric heating products >>
Electric heating is often overlooked as a primary heating source, with many deeming it to be expensive to install and costly to run. Many don’t fully understand what electric heating is, therefore they steer clear for more well-known options like gas.
Electric heating converts electrical energy to heat. It is one of the cleanest and most energy-efficient options on the market at the point of use. Even though we still use fossil fuels, we are leaning more towards smarter electricity generation methods like hydro, solar and wind.
Electricity then becomes “renewable” without the harmful effect of fossil fuels. Therefore, it has a relatively small carbon footprint and uses 100% of its energy directly where and when it’s needed.
Electric heating can also be known as space heating, as it’s used to warm interiors of buildings and properties. It’s useful in places where air handling is difficult, like laboratories.
Generally, electric space heating is easy to install, requires no pipework, chimneys or flues, requires little maintenance compared to a gas system and is virtually silent.
Electric or space heaters fall into 5 main categories:
There are 3 types of radiant heaters: wall, ceiling and underfloor. Underfloor works slightly differently and we’ll cover this later.
Radiant heaters use heating elements that reach a high temperature to emit infrared radiation. On most models, a metal grill is located in front of the heating element to try to prevent contact. The grill itself will become hot to the touch the longer the heater is left on.
You can also purchase infrared panel heaters, including those for the wall or ceiling.
Except for underfloor heating, radiant heaters directly warm people and objects in a room, rather than space itself. You have to be physically close to the heater to feel the warmth. Think of it as “line of sight”, you’ll be most comfortable if you’re close to and can see the heater.
Although relatively quiet, these types of heaters can be dangerous, as the element has a focused intensity in output. This means surface temperatures can be extremely high and they lack overheat protection. They are, however, safer to run than a gas heater as you don’t need to handle flammable gas bottles, nor is there an open flame.
The main advantage of radiant heaters is infrared radiation produced is absorbed directly by clothing and skin. This makes them suitable for warming people in poorly insulated rooms, or even outdoors. They are also great for allergy sufferers as they don’t distribute forced air.
Underfloor heating is the most effective and efficient form of radiant heat. Large surface areas can be heated quickly.
With underfloor heating, vertical radiation from the bottom up produces the majority of the heat by means of natural air convection, whilst the rest is generated when the air meets the warm floor of the room.
Since it heats a much larger area than other systems, a lower temperature is required to achieve the same level of heat transfer. This provides an improved room climate with healthier humidity levels.
With electric underfloor heating, it’s also really easy to install. You don’t need a complex pipe network across an entire property to pump heated water through.
A storage heater stores thermal energy during the evening or night, when electricity is available at a lower cost, depending on your electricity tariff. It then releases the heat during the day as required.
Typically composed of clay or ceramic bricks, these act as the storage medium for heat generated for use later. The stored heat is given off through radiation and convection. Some models come equipped with fans to force the heated air out at a quicker rate.
Storage heaters are generally used in conjunction with a two-price electricity tariff, where the operating cost is lower during the evening or night (also known as the off-peak rate), but more expensive throughout the day. The property must be on one of these special tariffs (Economy 7 or 10), which is restrictive for other household appliances that use electricity. For example, washing machines, dishwashers etc.
Storage heaters are often cheaper to run, but only if used during the off-peak hours. If operational throughout peak hours the cost increases.
Storage heaters do have significant disadvantages. For example, if excess heat is stored, it will still be released, even if your room doesn’t need it. This leads to overheated rooms and wasted energy. Much of the stored heat will already be released throughout the day. A problem when most households need heat during the evening.
They can only heat with energy stored the night before. Therefore, if the storage heater was switched off or if the charge control was set too low, there won’t be sufficient energy to heat the rooms for the next day.
This can be a problem when the weather turns colder unexpectedly or if the temperature setting has been judged incorrectly. It’s also easy to leave the output control on during the night at the same time it should be using energy to store heat, increasing consumption and costs.
Heat pumps provide both space and water heating, as well as cooling in one system. They are the most efficient alternative to other heating systems as they use renewable heat sources available in our surroundings.
Heat pumps tend to have two model types: one that extracts heat from a ground source and the other an air source. For example, the Rointe Dalis heat pump is an air-source heat pump.
Heat pumps do not generate heat or convert electricity into thermal energy like conventional resistance heaters. Instead, they extract natural heat from one place and transfer it to another. Even at cold temperatures, the air and ground contain useful thermal energy that’s replenished.
Heat pumps use electricity to apply a little more energy to raise the temperature to the level required.
During the heating cycle, a heat pump will extract heat from outdoor air using an evaporator that contains a liquid or gas refrigerant and transfer it to a compressor. The vapours are compressed to increase their pressure and temperature. The warmed vapours are then liquefied in a condenser unit, which emits the condensation heat to the heating medium. The refrigerant then passes through an expansion valve where its pressure is lowered again and continues back to the evaporator where the cycle is repeated. See diagram above.
Heat pumps use less electricity compared to when electricity is solely used to convert heat. As the heat transfer can be three or four times larger than the electrical power consumed, this means that a heat pump system gives better energy efficiency performance than conventional electrical resistance heaters. For example, if a heat pump products 2.5 kilowatts of heating power, they actually use less than 1 kilowatt of electricity!
This makes a heat pump system quite cheap to run and the most likely to reduce your carbon footprint. They also don’t directly use combustion so there are no carbon emissions other than those created at the point of electricity production (if a renewable method is not used).
You are likely to save money on your annual heating bills due to the high-efficiency rating of heat pumps although the product and installation costs are higher than standard heating, which can be daunting. Therefore, it’s important to evaluate the overall payback period.
Heat pumps are also a great option for allergy and asthma sufferers as they use filters to purify and clean the air before the heated air is released into the space.
Convection heaters provide gradual, even heat in a room using a relatively low level of energy. Some convection heaters on the market (like Rointe electric radiators) only use 38% of their nominal power to maintain a stable temperature (once a steady working rate has been reached). No energy is wasted. 100% of the energy that is input is used for heating.
Convection heaters actually use a combination of radiation, conduction and convection to warm a room evenly and more quickly than radiant heaters, as the warm air rises and falls uniformly across an enclosed space.
The natural convection cycle also allows the temperature of the room to be constant once the working temperature has been reached.
Popular types of electric convection heaters include oil-filled and ceramic. Some models also fan assisted for faster room coverage.
Because the heating process is natural, convection heaters operate silently, making them great for living and sleeping areas. They don’t contain moving parts, so are virtually maintenance free – a great cost-saving compared to gas central heating!
They are considered one of the safest options on the electric heating market because they don’t use combustion, heavy metals (lead, cadmium) or emit harmful gases like carbon monoxide. There is also a lower risk of ignition if they make unintended contact with furnishings.
It’s important to consider the materials used in convection heaters, as the thermal conductivity of the product itself will contribute to faster heating times. Why not read our article on design innovation in electric radiators to find out more?
Rointe digital electric radiators are designed for all types of environments and to meet any thermal need. They are classed as electric convection heaters as they utilise natural air convection and convert electrical energy into heat.
Our radiators have a unique design: cold air is introduced at the bottom of the radiator and raises its temperature by passing through the interior of the element and expelling at the top as warm air. This creates a heated air circulation with an airspeed of 0.1 m/s and allows a constant room temperature with a small variation of only +/-0.25ºC. Therefore, they are able to increase comfort and reduce consumption.
We’ve been manufacturing our electric radiators since 1985. We stand out among other products on the market by using high heat transfer mineral fluid (oil-filled) and high purity aluminium bodies to ensure maximum comfort and low consumption.