Electrical Central Heating

Operation of electric central heating 

Radiators or underfloor heating systems are the centerpiece of this type of system. These devices are both producers and transmitters of heat:

  • One or more electrical resistors generate heat when an electric current passes through them.
  • This is called the Joule effect.

Except in the case of electric underfloor heating, which is a centralized system for the whole house, you should not talk about electric central heating as each radiator produces its own heat.

Advantages of this type of heating

Electric "central" heating has the following advantages:

  • Simplicity: just plug the device into the mains 
  • Lower initial investment: no other expense other than buying radiators or underfloor electrical heating (no line to be installed).

Disadvantages of electric heating 

Electric "central" heating has drawbacks:

  • If insulation in the home is inadequate, the electricity bill can become expensive.
  • A classic criticism of electric heating is that the heat is dry and less comfortable. This is not true: especially in the case of radiant floors. Most electric radiators are now very comfortable.

Is electric heating clean energy?

Electrical energy means a "clean" home; however, environmental issues arise at the central plant used to produce the electricity used.

In the USA around 45% of electricity is generated by coal fired power plants, which emit high levels of CO2 into the environment.

  • Nuclear power is seen by many environmentalists as a clean energy alternative, but accounts for around only 20% of electricity produced, and also produces toxic waste from the process.
  • Natural gas is another source of electricity generation providing around 24% of the total electricity produced in the USA, but also produces high levels of emissions into the atmosphere, second only to coal.

Electric resistance heating systems typically convert almost 100% of the electrical energy into heat. But only around 30% of the fuel source (coal, oil or gas) is actually converted into electricity. Due to the losses in electricity generation and transmission, electric heating is generally more expensive than using appliances based on combustion, for example, natural gas, propane, and oil furnaces.

If electricity is the only option, you could consider heat pumps which are preferable for most climates. They can easily reduce electricity consumption by 50% compared to electrical resistance heating (radiators and underfloor heating). TheĀ  exception is in areas such as non-mountainous parts of California; the southern tip of Nevada; the southwest corner of Utah; southern and western Arizona; southern and eastern New Mexico; the southeast corner of Colorado; and western Texas) with dry climates with either hot or mixed (hot and cold) temperatures. For such dry climates, there are normally so few heating days that the high cost of heating is not economically significant.

An electric resistance heating system can also be considered in the case of a home addition when it may not be practical to extend the existing (non-electrical) heating system into the new addition.

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