There are two types of people in this world. Traditional gas guys or electric enthusiasts! While there are great benefits to both, electric heaters (heating) are the most recent invention and bring fresh innovation that gas heaters can’t deliver.
Electric space heaters don’t require ventilation, have higher energy efficiencies, and use a cleaner energy source compared to their fossil fuel sibling. These are some of the main reasons people switch to this modern heating method.
But with so many different types of electric heaters – which one is the best? Here’s a quick and comprehensive breakdown of all the benefits and disadvantages of electric heat systems, organized by type, to give you a complete understanding of what electric heating has to offer.
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Bromic Tungsten 6000W Smart-Heat White Electric Heater
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Electric Heaters Basics
In essence, electric heaters convert electrical input energy into thermal output energy, which then heats the air or objects in a given space. It’s very simple in nature, usually using electrical resistance to generate heat, but there are more than a few ways this can be done. This is reflected in the market with a wide array of heaters with unique designs and heating mechanisms. We’ll cover the five types most commonly used – ceramic, fan, mica, infrared, and heat pumps – to keep things simple.
Ceramic heaters essentially utilize a ceramic heating element and generate heat through the principle of resistive heating. The heat is then dispersed either through radiant or convection, depending on the design of the heater. The heating element has a positive temperature coefficient (PTC), and as it resists electricity, it creates entropy heat that we take advantage of.
Ceramic heaters are often portable and used for single-zone heating. They’re a notably safer option than gas heaters and other electric options since they are self-regulating, meaning that when the temperature increases to its set temperature, the resistive heat mechanism stops altogether. Ceramic heaters are a common choice for families with kids for this reason.
Some downsides are that they aren’t always the quietest since a fan typically blows the heat. You get quicker, more direct heat at the cost of some minor noise. They are not usually used for larger spaces since they are not equipped to handle such zones. Also, they generally require periodic maintenance, like removing dust from fan blades and heating elements.
Fan heaters are possibly the simplest in design. They use metal coils as the heating element, with a fan to disperse the air. Much like ceramic, fan heaters take resistive electric energy and disperse its heat through convection. The main difference is the heating element and the fact that not all ceramic heaters have fans.
There are radiant heat-only metal heaters which are even more straightforward, nothing but a metal healing element protected by a safety grate. These are a quick and cost-effective way to get heat cheaply and are commonly used on construction sites to keep project homes warm and dry.
Fan heaters bring affordability and simplicity. They’re generally the cheapest on the market and are generally rather portable and lightweight. They aren’t typically renowned for impressive heat output, though, and are commonly best for personal use or tiny spaces. Though they can still be effective – you often get what you pay for.
Micathermic heaters are often considered a cross between ceramic and infrared heaters. They create heat from resistive energy like ceramic and use convective heating as well, but they also use radiant heating like that of infrared. Mica is used as the heating element and is heated to a certain temperature. Once it reaches that temperature, it emits electromagnetic radiation on surrounding surfaces, warming them like infrared heaters.
Mica heaters are known for very effective heat distribution since they work through radiation, hitting many surfaces simultaneously instead of just heating locally around the heater. Mica heaters are also very quiet. Like infrared, they produce almost no noise and pose nearly zero safety risk since the heating element does not get very hot. Mica heaters are generally fairly compact, and because they don’t use a fan at all, they’re considered allergen-friendly.
They’re great for residential rooms and small spaces, but you may find the radiative heat not quite strong enough for huge rooms since it gets weaker the farther away you are. Mica heaters can be pricier than ceramic or basic fan options, and maintenance can be an annoyance as dust accumulates and needs to be cleaned.
Often called “heat lamps,” infrared heaters are unique in that they use electromagnetic radiation to create heat. They transfer energy waves to objects near them without heating the air in between. As objects around the heater get warmer, so does the room itself. Sunlight works the same way.
Infrared heaters work instantly, producing quick, direct heat if needed and effective ambient heat once left on for some time. They’re also typically very quiet, and nearly no maintenance involved. They often use quartz as a heating element for durability and high-heat output.
One issue that can arise with infrared heaters is safety. Because of how they work, they can become very hot, particularly on the grill, and remain hot even after being disconnected. They aren’t favorable with families as much as others but are commonly used in places like garages and patios.
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Heat pumps are a bit more complex than the other types of heaters since they are more of a heating system than an individual unit. They don’t really create heat but move it around instead. They can use air, ground, or water as sources for their heat, using a different model of heat pump for each source.
Most common residentially are air-sourced heat pumps, also known as Mini-Splits. These are renowned for their space-saving ability and high efficiency – even among electric heaters. Mini-splits also provide zone heating, giving you greater control over your system. Though very efficient in smaller spaces, they have a diminishing return the bigger the space. They aren’t great for large rooms because of it.
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24K BTU Heat Pump Condenser 230 volt 20.5 SEER
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