What Is the Most Efficient Electric Heating System?
Most methods of heating a building require some sort of combustible fuel, be it propane, natural gas, oil, or wood. Each of these fuel sources has its benefits, being able to generate a large amount of heat in a relatively short time. Nevertheless, they aren’t practical for many because this fuel requires a great deal of infrastructure to utilize: pipes, a furnace, and a dedicated ventilation system. That’s why many home and business owners prefer electrical heating.
Of course, electrical heating is a fairly broad category in its own right. There are several methods that utilize electricity alone in order to generate heat. But what is the most efficient electric heating system? Which is the most cost-effective in terms of installation? Read on to find out.
What Do We Mean By Energy Efficient?
With regard to energy, efficiency refers to a system’s ability to use smaller amounts of energy to perform the same task. In terms of heating, this means that you can generate the same amount of heat with the use of less fuel. For example, an efficient heater requires only a small amount of propane (or other fuel) to keep a building at a comfortable temperature, whereas a less efficient one would require a good deal more.
In practical terms, a more efficient heating system costs less to run because you have to purchase less fuel to operate it in the first place. It may also require less maintenance because more efficiency means the system is switched on less often, which in turn means less wear and tear. Finally, a more energy-efficient heating system is significantly more environmentally friendly, as it won’t generate nearly as many greenhouse gases as less efficient methods.
The Problem With Electric Heating
Energy efficiency is measured in British Thermal Units, or BTUs for short. Generally, the cost of a heating method is measured by the BTUs it is capable of generating. Propane, although relatively expensive, generates a large number of BTUs when it is burned, rendering it a very energy-efficient heating method. In other words, burning a small amount of propane will generate a great deal of heat energy. This heat energy can then be used to heat a building very effectively, with a relatively minimal amount of energy used.
Electric heating, on the other hand, isn’t nearly so efficient. This is because, when electricity is used to generate heat, it usually requires a great deal more of it to equal the same number of BTUs as a comparatively small amount of propane or other combustible fuel.
The reason for this lack of efficiency is due to the method that is used for generating heat with electricity: a technology known as resistance heating. Simply put, an electric current is run through an element, such as ceramic. As it does so, it encounters resistance, which in turn is converted into heat energy. This method is effective; however, a great deal of energy is lost along the way, meaning that it is essentially wasted.
Despite its problems, electric heating is also very beneficial in many ways: for example, safety. Heating methods that require a combustible fuel source also carry with them a certain fire hazard. A furnace that uses an open flame to generate heat has a small risk of that flame going out of control, especially if there is something else combustible nearby.
Heating that requires combustible fuel also requires a dedicated ventilation system. A furnace must be placed somewhere that’s out of the way but that has a way to vent away the toxic waste products that are generated when fuel sources are burned. A lack of proper ventilation can create a serious safety hazard.
Electric heating does not have this issue. It generates no toxic waste products, which means ventilation isn’t an issue and the fire hazard is significantly reduced. Electric heating also has the additional benefit of not requiring an extensive infrastructure, such as a system of pipes to carry natural gas or propane. All an electric heater needs is a working outlet.
The Best Electric Heating Method
So, what is the most efficient electric heating system? Well, as we’ve mentioned, the primary problem with electric heating has to do with the generation of heat. Besides that admittedly important downside, electric power is actually one of the best methods there is for heating a building. If you could bypass the issue of resistance heating being as expensive as it is, you’d have one of the best possible heating methods on your hands.
Enter the heat pump. While other heating methods, such as baseboard heating or forced air, are quite pricey because they require so much energy to generate heat, heat pumps cost very little to run. How is this possible? Because they do not actually generate heat at all. Instead, they utilize refrigerant coils to simply transfer (or “pump”) heat energy from place to place.
When it’s cold inside of a building, heat pumps can transfer ambient heat energy from the outside environment to the inside of a building, warming it up. It can also transfer heat energy outside if it’s hot: meaning that your heat pump can double as an air conditioner.
Since the electricity is used to operate the refrigerator coils and not to generate heat, heat pumps are far more efficient than not only resistance heating but combustible fuel sources as well. They also eliminate the need for ducts and vents, instead being used to target an individual zone of a building directly, further improving their efficiency.
Who to Call for Heat Pump Installation
If a heat pump seems to be the right choice for your building, or if you simply require further information, contact Entek HVAC and ask to speak to one of our experts. We will be able to advise you as to the most effective method for heating your building and perform installation and maintenance if you require it.