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What is Electric Heating?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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Electric heating in most instances is radiant heating. An electric heating system uses electrical coils mounted inside of metal boxes which run along the baseboards of a building's walls. This often leads to the common name of "baseboard heaters" for all electric heating systems. Much like the coils in a toaster or a hot plate, the coils heat up when the thermostat deems it necessary to heat the room, and the electric heating panel radiates the heat into the room.

Radiant heating gives a much different feel than heat from a forced-air system. In a radiant electric heating system, the warmth or heat remains constant while the heat is on and is not subject to blasts of heat followed by periods of no heat. Many users of electric heating liken it to that of wood burning, where the warmth is steady and constant. In many electrical systems, a cold room can be brought up to temperature much faster than a comparable room utilizing forced-air heat. In a forced-air heating system, the furnace fires up and needs to reach a specific temperature before the blower kicks on and sends the warm air into a room.

Many homes utilizing a ceramic tile or stone type of floor covering choose to place electric heating elements underneath the floor. This creates a radiant heating system which heats the coils under the flooring and allows the heat to rise up through the floor into the room. Eliminating the cold floor on bare feet is a nice option in cooler climates. Many users of this type of heating system claim that by keeping the floor warm and eliminating cold feet, they actually lower heating costs by keeping the system turned down.

In extremely cold climates, electric heating coils are often placed underneath concrete garage flooring. By utilizing a low heat setting, the radiant heat flowing up and out of the garage floor actually aids automobiles with cold morning starts. Preventing the buildup of ice and snow on the cement floor is also an added bonus. Taking full advantage of heat's natural rising motion, the heat radiating up out of the garage floor also keeps the interior of the vehicle warmer and quickens the warm-up time of the vehicle's heater.

Electric heating is often less prone to interruption due to broken parts, as it has virtually no moving parts to break down. Maintenance on these systems is usually minimal as well. Only an occasional dusting of the unit is required in baseboard applications, and virtually no maintenance is required on under-floor heating systems.

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Discussion Comments

By Laotionne — On Jul 30, 2014

@Feryll - I couldn't agree with you more that electric heating systems are more convenient, less work and in most cases safer than gas furnaces. Most of the apartments I have lived in had electric heating.

Still, you might want to think twice before you put in a new electric heating system in your house. The cost to operate one of these systems is going to be more than you pay with the gas furnace. I know gas prices can get pretty high, but when they rise, so will the cost of electric heating, so you are always going to be paying more money to run the gas furnace.

By Feryll — On Jul 29, 2014

We have a natural gas furnace in our house. That's the heating system that was there when we bought the house. The hot water heater is also gas, but we plan on changing that as soon as possible. My girlfriend and I have always had electric water heating systems and we feel more secure with that type of set up.

At some point I would also like to put in another overall heating system. I like what this article says about there being little maintenance with electrical baseboard heating. I don't feel safe with gas heating because of the chances of leaks and I think electric is probably the best option out there for us.

By Sporkasia — On Jul 29, 2014

I can relate to the part of this article that explains how heated electric coils are good for warming cold tile floors in the bathroom. I like everything about my bathroom, but even with the thermostat set at a comfortable temperature I am chilly when I get showered and dressed in the morning.

If we had heated floors that would make all the difference. As it stands now, I use a portable electric heater to warm the room, but a below the floor electric heating system would be the perfect solution.

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