The Future of Electric Heating: Trends and Innovations

Last updated on July 3rd, 2023 at 07:04 pm

There are always innovations to make industrial heating more applicable and manageable. Wattco is one of the branches leading the way into the future of electric heating with new products that offer greater efficiency and reliability.

Where did electric heating start?

In the late 1800s, Alexander Graham Bell invented the electric heater. It was a metal box with high-powered bulbs that radiated heat throughout a room. While it seems inefficient now, it was a foundational step to create further inventions.

In 1905, Albert Marsh invented the chromel heating element. Chromel is an alloy created from nickel and chromium. It was 300 times stronger than other heating elements available then. This invention made heat creation and dispersion more efficient. It was at this time electric heating started its path alongside fuel-based heating solutions, begging the question, “Is gas heat cheaper than electric?”

Infrared heating elements today are based on Albert Marsh’s original invention. But the use of more modern materials, which lead to higher efficiency, a longer lifetime, and increased safety, proves electric heating solutions are superior to gas options.

As the demand for electric heating grew, bar heaters became a prominent option. While they were easy to use and portable, they created significant safety risks due to burns and fire hazards. Their coiled wires got very hot and were vulnerable to being accidentally touched.

When the trend of lower electricity use during the evenings came to light, electric storage heaters were produced to store thermal energy during the night so it could be released during the day. By heating ceramic bricks inside the storage heater, heat creation and energy costs were reduced.

After another few years, when coal stocks were running low, the first heat pump was created. It heated brine to extract salt from the fluid. This was an alternative to using fossil fuels, and one that led to many further heat pump applications used today.

Electric heating innovations and trends

In 2020, heat pumps were designed to store heat in a small water tank so leftover heat wasn’t wasted and could be used at a later time. The heat pump can be self-defrosting during colder seasons by rerouting residual heat to the exposed surfaces.

Heat pumps not only generate heat, but they also capture heat from the environment, which can then be moved to radiators of forced-air systems. This happens when the refrigerant inside the heat pump encounters heat; it will absorb extra warmth. Heat pumps use a compressor to raise the pressure of the refrigerants, thus raising the temperature and creating heat.

Air-to-water heat pumps

The most common and cost-efficient heat pump draws in air and uses it to heat a liquid. On colder days, though, it will need more electricity to heat the air to the right temperature.

Brine-to-water heat pumps

The most energy-efficient option uses geothermal heat throughout the year which has a lower power consumption. A permit is required to drill deep enough into the ground, or a ring trench collector can be used as a permit-free option.

Water-to-water heat pumps

This heat pump draws heat from groundwater to heat a coolant. While this method requires a permit, it can be a more efficient and economical option.

Heat pump implications

Heat pumps offer a few advantages other options might not. They use heat from the environment, which is free, they don’t use fossil fuels, are environmentally friendly, don’t take up a lot of space, and have low maintenance requirements.

Fuel cells

Fuel cells can multitask; they create heat, hot water, and electricity simultaneously. It combines heat with power generation to be energy-efficient. Fuel cells use a chemical reaction to generate electricity. The system converts natural gas via a catalytic converter to create hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen reacts with the oxygen to generate electricity leading to an efficient rate of over 90 percent.

Fuel cell systems are more efficient than other oil or gas heating systems, they take care of heating, hot water, and electricity all at once, are well-suited for high-electricity demand, are noiseless, and require little maintenance.

Since it’s a newer electric heating solution, there isn’t long-term experience to refer to. It’s expensive to acquire, and it uses fossil natural gas, or biogas, which isn’t always available to purchase.

Combined heat and power plant (CHP)

This method works the same as fuel cell methods by using a combustion engine to burn oil, gas, or biomass. Like fuel cells, it will generate heat, hot water, and electricity, but it isn’t as efficient since it still needs work to be fully optimized.

Getting efficient with Wattco products

Wattco offers products to help consumers become more energy-efficient, spend less, and be safer while getting the same (or better) results. Electric heating solutions are beneficial for the following:

  • Central heating: Whether that be boilers, furnaces, or heat pumps, they may use solutions like radiators, underfloor piping, or heated air to help with heat generation.
  • Forced air systems: Duct heaters are used to maintain target temperatures in forced air systems. Often, they’ll use finned tubular elements or coiled elements.
  • Piping: Liquid circulates to distribute heat. Radiators will use this method to transfer heat. Boiler systems use flanged heaters to heat the water.
  • Duct electric heating: This is a virtually waste-free option to provide heat. They produce little to no emissions making them an environmentally-friendly alternative. Duct heaters are used in this case as well to aid heating. Explosion-proof duct heaters are also available for safer operation.

Wattco has many efficient products for use in industrial settings to reduce costs, improve output, and increase safety during operations and maintenance. While we have set products, there is also the opportunity for customized manufacturing to suit unique needs. Contact us to discuss your project or how to become more sustainable.