Electric Heating

Electricity is the only heat source that is about 100% efficient, unfortunately, converting electricity to heat requires a great deal of electric power, making it usually uneconomical however certain applications do exist, for instance, heating a cottage where you might only be there a few weekends in the winter and the rest of the time it can be cold so that a full fledged heating system may not be worth getting but the most common application is as a backup source of heat for a heat pump installation and they also make a good backup for any heating system with a limited supply of fuel such as oil or wood or propane burning systems where the potential exists for not having fuel to burn.  Baseboard and radiant heaters can heat an entire area while small portable units can provide extra heat wherever they are needed. Some hydronic based systems use electric boilers to provide the water heating.  If you are going with these types of solutions, call HouseDepot to make sure your wiring is ready for the load this will place on them.

OK if electricity is 100% efficient why is it not the best primary heat source.  Electricity is 100% efficient for two reasons, one, no exhaust is required and two, wherever electricity is used the waste such as the charge lost to resistance in wires is actually converted to heat.  All other fuel sources get their heat by the chemical oxidation of fuel be that wood, coal, oil, propane or natural gas.  The heat they produce is chemically based where the energy exists in the fuel itself and is released by burning.  The energy in the fuel comes from the chemical process that created it in the first place.  If we had a system that had to create the fuel it burned it would then be less economical than electricity.  The other main heat source is the heat pump which uses the evaporation of refrigerant to capture the heat from the outside and transports it into the house and releases it when the refrigerant condenses.  No other heat source actually creates the energy for the heat it produces so it can be less efficient but still more economical. 

Heat Pumps

As mentioned before, heat pumps capture heat from outside air or release heat from the inside air depending on whether they are actively heating or cooling.  The fact that they can do both with a single system and with a great degree of efficiency makes them a great choice and more and more they are being used.  They run on electricity for pumps and condensers and fans but since the energy for heating or cooling is provided by the outside air they require a fairly moderate amount of electrical energy to work.

They have one major limitation however, the outside air has to be within certain set limits of temperature for the system to work.  For cooling they and any air conditioners, can dump heat into the outside air up to a high enough temperature that they are not likely to be unable to work.  For heating, however, the outside air has to be no colder than minus 20 degrees Celsius.  That is not an unreachable temperature for most of Canada and since at that temperature it is not a matter of being less heat, it is a matter of having no heat on the very coldest days of the year.  So what do we do?  The answer is a backup heating system and that backup is electricity.  You don’t have to worry about fuel, and the electric heating system requires no exhaust so there is no chimney for the cold air to come down and it is the simplest heating system and requires the least maintenance making it ready to stand by without use for years yet still be instantly available when needed.