One of the most influential inventions in modern heating and electricity is a heating element. Electric heaters, toasters, dryers and more rely on heating elements. But, what is a heating element and how does a heating element work?
What is a Heating Element?
A heating element converts electrical energy into heat through the process of resistance, otherwise known as Joule heating. The electric current passing through the element encounters resistance, which produces heat.
Typically, heating elements are made from a coil, ribbon or strip of wire that provides heat like a lamp filament. Heating elements contain an electric current, which flows through the coil or ribbon or wire and becomes very hot. The heating element converts the electrical energy passing through it into heat, which is distributed outward in every direction.
How Does a Heating Element Work?
Heating elements help convert electricity into heat. However, to understand how a heating element works, we must remember some basic electricity lessons.
First, conductors are good carriers of electricity. Conversely, insulators are bad carriers of electricity. Both conductors and insulators provide resistance to electric currents that flow through them, although in different amounts. Conductors offer a low resistance, while insulators offer a high level of resistance. So, electronic circuits include resistors, which control how much current flow. Finally, how does a heating element work?
“Resistors work by converting electrical energy to heat energy. In other words, they get hot when electricity flows through them. But it’s not just resistors that do this. Even a thin piece of wire will get hot if you force enough electricity through it. That is the basic idea behind incandescent lamps (old-fashioned, bulb-shaped lights). Inside the glass bulb, there is a very thin coil of wire called a filament.
When enough electricity flows through it, it glows white hot, very brightly—so it’s really making light by making heat.” As a result, heating elements provide a sturdy electrical component that produces heat when a large electric current flows through it.
Types of Heating Elements
Many appliances contain heating elements, which means there are multiple types of heating elements.
- Metal Heating Elements
Metal heating elements generally are made from nichrome, which is composed of 80% nickel and 20% chromium. Nichrome 80/20 make great heating elements because the material yields a pretty high resistance.
Other types of metal heating elements include resistance wire, which are commonly used in things likes toasters, hair dryers, furnaces and floor heating. Additionally, etched foil, which is also made from similar substances as resistance wire and commonly used in precision heating applications.
- PTC Heating Elements
PTC heating elements are made by conducting PTC rubber and increasing resistivity exponentially with rising temperatures. These heating elements work with heaters that produce large amounts of power in the cold. As a result, these heat up quickly and maintain a constant temperature.
- Composite Heating Elements
Composite heating elements feature tubular or sheathed elements and create a fine coil of nichrome resistant heating alloy wire. The composite heating elements can be incorporated into appliances, such as a toaster oven, as a straight rod. Conversely, composite elements can be bent and incorporated into appliances, such as electric stoves, ovens or coffee makers.
How Can You Fix Or Repair a Heating Element?
Many heating elements contain their part number on the actual element. This helps identify the part, which aids in replacement. For example, knowing the exact part helps technicians address any issues with heating elements (in particular, in a furnace).
“The heating element’s part number is on the heating element. All furnaces list the model and serial number in a visible area to assist in finding replacement parts. If the furnace is installed by a service provider, the service provider also places a sticker with contact information on the outside of the furnace for assistance and repair services. If the number isn’t available, the manufacturer of the furnace, also labeled clearly on the outside of the system, will provide the correct heating element replacement part.”
Heating Repair and Replacement Services
Replacing an electric heating element requires the assistance of a licensed HVAC contractor. Generally, the company that installed your furnace is best suited to repair, but any quality heating contractor has the knowledge to fix your heating element issues. Our team of technicians offer exceptional HVAC repair services in Stamford, CT and other areas. In addition, our professionals provide innovative heating repair services to ensure you are warm and comfortable throughout the winter season.
Our staff also provides other types of solutions such as air conditioning installation, boiler maintenance, and air conditioning repair. If you need assistance with malfunctioning heating elements in your system, give our technicians a call by phone at (860) 325-7836 to book an appointment. Our staff will perform an inspection of your furnace or heating system to diagnose and fix the issue.