Electricity to heat homes: is it a convenient choice?

In most areas of our country, the autumn-winter temperatures reach low enough average values, ​​to justify the use of at least one heating system. Therefore, this system plays a central role in our society and in the life quality of many people. Many are the technologies used to heat households and buildings of different size and use. However, nowadays, the most common heating system, is the one powered by fossil fuels, such as methane gas and diesel.

During these past few years, people have become more aware of how the use of non-renewable energy sources – that emit carbon-dioxide, dust and other gases into the atmosphere – can be harmful and dangerous to human health and to the environment. These sources of non-renewable energy are dangerous to humans, when there is a too high condensation of these compounds in the atmosphere, and due to their excessive quantity, they are unable to transform themselves into simpler or less toxic compounds. When they aren’t directly absorbed by plants and oceans, they can cause extremely dangerous consequences.

The search for alternative sources

Due to the increase of the greenhouse effect caused by human activities (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenhouse_effect), including traditional heating systems exploiting fossil fuels, new measures are needed to slow down this process. Two main strategies have been implemented to limit the use of fossil fuels for heating, and therefore reduce as much as possible, their contribution to the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The first strategy relates to the improvement of the thermal performance of buildings. The idea is to use more efficient technologies and better quality building materials in terms of thermal insulation, to disperse less heat, thus reducing the quantity of energy required to maintain a comfortable temperature inside the building (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Building_insulation). The second strategy focuses on the installation of alternative heating systems to traditional ones.

The use of electricity for heating

Among the alternative heating systems, we can include those exploiting electrical energy, such as the common electric heaters. In the past, the choice of using electrical energy to heat was not seem very positively.

Electricity is the highest quality energy, being more versatile and easy to handle. In other words, electricity has a greater intrinsic value. Thanks to electricity we can operate many different machines, light up closed or open spaces and give life to countless appliances in a number of sectors, such as research and leisure. On the contrary, heat, especially if it is of low intensity, such as the one that is normally produced in households, performs the sole function of heating, resulting very difficult to use for other purposes. That is why in the past, it was fine to state that converting electric energy into heat, as it happens in every electric heating system, was basically a waste of money, unless we were facing some specific situations, where it wasn’t possible to use a conventional heating system. The classic electric heater represents a very convenient and practical solution for easily solving an unforeseen or transitory situation.

A choice worth considering today

Nowadays, using electricity to heat, is becoming a more interesting choice, compared to traditional systems. Below you will find a list of the advantages related to choosing an electric heater, that is today seen as a main source of heating, rather than a simple additional help to the main heating system.

No carbon dioxide emissions. This represents the first major benefit, resulting from the replacement of traditional heat sources with electricity. Doing so, you will help fighting climate changes limiting the greenhouse effect. However, this is only true if the energy used to heat, comes from photovoltaic, wind and other production systems, that use more or less directly the sun’s energy, which is considered reasonably inexhaustible. On the contrary, if the electricity used by the electric heater, is produced from thermal power stations operating on gas or oil, thus emitting carbon dioxide into the environment, this choice won’t be “sustainable” at all;

With the spread of photovoltaic panels or small wind generators, what’s happening in many private and public buildings, is that a single family cannot take full take advantage of its electrical production capacity. This is why, having an electricity surplus, while using an electric heater to heat the household premises and, domestic hot water, without havening to rely on external sources, seems to be the most appropriate solution. The presence in the area of ​​considerably big solar and wind parks means that, the possibility just described, is not exclusively confined to small domestic environments, but may also occur on larger scales, in particular conditions of intense sunlight or strong winds.

– Heating the house with electricity also has advantages in terms of greater possibilities of automation and efficient management of the total energy consumed and produced in a single unit or entire building. The electronics industry and more specifically, the home automation industry, (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Home_automation), Are developing more and more sophisticated devices for controlling every single appliance. From a technical point of view, the electric heater is easier to connect to a home automation system, which can automatically turn it on and off, for example, in case of high production of photovoltaic energy.

– Replacing a traditional gas or diesel system, with an electric system, can also represent an advantage from a safety point of view. The explosive character of the natural gas, used to operate any traditional system, makes it potentially more dangerous to use. Diesel, although it is not explosive, presents a high degree of flammability and produces toxic smokes that make it less “clean” compared to an electrical system, even before being burned in the boiler.

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