Heating with electricity: Options and tips

Heating with electricity offers versatile solutions and is becoming increasingly relevant. It represents a useful and promising alternative to familiar heating systems, especially if the electricity comes from renewable sources. But as with all heating solutions, good planning is the key to operating an electric heating system economically. In the following, we will present the different variants and give you a few tips on how to get the most out of heating with electricity.

Heating with electricity – how does that work?

Unlike the conventional heating system, in which heating water circulates to transport heat from room to room, heating with electricity is much simpler. Often just a power connection and, depending on the type of heating, a normal socket are all that's needed. The heating resistor plays a key role in how electric heating works. In every type of electric heater there is an electrical conductor which is energised through connection to the power source. A resistance is formed and the heating conductor heats up.

Important: electricity is required for every heating system. This is because pumps and control units also need to be supplied with electricity for the heating system to work. 

Two ways of emitting heat

The various versions and models of electric heaters differ in the method of emitting heat to the room. Heat is emitted in the form of radiation or convection. Area heating systems such as Viessmann wall mounted or underfloor heating systems usually work according to the principle of radiation. They emit heat in the same way as the sun. This means that the thermal energy moves through the room without using a transfer medium and predominantly heats all objects in that room. This how human skin heats up too. Most people find radiant heat particularly pleasant and agreeable. In contrast, convection, as with a rapid heater, requires a transfer medium – the air. Integral fans are required to distribute the heated air quickly throughout the room. 

What are the different types of electric heater and which one is right for you?

It is possible to distinguish between direct and time-delayed heating of the rooms for heating with electricity. Examples of direct electric heaters are the Viessmann rapid heaters, infrared heaters, radiant heaters and wall convectors. These heaters are switched on and generate heat immediately. The direct heaters can work by convection or radiation. Viessmann area heating systems, such as the electric underfloor heating systems and thin-bed heating systems, radiate heat directly into the room. 

Electric storage heaters, on the other hand, heat the room with a time delay, even when they are no longer connected to the power source. They are equipped with a storage medium such as natural stone. They generally also have a fan for heating by convection. The best-known version is probably night storage heating.

Heating with electricity –– special models and options

Electric bathroom radiators also belong to the category of electric heaters. These are particularly useful if the central heating is switched off in summer, but a temperature boost is needed in the bathroom. This can be the case particularly in the morning or on cooler summer days. Furthermore, classic Viessmann bathroom radiators can also be equipped with an additional heating cartridge. For the heating season, they are connected to the central heating system. Heating cartridges or heating rods can also provide backup in thermal stores, thus avoiding the need to readjust the entire system. They are used, for example, in heating water buffer cylinders.  

In addition to the electric heaters listed, there is another way to heat with electricity –– with the heat pump. Although the majority of the heat generated by this heating solution comes from the environment, up to a quarter of the electricity has to be used to heat a house to the required temperature.    

In addition to space heating, electricity can also be used to heat water. Electric water heaters are available for a variety of applications. Among other things they can be used for decentralised DHW provision, i.e. for individual draw-off points or for individual rooms such as the bathroom or kitchen.

Deciding on the right electric heating system for you

Finding the electric heating system that suits you best is not an easy task. For example, a rapid heater may not always be the best electric heater if it is used in a room where heat is needed for a longer period of time. An infrared heater may be the better option here. This is because it mainly heats up surrounding objects and walls which then in turn emit the heat over an extended period of time. Different requirements come into play, however, when it comes to finding a quick and inexpensive solution for the rarely used guest toilet. Here, the rapid heater is clearly the better option.  

Just as with a conventional heating system, good planning is necessary before purchasing an electric heating system. This is due to the fact that numerous factors need to be taken into account to get the most out of the system, including:

  • Room size
  • How the space is used
  • Heating practices and the individual's perception of heat
  • Heating time
  • Number of people in the room

This list is by no means exhaustive. Therefore, seek extensive advice before purchasing a Viessmann electric heating system. It may also be worth having a combination of different electric heating systems or adding a Viessmann photovoltaic system to generate the electricity you need yourself.  

Heating economically with electricity

Is it possible to heat your home economically with electricity? There's no general answer to this question. Because ultimately it depends greatly on how and where the electric heating is used. If, for example, it is used as interim heating in a rarely used room, it is definitely cheaper than using the existing heating system to heat the same room. It can also be used economically in a very well insulated house with a low heat demand. Nevertheless, the question arises as to whether heating with electricity costs too much. Both operating and acquisition costs need to be taken into account here. The latter are usually low. The investment threshold is low, especially for small electric heaters. A crucial factor in the question of costs is the operation and associated power consumption. This is because electricity costs are much higher than the costs incurred with a more traditional energy source. Important: if you generate the electricity yourself via a photovoltaic system or a power-generating heating system, your costs are significantly reduced.

How do I calculate the power consumption?

The power consumption of an electric heater can be quickly determined from its rated output. For example, an appliance with a rated output of 1000  watts consumes 1  kilowatt per hour. If the output is 2000  watts, consumption is correspondingly 2  kilowatts per hour. To calculate the electricity costs in euros, we need to know the costs per kilowatt hour (kWh) as well as the rated output and the operating time. If all three factors are known, the costs can be calculated as follows:

Electricity costs = rated output (watts) x duration (hours) x electricity costs (kWh)

Example calculation: an infrared heater with a rated output of 2000  watts, which corresponds to 2  kWh, is being run for 3  hours a day. The purchased electricity costs 25  cents per kilowatt hour. To calculate the cost per day, simply multiply the three items mentioned above.

2  kWh x 3  hours x 25  cents = 150  cents = 1.5  euros per day

Heating economically with electricity. Is that possible?

All Viessmann electric heaters convert almost 100  percent of electrical energy into thermal energy. Though the high efficiency does ensure low heating costs, it is how the individual appliances are used that determines whether actual savings are achieved. It is possible to heat economically with electric heating, particularly if you:

  • Use the right appliance for each individual application
  • Use intelligent control technology for your electric heating
  • Adapt one's own heating practices and only heat when it is necessary
  • Generate the electricity yourself, for example with a photovoltaic system
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