Convection heaters tend to be the go-to choice for providing supplemental heating to a home or office. You may have wondered if all convection heaters are made equally or how they work in general. We've researched how convention heating works and whether an operating heater becomes hot enough for you to be cautious nearby.
Convection heaters do become hot to the touch, particularly at the area where the heat is emitted. Though, there are modern models that do not heat up on the outer areas. However, the grill on these models from which the heat radiates will be hot and should not be touched.
Convection heaters come in various types and are often used to provide additional heating to small spaces. Let's take a closer look at how convection heaters and how they're best used. In this post, we'll explain how convection heaters operate, as well as how hot they can actually become.
How Convection Heaters Work to Heat the Air
Convection heaters work by heating the air and transferring the heat within a specific space to warm it up. A good illustration of this type of convection-based heating method would be the gas boiler heating system located in most homes.
When you power on the heater in your home, the radiators will begin to warm up as the water circulating in the heating system grows hotter. After anywhere from 10- to 20-minutes, you can typically start to feel the rooms in your home getting warmer as the heat from the radiator's surface is distributed into the air.
The warm air will naturally rise and move into colder spaces to begin to sink while cooling. It will then circulate back up to the top of the room as it gets warmed up again. Eventually, the entire air volume in the room will warm up, which creates warmth for the occupants in a room.
There are, however, downsides when it comes to using convection heating. The first is that convection heating completely depends on the distribution and movement of air. Though air circulation is promoted by this heating method, avoiding patches of cold spots in a room can be hard to do if the room or heating space is on the larger side. As a result, you may not feel the desired temperatures throughout a room, especially if there is bad insulation, space gaps in the windowsills, or multiple outside doors.
Another downside to convection heaters is that they don't hold heat well, resulting in unsteady temperatures and super-fast heat loss. For example, imagine sitting in a room during the winter for an hour with a temperature of about 75° Fahrenheit. If someone enters the room from the outside (during a cold day), a significant amount of heat will be lost, that the heater will need to replace. This means a noticeable but temporary temperature drop in the room.
Common Examples Of Convection Heating
Anytime fuel is burned (i.e., gas, coal, or wood), heat is created. The fuel will require moving air to ignite, so it will begin to suck up any nearby cold air and then release warm air as a by-product.
Also known as radiant heat systems, underfloor heaters are powered by either heat pumps or boilers and use the same convection-based heating method to distribute warm air. Whether the system is electric or hydroponic-based, the process of convection still takes place -- warm air is created, and as it starts to rise and cool, it warms any physical space surrounding it.
Electric Panel Heaters
This type of heater operates by continuously circulating cold and hot air. It starts the warming process by pulling colder air into its panel and moving it over a heating coil. Next, the air is pushed up and out from the heater towards a home's roof. During this process, heat circulation occurs in the room evenly and gradually.
Storage heaters are similar to traditional central heating systems. They draw electricity for a few hours throughout the night and store it in what's referred to as a heat bank to be used the following day. These heat banks are typically made of ceramic bricks or clay.
Is convection heat efficient?
Convection heat is an efficient way to heat a small room or space, so it is typically not as efficient as its radiant heat counterpart. The warmth generated by convection heat can easily seep into its surrounding environment or spread out over an area. If this area is too large, it will result in wasted energy. Why? It's simple; the air is not a good heat conductor.
When deciding whether or not convection heating will be the most efficient way to warm certain rooms inside your home, it's important to note the best applications for convection heaters. These heaters work best in enclosed, airtight, and well-insulated rooms with average or low ceiling heights.
Using a convection heater in rooms with cold drafts, poor insulation, high ceilings (over 8-feet), or multiple windows will require more heat to keep the space warm. So to say, the smaller your room, the more efficient the heater will be. They're a great pick if you're looking for a constant and long-term heat solution.
You can also shop around to find convection heaters with smaller wattages (in the 400-500 watt range) to find the least expensive heating options for the space that you're looking to warm.
Ways To Conserve Energy With Your Convection Heater
To get the best usage out of your heater while maximizing your energy savings, HVAC pros provide the following recommendations:
- Adjust the output settings: Keep your heater on a steady setting to control exactly how much hate is being emitted.
- Thermostats: Most convection heaters will come with presets such as high, medium, and low. However, models that come with accurate thermostats allow for the best temperature adjustments and control.
- Timers: Be sure to turn off your heater when it's not in use or use a timer if you plan to take a nap, for example.
- Sizing: Select the recommended heater size for the square footage of the room that you're looking to heat. Heaters that are too small or too large for a room can waste electricity.
Are there different types of convection heaters?
Convection heaters come in five types: furnaces, fan heaters, ceramic, oil, and water. Each type of heater operates using the same principle. However, how they generate and distribute the heat varies.
These heaters contain a heating element that generates thermal energy by passing electrical currents through a conductive, resistive element, which then creates heat due to the Joule effect. The fan inside these heaters blows air across its heating element and then distributes it within a room.
Fan heaters can create a steady supply of heat. If the space is well-insulated, it can retain suitable temperature levels even if the unit has been turned off momentarily.
Water heaters work by storing large volumes of water (unless it's tankless) inside a cylinder-shaped metal tank, usually located in either a basement, utility closet, or a home's attic. The water heater will use either electricity or gas to heat a portion of water to be used throughout the home.
Water heaters come in either gas or electric models. The electric models use a heating element to warm the water, while the gas models use a flame located under the tank to create heat.
Ceramic heaters offer one of the most recent options for convection-based heaters. They use ceramic plates along with aluminum baffles to conduct electricity and create heat. The ceramic plates used in these heaters have proven to be incredibly efficient heat conductors, allowing these small heaters to gain popularity quickly in the world of home improvement.
Furnace heaters are the most common type of convection heaters in a home, as they supply the heat for most traditional central heating systems. Typically found in basements or attics, furnaces generate heat by burning gas or oil and pushing air through metal ducts and grills located throughout a home's infrastructure.
Oil-Filled Heaters (or Radiators)
These types of heaters operate by heating a reservoir of oil using an electrical element. When the electrical element becomes fully submerged in the oil, it heats up. The warmth created by this heat is then transferred to the surrounding liquid and then across the heater's surface.
What size convection heater do I need?
To determine the best size for your home's convection heater, it's important first to consider how many rooms you are looking to warm and how warm you want them to be. Next, consider the layout of the rooms in your home and note the conditions that may require more energy usage from your convection heater:
- A ceiling height over 8-feet
- Multiple windows and/or doors in the space to be heated
- Spacey or old insulation
Convection heaters are sized by their wattage amount and typically come with about 1,500-watts. HVAC professionals recommend applying 10-watts of electric heat to each square foot of the flooring area in a space. For example, if your living room is 200 square feet, a 2,000-watt heater should suffice.
Summing Things Up
Remember, the convection heater's surface will normally be scorching to the touch, so it's best to handle them after turning them off and allowing them to cool. Hopefully, you've learned a bit more about the various types of convection heaters and how they work in general.
Interested in learning more about how to heat your home for the winter? If so, be sure to check out our other posts: