Not Your Father’s Electric Resistance Heating

Not Your Father’s Electric Resistance Heating

Earlier this year, a proposal was submitted to the International Code Council (ICC) that would have banned the use of electric resistance heating as the primary heating source in residences.  The contention of this proposal to revise the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) was that electric resistance heating was wasteful and expensive and should be eliminated as a heating option.  A coalition was quickly mobilized to oppose the proposal, and as a results of the counterarguments put forth by the coalition, the proponents withdrew their proposal.

It is important to understand that electric resistance heating can actually save energy and can be economical to use.  With electric resistance heating almost all of the electrical energy is converted into heat unlike natural gas and oil furnaces, which have much lower efficiencies.  For many applications of electric resistance heating, there are no duct losses, i.e., losses incurred with furnaces that deliver heated air through a system of ducts, which often leak heated air to the environment.  Zone heating allows electric resistance heating to warm occupied rooms while unoccupied can be kept at a cooler temperature, further saving energy.  Finally, with electric thermal storage systems, lower cost, off peak power can be used to heat ceramic bricks, which will then warm the air when called upon during the day.

There are many options for using electric resistance heating including baseboard heaters, wall heaters, electric radiant heat, electric furnaces, thermal storage systems, and space heaters.  For more information on this technology, check out the document, Saving Energy with Electric Resistance Heating, prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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