A Guide to the Different Types of Heat

If you’ve had a browse on our website before, you may have come across certain electric heating terminology that left you drawing blanks. Convection, conduction, and radiation are the three methods of heat transfer, and we sometimes refer to them to describe our products. But what exactly do they mean, and why do they matter? Hold off on digging out those old schoolbooks… we’re going to do this the easy way.

Conduction

Everyday examples

  • How a hot drink also makes the cup it’s in warm
  • Touching a hot seatbelt when you get in a car

Conduction is how heat transfers through solid materials. Particles in solids are tightly bound together, so when one particle is warmer than the rest, through a direct heat source, it starts vibrating with energy. This causes it to collide with its neighbouring particles, making them warm up too. Eventually, this warmth spreads throughout the entirety of the solid in question, raising its temperature.

Which type of heater makes use of conduction?

It’s pretty rare to find a heater that will primarily rely on this type of heat transfer, as it’s quite impractical, not to mention rather unsafe! As you have to actually be touching a hot object to absorb its warmth through conduction, it makes sense why heating manufacturers don’t exactly jump at the idea. It does explain why the surface of electric heaters tend to be hot to the touch, though, so most heaters do produce some amount of conductive heat - just as a by-product.

Convection

Everyday examples

  • Feeling cooler on a windy day despite the actual temperature
  • How a hot cup of tea creates steam

Convection uses the air to transfer heat – as cold air passes over a heat source, it warms, creating a convection current. This cycle repeats again and again as long as a heat source remains stable, constantly circulating warm air.

Unlike solids, particles in the air aren’t fixed in place, so they move around freely, gaining energy like tiny indetectable Duracell bunnies. Because the particles are more spread out, hot air tends to be lighter and less dense than its chillier counterpart, which is why it rises – just think of a hot air balloon! This can create an uneven distribution of warmth, leaving the bottom half of a room colder than the top half.

Which types of heaters make use of convection?

Panel heaters and storage heaters. Electric radiators also supply about 2/3 of their warmth through convection.

Which applications does convection suit best?

As convection works quickly, it particularly suits spaces which need a supplementary heat source that gets to work fast. Conservatories, home offices, garages, and draughty spare rooms are just some of the locations that benefit from convection heaters.

Our top convection heater: Ecostrad iQ Plus

The iQ Plus is a smart convection heater that combines the responsive benefits of convection technology with sleek, modern aesthetics to complement a variety of interior design schemes. Able to be both wall-mounted or freestanding, the heater can be situated exactly where warmth is needed most, ideal for draughty spots that struggle to retain heat. Pair the iQ Plus up with your smartphone through a compatible heating app to control its temperature, modes and weekly schedule from afar.

Radiation

Everyday examples

  • Feeling warm when standing close to a fire
  • Feeling cooler when the sun goes behind a cloud

We know radiation can sound daunting, but don’t fret. From your car radio to the microwave in your kitchen, we’re surrounded by safe forms of it all the time - and we really do mean all the time! As humans, we’re constantly emitting and absorbing radiant warmth. Even the light you’re using to read this sentence is a form of it. When it comes to keeping homes warm, infrared radiation is one of the most versatile, safe and effective methods. Let’s run through how it works…

Radiant warmth travels in an invisible wave to provide a direct level of heat. When these waves come into contact with an object – a person, pet, or sofa for example, heat is absorbed and transferred seamlessly. This heat is then stored in the objects themselves without getting disturbed by air movement.

Even sinking into the walls of your property, this same heat is then re-radiated back into a space, creating a bubble of comfort that can be enjoyed for hours on end. This makes it perfect as a primary heating source, as well as for something more intermittent.

Which types of heaters make use of radiation?

Radiators (of course!), infrared panels and infrared patio heaters.

Which applications does radiant heat suit best?

Radiant warmth is so versatile, there’s pretty much a heater for any domestic application. If you’ve got a chilly garage, a far infrared heater will work wonders in offsetting those uncomfortable draughts. Infrared panels can slot into any room in the house - even bathrooms! Not to mention your classic radiator… and we all know how great they are.

Radiant heat: our top picks

Ecostrad iQ Ceramic Electric Radiator

An Electric Radiators Direct bestseller, the iQ Ceramic blends into the modern home like a dream. With CeramiQ Heat Lock technology, this smart electric radiator stores warmth in its core, steadily releasing radiant waves long after power is switched off at the wall. Packed with WiFi compatibility and Voice Control, managing the iQ Ceramic through either a smartphone or a smart speaker is totally straightforward, for ease of control even when you’re on the move.

Herschel Inspire Mirrored Infrared Panel

Look once at the Herschel Inspire and you’ll mistake it for a standard mirror, but under its reflective surface hides a clever infrared panel built to deliver long-lasting warmth throughout your home. As its heated surface repels condensation, it is ideal for use in bathrooms - no more foggy mirrors after a shower! When paired with a compatible external controller, managing your unit through WiFi is possible, making a whole host of features accessible via a smart device.

Start shopping with confidence today

Bolstered by your newfound knowledge, choosing an electric heater with us is guaranteed to be a walk in the park. Whether you’ve got a breezy hallway that could do with some soothing radiant warmth, or a guest bedroom that needs an extra boost every now and then, there’s a heater designed with your needs in mind. Take a look through our selection and upgrade the comfort of your home today!

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