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The 5 Shades of Green of electric heat


January 20, 2017
January 20, 2017
By Electro-Federation Canada


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Baseboard and convector heaters typically last an average of 25 years. Photo courtesy Ouellet Canada Inc.

January 20, 2017 – While this article is intended for the end user (homeowner), we feel it can serve as an excellent tool for selling clients on the idea of electric heat. It was developed by Electro-Federation Canada’s Electric Heat Section, which comprises the following Canadian manufacturer members: Convectair-NMT Inc., Dimplex North America Ltd., EasyHeat, FlexTherm Inc., Ouellet Canada Inc., Stelpro Design Inc., Thermon Canada Inc.

There has never been a better time to make the switch to a greener heating solution, as electric heat systems offer these “5 Shades of Green”:

1. Efficiency. Electric heat (EH) solutions are 100% energy efficient because all of the energy taken in by the heater is converted into heat.

2. Environmental. EH systems use electricity, not fossil fuels, to operate. With the electrical system shifting to support carbon-free and alternative energy sources (e.g. solar, wind, hydro), Canadians now have more choices than ever for reducing their carbon footprint.

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3. Affordable. EH systems use zone heating, which means you only heat the space you need heated. Zone heating can produce energy savings of more than 20% compared to heating both occupied and unoccupied areas of your home.

4. Clean, safe and carbon-free. EH solutions are safe because they produce zero combustion products in the home (no carbon monoxide, odours, fumes, smoke, exhaust or noise).

5. Flexible and reliable. The products can be easily configured with programmable and non-programmable electronic thermostats, allowing you to control the temperature in each room for every hour of every day. EH systems also boast robust designs, with heating elements that typically last over 25 years.

Let’s get comfortable

Comfort. Safety. Reliability. These three words evoke a strong sense of personal well-being. From the cars and homes we purchase to the consumable products we use daily, comfort, safety and reliability are key to enhancing our lives.

You would then also expect these to be key considerations when installing upgrades in your home or small business. For instance, when installing a heating system in your new or retrofit home, how important are comfort, safety and reliability? Plus, with rising energy costs and the need to be more energy-conscious, there has never been a better time to make the switch to a more-efficient heating source.

Electric resistance heat is an ideal solution for your daily heating needs, providing a number of advantages over other sources.

What is electric resistance heat?

This safe solution converts 100% of incoming electric energy into heat, providing direct warmth and comfort to active living (zoned) spaces. A zoned heating system allows homeowners to control the temperature of each room, or zone individual rooms, thereby maximizing comfort and minimizing energy costs. Zoned heating is achieved through convection heaters such as baseboards, convector heaters, fan-forced heaters or zoned radiant heaters, all of which can be easily installed in any residential, commercial and industrial application.

Why electric heat? A popular choice

EH systems are growing in popularity for their ease of use, comfort and energy efficiency. According to a study by Statistics Canada, nearly 40% of Canadian homes are heated with electricity,1 with the vast majority of consumers choosing electric baseboards.2 Electric heating is reported to be most commonly used by households in Quebec (85%), Newfoundland & Labrador (71%) and New Brunswick (66%).3

Incidentally, according to the same study, households in Quebec and New Brunswick had the lowest average energy consumption. While EH may be more prevalent in those regions (likely because of lower electricity costs), many other provinces are moving toward greener energy generation alternatives, such as hydro and renewables. As generation through these sources continues to increase, making the switch to heating your home with electricity is a good environmental choice.

Affordable

One of the most common misconceptions about electric heat is its high cost. In fact, the initial purchase, installation, maintenance and operating costs are typically much lower than other heating systems. While operating costs can vary on a provincial basis as a result of electricity cost variations,4 the overall cost to operate an EH source is lower because of minimal maintenance costs and the advantages of zone heating.

Just think about the costs you might pay today for a central heat source that warms all parts of your house—even rooms you barely ever use.

Further savings can be achieved with a programmable or non-programmable electronic thermostat, which allows you to adjust temperatures throughout the day.

Efficient

Simply stated, EH systems are considered to be 100% efficient. All of the energy they consume is converted into heat—not lost through chimneys or elsewhere. Remember, because you only heat the rooms you commonly use, there is no excess—you use only what you need.

The efficiency and cost savings of zone heating can be quite significant. Furthermore, when combined with a programmable or non-programmable electronic thermostat, heaters can operate continuously at lower levels, which is more efficient than the peaks and valleys experienced with full-on/-off modes of most heating solutions.

A growing number of consumers have even opted to supplement their central heat system with EH sources. This paired combination allows users to lower their central heating temperature (and cost) during the winter months by using electric resistance heat systems to warm active living spaces, while retaining the flexibility to cool their homes with central air during the summer months.

Clean and safe

If you have a fuel-burning system such as natural gas, oil, propane and wood, you are likely familiar with the odours associated with combustion. With EH systems, there is no combustion, so there are no unpleasant odours and no expulsion of combustion gases, like carbon monoxide.

Moreover, EH equipment and heating elements sold in Canada are required to meet strict operating and installation standards for electrical safety. Before purchasing your heating system, ensure it bears an appropriate certification mark for Canada, and hire a legitimate electrical contractor for the installation.

Flexible

Electric resistance heat systems are more sophisticated than ever, as they can be configured with programmable and non-programmable electronic thermostats so you can control the temperature in each room and enjoy optimal levels of comfort and energy cost savings.

Some programmable thermostats can also be configured as smart devices (Wi-Fi), allowing you to conveniently adjust temperature settings from wherever. Non-programmable thermostats are also a popular choice among consumers as they are easy to install and provide ease-of-use functionality (and some models are compatible with smart devices).

The option is yours: both types are ideal options and should be considered to support your EH system.

Reliable

Electric heat systems are very reliable as they have virtually no moving parts; they require little maintenance and tend to last for a long time without requiring replacement. For instance, baseboard and convector heaters typically last an average of 25 years.5

Environmental

There has never been a better time to go green. The electricity system in Canada is shifting toward clean energy; utility companies are moving toward retrofitting their generation stations to support alternative energy sources. EH systems have also adapted to become fully compatible with electricity derived from nuclear energy and renewable sources.

Advanced design options

Electric heat systems offer a variety of styles and colours to match the décor of any room. You can choose from a wide selection of baseboard and convector designs that best suit your needs. Even floor heating systems are completely hidden from view, providing complete flexibility when designing a space. With all of the upgrades you could do to a living space (e.g. paint, lighting, flooring), why not make your heat source warm and inviting?

What’s next for you?

Here are some commonly asked questions you should consider to help you decide whether electric heat is right for you:

Q: Is my living/working space ideal for an EH system?

A: Any electric heat system can be used in any room of a home or in any environment. These systems work best in enclosed spaces, such as bedrooms, living rooms, basements or additions, as these spaces often require direct and/or supplemental heating.

EH systems come in a variety of types and sizes, so finding the right one for your application should be easy. For instance, in-floor heat systems are ideal for bathrooms, whereas electric baseboards or convector heaters are more commonly used in bedrooms or living rooms.

Before having a heating system sized, you should consider properly insulating and draft-proofing the rooms in your home. A thorough caulking, weather-stripping and insulation job can help add extra comfort and cost savings to your EH system. Nevertheless, it is recommended you conduct a heat loss calculation for your room to help you choose the correct wattage for your needs. Calculation tools can be found online.

Q: What cost savings can I expect?

A: Zone heating can provide you with more than 20% in energy savings compared to heating both occupied and unoccupied areas of your home.6 Cost savings will vary depending on where in Canada you live (e.g. outside temperatures, electricity rates), but some utilities offer incentives and programs to help you save. Contact your local utility to learn about any programs and incentives in your area.

Q: Why should I choose an electronic thermostat for my EH system?

A: Whether programmable or no, electronic thermostats surpass standard thermostats in terms of efficiency. They have a pulse-based controller that provides a continuous temperature reading at very close intervals (about 15 seconds). The resulting temperature stability provides comfort and energy savings.

According to NRCan, electronic thermostats can reduce the energy consumption of electric heaters by 4.5% to 12% a year. This represents a savings of about $100 for the cost of heating an average home.7

Q: Where can I purchase an electric heat system? How do I install it?

A: Electric heat systems and related components are available from licensed electrical contractors. While these systems can also be purchased at retail stores that sell heating and electrical equipment, it is important to ensure all EH systems and components are installed by a licensed electrician and/or electrical contractor.

Make the switch today

Electric resistance heat continues to be a popular choice with consumers because it is affordable, efficient, safe, clean and comfortable. And with increasingly sophisticated design options and compatibility with programmable thermostats and smart devices, you can experience new levels of flexibility in temperature control. There has never been a better time to reconsider traditional heat sources and move toward re-evaluating the overall efficiency and effectiveness of your home’s current heating.

Types of electric resistance heaters

These popular electric heat systems are available nationally:

Electric baseboard heaters
Baseboards are the most common electric heaters. They use the convection method to quietly and evenly circulate warm air in a room. Baseboard heaters are ideal for any room and are usually installed below a window to counteract the effect of the colder window surface.

Electric panel convection heaters
These heaters also use convection to quietly and evenly circulate warm air within a room, leveraging their height to better circulate hot air. These units are ideal for any room; their compact size (compared to baseboards) allows them to be positioned on any wall.

Fan-forced wall heaters
Wall heaters feature an electric fan that quickly transfers energy from the electric heating element to a room. They are ideally suited for bathrooms or entryways as they provide a quick warm-up when the overall home temperature is kept at lower levels.

Radiant heat
This form of heat can be used indoors for in-floor heating, as well as outdoors on patios or three-season rooms. Options such as in-floor heating provide direct heat, so even when the ambient air temperature is low, those within range can still feel comfortable. Other varieties include ceiling panels, quartz and ceramic, which can be more discreet and allow you to reduce the set-point temperature, thereby generating utility cost savings.

Electric thermal storage
When your utility structures its rates to better manage peak demand, you may benefit from a system that stores heat during periods of low demand. While it may use the same amount of energy overall, you will save on cost because of the lower off-peak rates. Electric storage heaters use standard resistive heating elements to store thermal energy in a highly insulated core, then release that heat throughout the day when electricity is pricier.

Notes
1.    StatsCan, tinyurl.com/z7lnhuj.
2.    StatsCan, tinyurl.com/zk62b68.
3.    StatsCan, tinyurl.com/j6eqeny.
4.    The average price for electricity in Canada is $0.12/kWh (Hydro-Quebec, Comparison of Electricity Prices in Major North American Cities, 1998-2014, June 2015).
5.    Compared to typical lifespan of a gas unit.ConsumerAffairs, tinyurl.com/gr7a4y6.
6.    U.S. Department of Energy, tinyurl.com/jha7zyv.
7.    CAA Quebec, tinyurl.com/hzm46pb.


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