by Breana Cronk, IQS Editor
In a typical morning, millions of people across the globe follow a similar routine. Wake up, hot shower, blow dry the hair, iron the clothes out of the dryer, brew the tea or coffee, make toast for a quick breakfast or maybe even cook an egg or two if time permits. Aside from being the main elements of a morning routine, each of these activities has in common a different type of element. Heating elements are essential components to virtually every drying, heating, toasting or roasting application performed with electrical appliances. Though not always visible, these devices are responsible for the conversion of electrical energy into heat energy which is heavily relied upon in most homes, offices and industrial manufacturing facilities.
Despite their prevalence in modern society, heater elements often go unnoticed and underappreciated until they need repair or replacement. Without much thought and minimal effort, the flip of a switch or the push of a button provides the heat needed to cook food, dry clothes and warm entire buildings is easily accessible. Heating elements play a crucial role in such utility. While many are secluded in the non-visible portions of a machine or device, toasters, ovens and stoves provide the best visual representation of these mechanisms. When engaged, the tubular heating elements and heating coils that wrap and wind their way along the oven or stove top can be seen glowing red hot. Such heat is produced in a relatively simple process that involves just a few essential heating components.
Photos courtesy of Hotwatt, Inc.
A secure source of electricity is of course an essential component of all electric heating elements. This is most often a simple wall outlet with standardized voltage. An insulating core is not required, but commonly used to indirectly heat coils or tubular elements which may alternatively receive the heat directly. An encasing sheath is also present in most immersion heater elements to protect both the heater and the material being heated. When the element is turned on electricity flows from an outlet and is absorbed directly by the heating elements or indirectly by insulating cores. These elements are also known as resistors as they allow current to flow, but resist it thereby turning much of that energy into heat. The resistance of a given material will determine the use of the heating element of which it is a part. Nichrome and ceramic heating elements are extremely versatile while industrial heating elements use specialized mechanisms such as quartz or SiC heating elements.
Photos courtesy of Hotwatt, Inc.
While a hair dryer and toaster may not qualify as essential appliances for most, heating elements are crucial to the daily operations and functionality of many homes, offices and especially industrial facilities. These simplistic devices allow for the melting, cooking, curing, drying, sealing, forming and reforming of virtually any material. From the overlooked luxury of a ready warm shower in the morning to the essential regulation of engine temperature in vehicles and manufacturing plants, heating elements have quickly become essential elements of the day to day routine in the world.