Electric Heating and Microgeneration

Cold Winter Road

Canada is cold. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

That is why we use so much energy heating our homes over those long winter months. But all that energy isn’t necessarily coming from the clean sources that produce most of our electricity, it is coming from fossil fuels burned at the building level. This results in almost 70% of the energy used in Canada’s residential sector being generated by the combustion of fossil .

So, there is clearly an argument for heating with electricity. We will look at some of the other supporting points next.

Why heat with electricity

Approximately 45% of Canada’s GHG emissions come from burning fossil fuels to make heat and electricity vs. 28% from the entire transportation sector. This should seem shocking considering how clean most of Canada’s generating methods are, but it is the wide adoption of natural gas and oil furnaces that skew the results.

In provinces like Ontario, B.C., and Quebec where the electrical grids are close to emissions free, most of the GHG emissions come from fossil fuel combustion at the building level.

So, if you want to decrease our carbon footprint as much as possible, making the switch to an electric heating system is your best bet.

Different types of Electric Heaters

There are quite a few electric heating systems to choose from with some being easier to retrofit than others.

  1. Forced-Air Furnaces

This first method is best suited to new construction where duct work can be run before any of the drywall goes up. It works by heating air in a centralized furnace and then distributing it using fans throughout the home. Compared to other methods, forced-air furnaces are not as efficient or as cheap but can provide even heating throughout the home.

  1. Electric Baseboard Heaters

Electric baseboard heaters are another form of electric resistance heating although are far more efficient than forced-air furnaces as they do not require additional energy to distribute the heat. An electric baseboard works by heating cool air as it makes its way up from the floor though an array of heated fins and exits as hot air through the top.

A benefit of baseboard heating is that different zones of your home can be heated to different temperatures depending on how often those rooms are used. So, if you aren’t using a bedroom for example, that room can be kept at a cooler temperature, saving you money by not heating that unused area.

  1. Electric Convection Heaters

Electric convection heaters work in the same way as a baseboard heater, only they make use of a fan to spread the heat more quickly. So, although there is slightly more energy usage to spread the heat, a convection heater can heat a room faster and more evenly than electric baseboards.  

  1. Electric Radiant Heating

The final method is electric radiant heating. These systems are the most difficult to install so it is best to incorporate it during the building stage rather than as a retrofit to an existing home. The way it works is by heating electrical cables embedded into the floor of the home. This results in very even heating throughout the home. Or, instead of electrical cables, a hydronic system can be installed which circulates hot water through pipes in the floor to achieve a similar effect only with lower electricity usage.

Microgeneration and Heat

The Anorra Microgeneration Wind Turbine

Since heating our home with electricity would result in a significant increase in your electricity bills (but also eliminate your gas bill), installing a microgeneration system can help offset that increased cost.

Our microgeneration wind turbine, the Anorra, is designed to be most efficient when hooked up to electric heating systems making it a great choice if you want to transition to cleaner, greener, electric heat.

Check out this graphic for an example of what the wiring would look like for hooking up the Anorra to an electric heater.

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this article check out these: Microgeneration 101, 6 Ways to Improve Energy Efficiency at the Cottage

For further reading on this topic, refer to these sources:



 Borrum Energy Solutions Newsletter



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