According to a local electrician in Riverside at United Plumbing Heating Air & Electric, Heating elements are tightly wound coils of resistive wire mounted inside of an electric furnace cabinet. The heating elements in a furnace look very similar to the elements in a toaster or a hot plate, and they operate under the same basic principle of electrical resistance.
Technically, electricity is the flow of electrically charged particles (known as current) through a conductive material, in this case electrons through metal wires. Different materials have different properties that inhibit electrical current.
The cross-sectional size of the material also affects its resistance. A long thin wire has greater resistance than a short thick wire. Heat is a byproduct of electrical resistance, and the relationship between heat and resistance is directly proportional. More resistance means greater heat.
The heating element is only one small part of an electric home heating system. Heating starts with the thermostat, which sends an electric signal to relays inside the furnace. Those relays apply voltage to the heating elements, causing them to build up heat. Next, forced-air blowers are automatically started to move hot air through the cabinet to eventually heat the living areas of the house.
Heating elements are relatively simple components. They either work or they don’t. Either the element creates heat or it does nothing. The passage of time, mechanical abuse and inferior construction are frequent causes for failed heating elements. Elements usually can’t be repaired, but they are replaceable. A continuity test performed with a digital multi-meter is the easiest way to determine whether an element needs replacement.
If you need your electrical furnace serviced, call a local electrician in Riverside at United Plumbing Heating Air & Electric.