How Do Electric Wall Heaters Work?

Wall heaters have evolved from radiator tube heaters made from cast iron to copper pipes through which steam or heated gas flowed. The network of metal pipes required to transfer the steam from a boiler room to each radiator heater was costly and energy inefficient. Gas heaters and electric heaters were developed that were safer and more energy-efficient, making the old steam piped heater systems obsolete.

An electrical heating element embedded inside a non-flammable material with a large surface area is heated by an electric current. The heat is transferred to the radiative surface, which heats if the cold air in the room and creates a warm convection current of air to flow in the room.

White wall heater

Wall heaters have also been developed using a heated gas to transfer the heat to the radiative surface of the wall heater and thus heating the room via induction. The development of gas-heated wall heaters has provided a low-cost alternative to electric wall heaters. Technological advances have made both electric and gas-heated wall heaters safe for domestic use.

The optimal functioning of electric wall heaters is essential to keep living spaces at a comfortable temperature without excessive electricity use. Let’s look at how electric wall heaters work in more detail.

What Is An Electric Wall Heater?

An electric wall heater consists of a length of resistive metal wire embedded inside a non-flammable material with good heat conductivity and a large surface area. The amount of electrical current flowing through the resistive wire can be varied and will affect the amount of heat generated within the heating element (resistive metal).

The electrons flowing through the heating element will collide with particles within the resistive material, causing the electrons’ vibrational energy (kinetic energy) to be transferred to the metallic atoms in the heating element. The kinetic energy is then passed onto the molecules and atoms of the material covering the heating element.

As this material is a good conductor of heat, the vibrational energy will be transferred to the air molecules in the room. As hot air rises, cold air will be drawn into the bottom of the warm conductive surface of the heating element, absorbing the heat radiated from the warm heater surface.

The amount of heat radiated by the surface of the heater to the air can be controlled by adjusting the amount of electrical current flowing through the heating element. If fewer electrons flow through the metallic resistor element, there will be fewer collisions between electrons and metallic atoms and thus less heat generated.

Temperature (or heat) is the measure of the amount of kinetic energy in the particles of material. If the temperature is low, there are very few collisions between the molecules in the air and the surface of your skin.

Conversely, if the molecular energy of the air molecules has been increased via the induction of electrical heat emitted by a current of energized electrons flowing through it, the air temperature is increased.

Do Electric Wall Heaters Need To Be Vented?

Good ventilation is required to allow for the most efficient transfer of heat from the electrically heated surface of the wall heater. For the heater to function optimally, cold air must continually move over the surface of the wall heater, absorbing the vibrational energy to the air in the room.

If the wall heater is not well vented, the heat transfer to the air is less efficient, resulting in a poor transfer of heat energy to the atmosphere. All material in the room will absorb the vibrational heat energy from the warm air resulting in a drop in temperature.

The walls, roof, and floor must be made of insulating materials insulated with layers of material with a high R-value. Double pane windows will also limit the loss of heat via heat transfer to the cold molecules of the glass of the windows.

Do Electric Wall Heaters Have Filters?

Electric wall heaters do not have any filters.

The surface of the heaters can be dusted or wiped clean with a damp cloth regularly. Wall heater designs are simple and contain no moving parts to transfer the kinetic heat energy from the electrons to the air in the room.

The optimal installation provides for cold, clean air to be drawn up from the floor level and over the warm surface of the heater, where the energy is transferred to the air molecules and curried upward via convection currents. Warm air always rises to colder upper layers causing the air in the room to circulate over the surface of the wall heater.

How Hot Do Electric Wall Heaters Get?

The modern wall-mounted electrical heater is regulated to a maximum temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius). The heat transfer to the air is enough to create safe and comfortable heating.

Electric wall heaters are designed with a controller to limit and regulate the electric current flowing through the heating element. If the element gets too hot, it can pose a danger to people and pets and may cause a fire.

Many new electrical heaters are also fitted with a safety shut-off switch to prevent them from overheating and causing injury or fire. If you want to learn more, read our guide to find out are electric wall heaters safe.

If you’re considering painting your electric wall heater, make sure you get a paint that will adhere and withstand these temperatures.


Safety and energy efficiency has led to the development of very efficient methods of creating a comfortable temperature and clean air to breathe in homes, offices, and other workspaces.
(You can even use them in your bathroom – read our guide to find out are bathroom wall heaters safe).

The transfer of heat energy from heat sources such as solar energy, gas-fired furnaces, or electrically heated surfaces has been optimized to suit various situations best.

In some countries, geothermal energy from sources close to the earth’s surface is used to transfer heat into homes. The use of natural gas heating is widely used in many situations where grid-tied electricity is not available. The orientation of a building and the color and types of building material can provide natural solar heating.

The electric wall-mounted heater panels offer most spaces with an uninterrupted electricity supply and a safe and energy-efficient option. In conjunction with insulating building materials and methods, electric wall heaters are widely used and secure.