Convection heater

A convection heater is a type of heater that uses air convection currents to generate and spread heating. These currents circulate throughout the body of the appliance and across its heating element. This process, following the principle of thermal conduction, heats up the air and causes air molecules to become buoyant or increase in volume and rise.[1]

As heated air molecules rise, they displace room-temperature air molecules and cause them to move near the heating appliance. As a result, the displaced air molecules get heated up, increase in density, rise, and repeat the same cycle until the appliance is turned off either manually or automatically.


All ancient heating systems, including hearths, furnaces, and stoves, operated primarily through convection. Fixed central hearths, which were first excavated and retrieved in Greece, date back to 2500 B.C. while crude fireplaces were used as early as the 800s AD and in the 13th century when castles in Europe were built with fireplaces with a crude form of chimney. [2]

Since then, different developments took place, including the development of stoves with thermostatic control in 1849, the rise of numerous cast iron stove manufacturers during the time of the Civil War, and publication of the very first manual on fireplace design called Mechanique du Feu in 1973.[2]

The Model ā€œSā€, illustrated by the Sala Heater & Mantel Co. in Dallas, Texas in 1924, is an example of an early model of a convection space heater. This model consisted of three stoves and was considered to be a highly efficient radiant type of gas heater at the time. It utilizes radiant heat, and, by virtue of draft construction, supplements its power by drawing cold air through the facing, heating it, and forcing it out through the register. This process forces air circulation while maintaining a cool exterior on the appliance.[3]

These early developments, along with the technological advancements made possible by electricity and inventions of tools like thermostats, gave way for the design of modern convection heaters that people know today.


Convection heaters are commonly classified according to their power source. Electric convection heaters use electricity while combustion or gas-fired heaters use gas, propane, or any other type of fuel. In terms of heating element, convection heaters usually have metal coils, nickel-chromium, resistance wire, thermal liquid, or ceramic heating element.[4]

Panel Heater

A panel heater is a type of electric convection heater commonly used for whole-room heating in residential and small commercial settings. They are often mistaken for electric radiators, which are devices that use radiant heating and transfer heat directly to objects rather than using the air as medium. Panel heaters are typically used as a complementing device to a primary or central heating system. They are also usually fitted with time and temperature controls.[5]

Fan Heater

Fan heaters are a combination of the warming features of a heater and the air distribution capacity of a fan. The earliest fan heaters became available in the 1950s right after the invention of tangential fans.[5] Modern fan heaters have fans with multiple fan speed levels that can work independently from a heating element.[5]

Institutional Convector Heater

Institutional convector heaters are heavy-duty heaters designed strictly for commercial and industrial use.[4] Their construction is designed to reach a broad surface area.

Oil Heater

An oil heater, also called column heater, is electrically heated and uses oil as a heat reservoir. Because oil has a high heat capacity and a high boiling point, it is a suitable heat pathway between the heating element and the cavities of a heater unit.[4]

Gas-Fired Convection Heater

Gas-fired convection heaters depend on gas supply rather than on electricity. These heaters consist of a number of components namely, a gas burner, air filter, gas valves, a blower, and a thermostat.[5]

See also


  1. Shah, Y.T. (2018). Thermal energy: Sources, recovery, and applications. 6000 Broken Sound, Parkway NW: Taylor & Francis Group.
  2. Nagengast (2001). "An early history of comfort heating". The ACHR News. Retrieved 11 November 2019.
  3. Sala, Theodore. "The Sala Model S". Sala Heater Catalog 1924. Sala Heater and Mantel Co. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  4. dela Cruz, R. (n.d.). "Convection heaters: Everything you need to know". Engineer Warehouse Learning Center. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  5. Smith, C. (2007). This cold house: The simple science of energy efficiency. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

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