Electricity-based heating is a complicated subject. All types of heaters tend to use at least a little electricity, including gas heaters. True electric heaters, however, are inefficient, since it takes much more energy to run a current through a heating element than it does to ignite a fuel. However, certain types of heaters that use electricity are cost-effective, depending on the environment.
Heat pumps draw in heat from the air nearby to heat air or water inside the home. They have motors that operate pumps and compressors, but they depend mostly on refrigerants and the natural movement of thermal energy to conduct, making them efficient devices. However, they only work well in warm temperatures. If the air becomes too cold around the heat pump, it needs to use electric elements, which are costly.
Natural gas heaters use gas mined directly from deposits and only undergoes basic filtering procedures. As a result, the gas is a mix of many compounds, mostly methane. However, it only uses a small amount of electricity to sense the temperature of the water or air, and to ignite the gas itself. Because the gas is so simple to store and channel, it is also inexpensive, making this heater one of the most cost-efficient options.
Propane is similar to natural gas, except it is available in areas where natural gas is not. Propane can be easily condensed and shipped in trucks to houses in the country. Natural gas flows through gas lines that are only installed in more densely populated areas. Propane is more expensive because of its transportation and refining processes, but is still cost-effective.
Space heaters are small, portable heaters designed only to heat a certain room. These heaters have several advantages. First, they can be turned on and off easily as desired. Second, they only heat a small area, which allows them to be more efficient than larger heaters that need to use vents that reach the entire house. Electric space heaters are one of the more efficient uses of electric heating elements.
Radiant heaters are installed under the floor. Electric versions use a series of wires that produce heat through electrical resistance. This heat radiates and heats upward into the room. These systems have many of the same benefits as space heaters.