How Does a Hot Plate Work?



  • A hot plate is an electrically powered heating surface. It is basically an individual stove top burner, completely separate and detached from anything else so it can either be moved around freely, or stored out of sight when not in use to save space. The coils are sometimes encased in a heat-conductive box either of ceramic or metal. It is commonly used in a laboratory setting, as well, for heating up solutions.


  • A hot plate produces heat by using electricity, instead of traditional means of producing heat by using fire. How it does this is by running electricity through its heat coils. The heat coils have a relatively high level of electrical resistance. As electricity encounters resistance along its course, the buildup changes from electrical energy, to heat energy, causing the heating coils to emit heat. So how does a hot plate produce heat? Remember, it is the resistance as the electricity moves through the coils.

The Physics

  • The process, often referred to as Joule Heating, can be calculated with an equation. The heat energy that will be given off is equal to the electrical current squared, times the resistance, times the period of time, or (Heat Energy)=(Current)^2 (Resistance) (period of time). Therefore, a hot plate that takes a higher electrical current, and has a higher resistance in its coils, is going to produce more heat. By turning the hot plate control knob, the current is controlled, allowing the user to have more or less heat.


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