How to Make an Electric Heater

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An electric heater is a device that converts electricity into heat. A commercial version typically produces infrared radiation which is converted into heat when it strikes an absorbing surface. This type of heater may also be known as a space heater because it's designed to heat a specific area, especially when the air itself is cold. You can demonstrate this principle by making a very basic electric heater from common materials.

Things You'll Need

  • 1.5V Battery
  • 2 alligator clips
  • Ceramic plate
  • Electrical tape
  • Electrical wire
  • Steel wool
  • Wire stripper
  • Cut two lengths of electrical wire with the wire stripper. Strip off approximately 2 cm of insulation from each of the four ends with the wire stripper.

  • Tape one end of a wire to the negative terminal of the battery with electrical tape. Likewise, tape an end of the other wire to the battery's positive terminal.

  • Connect each of the free ends of the wires to an alligator clip. Take a handful of steel wool and shape it into a long cylindrical shape. Pull the strands apart slightly to ensure they're only loosely packed together. Place the steel wool in a ceramic plate.

  • Fasten an alligator clip on each end of the cylinder of steel wool. The steel wool should begin to heat up and may even produce smoke.

  • Compare this demonstration to a commercial electric heater. A basic commercial heater may use a heating element that consists of several coils (filaments) of thin wire to provide a circuit with high resistance and a high surface area. The resistance is carefully chosen so that's high enough to produce a large amount of heat but not high enough to melt the wires. Furthermore, the coils of wire are typically enclosed in a half cylinder with a reflective surface that concentrates the heat and directs it outwards.

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