Providing temporary heat is one of the challenges citizens have to face in regions with cold climates, as low temperatures bring forth their own share of problems.
For example, when the temperature outside our body drops, our basal metabolic rate (BMR) increases to produce more heat. This is necessary since the cells that make up our body perform at an optimal level only within a certain range. Bring the body temperature way above or way below 98.2ºF, and the body ceases to perform at its optimal level. Hence, when the surrounding temperature drops, our body strives to increase its own temperature in order to compensate for the drop outside. The BMR’s behavior due to this poses a problem. The problem lies in the fact that an increase in BMR means that the rate of stored energy consumed by our body increases, consequently depleting our body’s stored energy at a tremendous rate. This will bode ill for all bodily functions. It’s as if you had a car with already limited supply of fuel and you still had to turn on its airconditioning unit, consuming fuel at an unnecessarily faster rate.
One way to address this problem is to provide a source of temporary heat. If you can maintain the surrounding temperature at a comfortable level, your bodily functions will also work at a comfortable pace, consequently allowing it to consume energy at a normal rate.
Another problem that stems from having low temperatures is that it provides the ideal conditions for a rapid increase of the surrounding air’s humidity. This is because the water vapor saturation level of air drops with temperature. Meaning, air at lower temperatures is easily saturated or easily becomes “humid”. High humidity itself produces its own problems. With high humidity, the surroundings become a perfect breeding ground for mold and mildew. It also makes the surroundings susceptible to the onset of various forms of water damage such as the swelling of wooden floors due to the excessive absorption of moisture.
The presence of temporary heat will help increase the maximum amount of water vapor that the surrounding air can hold. This will therefore decrease the humidity of the surrounding air, and subsequently, the risk of water damage.
In the case of mechanical and plumbing installations, the problem of so-called “freeze ups” can be reason enough to have temporary heat around. Imagine not having water to flow through your faucet simply because they have frozen within the pipes or having a machine shutdown unexpectedly simply because its parts have been rendered immovable by the extreme cold.
These reasons are enough to validate the need for temporary heat. We now turn our attention to the popular types of temporary heat systems in the market today, as well as a brief statement of their uses. While this article does not contain a detailed discussion on each type, the succeeding list can serve as a guide for further research.
Types of Heaters
Block Heater – an electric-powered temporary heat source for cars to allow for easy starting in cold weather.
Central Heating – a system wherein one source of temporary heat distributes the heat to many locations in the building. Having a central heating is not only more economical, it also minimizes the production of air pollutants compared to individualized heating systems.
Convector Heater – a system that makes use of convection, i.e., the movement of air currents to distribute the heat. Heat transfer through convection is the best way to move huge amounts of heat since the heat is actually “carried” by the moving fluid.
Dielectric Heating – a system that makes use of the rotational motion of dipoles in a substance to generate heat within it, just like what happens in a microwave oven. Contrary to what most people think, the heat in a microwave oven does not come directly from the electromagnetic waves in the oven but rather, from the collisions of the rotating dipoles with the surrounding molecules in the heated material (e.g. food).
District Heating – a centralized heating system on a larger scale; most commonly applied to residential communities. Just like central heating systems, district heating provides for an economical solution for residents requiring temporary heat within a locality.
Electric Heating – any heating system or temporary heat source that entails the conversion of electrical energy to heat energy. Systems or devices that generate heat in this matter are usually capable of providing precision heating within the surroundings.
Gas Heater – a system that makes use of burning natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas to produce heat.
Geothermal Heating – a system that makes use of sources of hot steam or hot water found near the Earth’s surface.
Induction Heating – a system that makes use of electromagnetic induction to produce heat. In this system, eddy currents are formed when a high frequency alternating current passes through a metal and the resistance in the metal produces heat.
Kerosene Heater – a source of temporary heat that makes use of burning kerosene to produce heat. Many popular heating systems, like the torpedo heater, use kerosene as the fuel source to drive them.
Oil Heater – a heater that makes use of a heat reservoir made up of oil with a high specific heat capacity and boiling point. This heat reservoir then releases the stored heat to the surroundings via conduction and radiation.
Salamander or Torpedo Heater – a portable, usually kerosene-driven, source of temporary heat commonly used in constructions sites.
Solar Heater – any heating system that makes use of solar energy as its source of heat. The system collects heat from the sun through solar panels installed on rooftops. A liquid that passes through the panels is distributed to other locations in the house to transfer the collected heat there.
Problems Associated with Temporary Heat
While temporary heat provides the necessary alleviation from the discomfort felt during and problems arising from cold weather, sources of temporary heat are not without their own share of hitches.
For example, one of the solutions to the challenge of providing workers temporary relief in a construction site during winter is the so-called torpedo heater. These are portable heaters mounted on wheels that fire with kerosene, propane or natural gas.
While these sources of temporary heat are easy to move around, they are also sources of noise pollution. This is because they can produce a very loud irritating sound while in operation. This environment can be very inconvenient for the workers, who have to shout at the top of their voices to be heard.
Another problem with these torpedo heaters is that their exhaust can be a source of carbon monoxide. An accumulation of carbon monoxide within a building can subsequently be a cause of headaches and nausea. Worse, if a person is exposed to carbon monoxide for an extended period, this can cause death.
Temporary heat, while definitely a necessity during the cold winters, can be very expensive. Hence, when choosing from a collection of temporary heat solutions, it is important to do a meticulous assessment of the prices involved.
Electric heaters are definitely more expensive than fuel-based ones but these types also have their advantages. One big reason why you would want to have an electric over a fuel powered heater is its ability to provide precision heating. That is, you can have heat where you want it and when you want it. Other reasons for going electric is that such sources of temporary heat are generally more quiet, relatively cleaner, and don’t emit as much byproducts.
As stated earlier, electric heaters are more expensive though. That speaks for both the initial capital required to have one and the constant high expense in order to keep one (running of course).
So unless you can bear the brunt of the expenses you can incur in using them, or unless you think the advantages far outweigh the price, it would be advisable to avoid these types of heaters.
Having a cleaner, greener solution to practically any physical problem out there is the common thrust nowadays. This has made solar heaters a popular contender in the quest for the ideal heater. Not only is it environment friendly, but the notion of having one is an economically sound idea as well; in the long run, that is. Unfortunately, the initial capital investment is still quite high on these systems. However, the moment the price of solar panels drops to a reasonable amount, this system can easily be the most popular choice among temporary heat sources.
As made evident by the long list of heating sources and systems, and to think many other sources and systems have been left out, the importance of coming up with appropriate heating solutions for every problematic scenario associated with inconveniently low temperatures cannot be overemphasized.
Humans constantly strive to come up with innovative ideas to produce more efficient, economical, and convenient sources and systems to provide themselves with temporary heat. As consumers, our role is simply to pick the right system that would best fit our needs.