Life cycle assessment when heating with electricity

Electric heaters are generally considered very unecological - and also very expensive. Both are only partially true. How ecological is the heating with electricity, and under what circumstances it can be very ecological, read in this post.

Electricity as an energy form for heating

Electricity is a very common source of energy that is available virtually everywhere. Heating with electricity is therefore still widespread.

Electricity heaters are considered comparatively less efficient, but also extremely expensive. For many older technologies, such as night storage heaters, this may also apply - they transform vast amounts of expensive electricity into comparatively little heat.

By contrast, modern technologies, such as infrared radiant heaters, are far more efficient than many forms of heating using fossil fuels. After all, an infrared heater in energy consumption is almost 2.5 times more efficient than a modern gas heating system, as a study by the TU Kaiserslautern several years ago proved.

The cost of heating does not reflect this higher efficiency simply because the price of one kilowatt hour of electricity is more than three times as high as the price of one kilowatt hour of gas. But that's politics and not technology that causes it.

Problem of power generation

If electricity for heating was used more widely than it is currently the case, in any case the so-called base load would rise massively. The base load is the amount of electricity that the power plants constantly have to provide, as well as so-called peak currents occur at certain times.

Increasing the base load, however, poses major problems for the generators. Covering a higher base load would require more power plants. Especially in the winter months, the generation of electricity is only comparatively unecological possible.

An even higher base load than is currently required can by no means be generated by renewable energies. The much-vaunted (but unfortunately anyway faltering) energy transition would then certainly have to be postponed further back.

Solution: Decentralized power generation

Heating with electricity can be very ecological and also very cost-effective when using appropriate technologies (such as infrared heaters). The prerequisite for this, however, is that the base load is not increased but, if possible, reduced.

This can be achieved through decentralized power generation. This means that individual households or smaller settlement areas generate the electricity they require themselves. There are various options available for this:

  • photovoltaic systems
  • small wind turbines (also available for single-family homes)
  • possibly also mini hydroelectric power plants (which need neither dams nor concrete river beds)
  • Stirling engines, where the use makes sense

After all, 84% of all Germans would like to see a decentralization of power generation. Whether the big energy companies see it that way is rather questionable.

Decentralized power generation reduces the base load and makes electricity generation much more ecological. Storage and buffering technologies are already available today - but are still expensive.

Although solar cells (many toxic substances in the production, poor disposability) and wind power plants (massive intervention in the landscape, noise, danger to animals) are completely ecologically not, but many of these problems are quite soluble.

However, without decentralization, heating with electricity is still a very unecological matter.

Video Board: Life Cycle Assessment of Energy