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resistance heating[ri′zis·təns ‚hēd·iŋ]
The generation of heat by electric conductors carrying current. The degree of heating for a given current is proportional to the electrical resistance of the conductor. If the resistance is high, a large amount of heat is generated, and the material is used as a resistor rather than as a conductor.
In addition to having high resistivity, heating elements must be able to withstand high temperatures without deteriorating or sagging. Other desirable characteristics are low temperature coefficient of resistance, low cost, formability, and availability of materials. Most commercial resistance alloys contain chromium or aluminum or both, since a protective coating of chrome oxide or aluminum oxide forms on the surface upon heating and inhibits or retards further oxidation.
Since heat is transmitted by radiation, convection, or conduction or combinations of these, the form of element is designed for the major mode of transmission. The simplest form is the helix, using a round wire resistor, with the pitch of the helix approximately three wire diameters. This form is adapted to radiation and convection and is generally used for room or air heating. It is also used in industrial furnaces, utilizing forced convection up to about 1200°F (650°C). Such helixes are stretched over grooved high-alumina refractory insulators and are otherwise open and unrestricted.
The electrical resistance of molten salts between immersed electrodes can be used to generate heat. Limiting temperatures are dependent on decomposition or evaporization temperatures of the salt, Parts to be heated are immersed in the salt. Heating is rapid and, since there is no exposure to air, oxidation is largely prevented. Disadvantages are the personnel hazards and discomfort of working close to molten salts.
A major application of resistance heating is in electric home appliances, including electric ranges, clothes dryers, water heaters, coffee percolators, portable radiant heaters, and hair dryers. Resistance heating also has application in home or space heating.
If the resistor is located in a thermally insulated chamber, most of the heat generated is conserved and can be applied to a wide variety of heating processes. Such insulated chambers are called ovens or furnaces, depending on the temperature range and use. The term oven is generally applied to units which operate up to approximately 800°F (430°C). Typical uses are for baking or roasting foods, drying paints and organic enamels, baking foundry cores, and low-temperature treatments of metals. The term furnace generally applies to units operating above 1200°F (650°C). Typical uses of furnaces are for heat treatment or melting of metals, for vitrification and glazing of ceramic wares, for annealing of glass, and for roasting and calcining of ores. See Electric heating