ICS Magazine

Looking Into Electric Heat

November 20, 2007

It seems as though every article written about drying lately is about the science of drying. Drying with heat is a topic that has polarized the industry. Restorers have taken their stands on both sides of the issue. Some claim it is the best way to dry, others claim it is not for them.

One thing everyone will agree on is that heating equipment requires a fairly large investment. To this end, heat has been traditionally viewed as a drying system intended only for large restorers. The need for smaller heating units has recently been met by a number of new electric-only pieces of equipment that allow the use heat on a smaller scale. These units give you the added tool of heat in your drying arsenal. More importantly, they give you the chance to see for yourself whether one of the larger heat drying units is for you.

Why aren’t all heating units powered completely by electricity? Larger heating units (over 100,000 BTUs) must burn some sort of fuel to generate heat. The availability of electricity is too limited to be able to generate the BTUs necessary for drying a large structure. But for smaller jobs and crawlspaces where units under 100,000 BTUs will suffice, electricity is sufficient and easy. A 220-volt outlet offers enough power to create the BTUs needed for drying with heat.

A major concern with using electric heaters on water damage is safety. Never dry with a heating unit that was not designed for use in water damage situations. Electric heating units must be specifically designed for use in wet areas in order to have the safety components necessary. The electric heating units engineered for our industry have double and triple redundancy of safety components, making them as safe as, or safer than, the electric dehumidifiers and air movers we use.

Electric heating units offer you the prospect of using spot heating alongside your conventional drying equipment for quicker drying. Adding electric heat to your drying process may be exactly what you need to create a better, more cost-effective solution for especially-difficult-to-dry materials.

Hardwood and ceramic tile flooring are the fastest growing segments of the new flooring industry. They also represent some of the more difficult materials to dry. Wall cavity drying can also be challenging. Consider a plaster wall that is insulated and wet from the top to the bottom; the experienced restorer knows this is going to take quite a while to complete.

Considerations like these have caused some customers to decide that it would be better to just tear these items out than to dry them because the drying process is too long and too expensive to be a viable option. This leaves the drying contractor with less to dry and a more labor-intensive job that is less profitable. Another option is to dry with heat. Adding heat to a material increases drying speed. It makes drying these materials cost-effective and faster. The restorer benefits by offering a better solution than demolition, and the project becomes more profitable.

Another application for electric heating units is drawing in dry outside air, and preheating it as it is blown into the drying environment. This is an extremely effective way to dehumidify a wet environment any time the outside air is less than 50 GPP. For many areas of the country this represents more than 75 percent of the year.

Anytime you offer me a new piece of equipment that can save time, help me do a better job, and make me more money, you’ve got my attention.