All household appliances that need to generate heat will require fuel or a heating element. Some may even use both. For example, in electric toaster ovens, there are different kinds of heating elements that are used. As such, it would be great to know these toaster oven heating element types.
Some of the more common heating elements that are used in toaster ovens include the Quartz heating element, others are made of Nichrome and some have a Ceramic construction. Some can even be used in combination with others.
The Quartz heating element is much different from the first two in that it uses short-wave infra-red radiation. The other two use a method known as joule heating where electrical resistance generates the heat necessary for cooking.
Say you want to replace your oven’s heating element and you have no idea how to determine the kind of heating element you use.
Worry not as here we’ll look at some of the more common heating elements that are used in toaster ovens like Quartz, Nichrome and Ceramic.
You’ll get an idea about how they work and what their advantages and disadvantages are.
To set us off, there are three main types of heating elements used in toaster ovens. The first is Quartz, then we have Ceramic and lastly, we have Nichrome.
Heating In a Toaster Oven
Toaster ovens were generally created to fit a market of people who do not need to prepare large amounts of food at a time.
In addition to that, they are very useful for people with limited space where fitting a full-sized oven would be next to impossible.
People living alone or students on campus can use toaster ovens to prepare single plates of food or quickly prepare a snack.
For this, the ovens need to be able to heat up effectively and cook the food at a constant temperature with even heating while avoiding burns.
Also Read: How to tell if oven heating element is bad?
Toaster Oven Heating Element Types
As mentioned, toaster ovens make use of different kinds of heating elements, yet the three common ones are ceramic, Nichrome, and Quartz.
These are quite distinct from one another not only in terms of how they look but also in how they work.
The end goal is the same, but the different heating elements take slightly different approaches to heating and cooking meals.
1. Quartz Heating Element
Quartz heating makes use of radiant heating techniques. Unlike others that emit heat, a quartz element emits some short-wave infra-red radiation that cooks the food.
Technically, a quartz heating element heats food in the same way that the sun can heat your skin, just at different intensities. So, the surface of the food gets heated up and depending on the quality of the toaster oven you have, you can end up with a very evenly-cooked meal.
With a quartz heating element, the infra-red radiation gets transmitted in a straight line from the source of the radiation, in this case, the heating element.
As such, reflectors will be needed to effectively direct the radiation to the food for even cooking.
The radiation itself loses power over a distance and hence renders the toaster oven very safe to use.
The heating element is comprised of a sealed quartz glass enclosure with an electrically-resistive element like tungsten inside. The tube is then filled with an inert gas like argon. The direct heating of the quartz material creates the infra-red radiation.
Pros and Cons
Toaster ovens with quartz heating elements have a higher response than some non-quartz elements like Nichrome. This means that they can heat up much faster and more evenly thus producing great results consistently.
While the kind of heating element doesn’t completely determine the cost of the toaster oven, some quartz heating element toaster ovens are quite costly.
2. Nichrome Heating Element
The second kind of heating element is Nichrome. It’s a metallic alloy comprising of nickel and chromium in the following ratio: 80% Nickel and 20% Chromium.
Combined, these elements have the huge benefit of a high resistance which in turn results in greater heat generation from a current being passes through the conductor.
Nichrome 80/20 is the most commonly used alloy for this purpose and hence its use in a toaster oven is a testament to its value as the main heat-producing component of a heating element.
The use of Nichrome heating elements falls under the broad category of heating types known as Joule heating whereby the resistance of a material is used as the means through which heat is generated.
Pros and Cons
Nichrome has a high resistance therefore it generates large amounts of heat. It is easy to bend and shape into coils and doesn’t expand too much.
Its high melting point also means that it can be used at high temperatures for long periods and survive.
Kanthal is another group of alloy just like the nichrome and is commonly used as a heating element.
Kanthal is comprised of iron, chromium and aluminium. It has the capacity to withstand much higher temperatures with melting point at 1500 degrees C.
Pros and Cons
Kanthal is highly flexible with a high tensile strength. They are used very commonly in toaster ovens, and other home heating devices.
One of the biggest benefit of Kanthal of Nichrome is that it is cheaper.
Unfortunately, compared to Nicrhome, Kanthal has a higher temperature coefficient of resistance. As such, it takes longer for Kanthal to heat up.
4. Ceramic Heating Elements
With ceramic heating elements, you usually get two kinds to choose from. One is made up of exposed ceramic rods that produce the heat and the other is made up of ceramic rods that enclose a resistance wire which generates the heat.
Ceramic heating elements are used in household toaster ovens because they are very safe and offer good amounts of resistance that can be altered by changing the composition of the ceramic during manufacturing.
Ceramic heating elements operate the same as Nichrome heating elements in that joule heating is the main principle behind their functionality.
With ceramic heating elements, as the temperature increases, so does the resistance of the material. As such, the element can only get so hot until it ‘self-regulates’.
Pros and Cons
A ceramic heating element can be used alongside some quartz heating elements for better performance of toaster ovens as evidenced by Panasonic’s FlashExpress toaster oven. Additionally, these elements can maintain a constant high temperature which is great for cooking.
There are plenty other types of heating elements out there made of different material.
There are polymer based heating elements as well as heating element alloys made out of exotic materials like platinum, tungsten etc.
However, these heating elements have industrial or specialized uses and are not really found on toaster ovens.
While toaster ovens are receiving a lot of competition from microwave ovens, they still serve a great purpose in modern homes, especially when you don’t need to prepare large quantities of food at once.
The ovens perform quite well and can cook food effectively. All this is thanks to their heating elements which generate the heat required for them to work.
There are many toaster oven heating element types and in this article, we have covered some of the more popular ones. They each serve their intended purpose well and can add great value to any person’s toaster oven.