A Shocking Lesson in Heat Control
Two years of engineering school behind him, my husband decides it is time to find a job in his “field” as he calls it. During school, he has been working as a TV repairman. I guess training and working as an aircraft electronics technician in the Marine Corps qualified him for that job at least. Now he wants to get into the big time.
Of all places to find a job in electronics engineering, he walked into a factory in West Virginia without an appointment. He saw a graphic of an electronic rectifier on their sign and the name of Electronic Control Systems, figuring it had to be the right place for his first real job.
Sparky harassed the receptionist with questions about what the company did in electronics. The VP of Operations heard the discussion. It just happened they were looking for someone to work as a junior type engineer that knew something about electronics. I couldn’t believe it when he got home and told me they hired him on the spot.
It was at a fantastic salary of $7,500 a year. Considering Sparky only made $10,000 for four years in the Marine Corps, he thought we were rich. Plus, he could enroll in engineering school nearby to finish his electronic engineering degree.
Back then, you didn’t take out a student loan to pay for college. Your parents had either saved up the money or worked while you went to school.
The first day at work, he found out that civilian electronics weren’t much like the electronics on a military fighter jet. His boss asked him to hook up one of the silicon rectifier power controllers to a test stand. He told me that night; he came to the “shocking or electrifying” realization that he needs to learn that heat sinks on these rectifier control devices were at the same voltage as the devices.
That was the first of many lessons he learned the hard way while working with silicon rectifiers. What he did learn is that these devices were very reliable and used in a wide variety of applications to control power and heat. Today’s PTC, Positive Temperature Coefficient heaters work on a similar concept but require much fewer controls to perform their designed function.
Reliability is the trademark of PTC heaters.
Reliability is the trademark of any top-quality heater. A unit is only efficient if it's able to deliver consistent, uniform heat when it's needed the most.
Anyone who's ever had a car seat overheat or a room take on "hot spots" knows the limits of traditional, fixed-resistance heaters. When you rely on a single-point sensor to assume the temperature of an entire surface, this poses more than a functionality issue. It also creates a significant safety risk.
While traditional heaters are still widely used across multiple industry niches, there's another, smarter solution. Enter, Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) heaters.
A PTC heater is safer, more reliable, and more consistent than a traditional heater. In this post, we're sharing eight reasons why you should reach for this type of heating solution on your next project.
Ready to learn more? Let's get started.
What is a PTC Heater?
Most standard heaters come equipped with traditional resistance wires and coils to generate heat. A PTC heater eschews this setup.
Instead, it's heating elements consist of ceramic stones, based on barium titanate. This material exhibits unique properties that allow the PTC heater to act as its sensor. The heater can run open-loop without the need for external diagnostic or feedback controls. As a result, a PTC heater eliminates any risk of overheating. It's also more efficient and dependable than its standard model counterpart, making it ideal for products requiring safe, quick, and uniform heating.
The Important Role of PTC Materials
The role of Positive Temperature Coefficient materials are materials that demonstrate a positive resistance change as temperatures increase.
Manufacturers can create PTC ceramics to feature different fixed temperatures that must occur before the significant resistance change happens. No matter where you set it, this point is called "The Curie Point." It is the heater's overarching temperature control point.
As the degrees grow higher, the materials' electrical resistance strengthens as well, limiting the flow of the current. Conversely, it allows the current to pass more quickly as temperatures drop.
In other words, PTC materials restrict current flow as the threshold temperature rises, but allow it to pass as it becomes colder. These heaters operate best between -40°C and 70°C (-40°F and 158°F), and engineers can customize the threshold temperatures during the initial design phase. They can even create heaters with multiple temperature zones!
Initially, PTC heaters draw full power. This quality enables them to heat up quickly and reach their optimum temperature. As the heat goes up from there, the overall power consumption level drops in tandem.
This design results in heat that is not only effective but also fast and energy-efficient.
How a PTC Heater Can Improve Your Next Project
Now that we've covered a little more about how PTC heater technology works let's discuss the many ways that one can benefit your next industrial project.
1. Safer Heating Functionality
We'll lead with an essential benefit of PTC heaters. They allow users to achieve the same level of heat as a standard model but at a fraction of the safety risk.
Their unique design enables PTC heaters to bypass all the failure modes and pitfalls that are most often associated with resistive wire, carbon fiber, and etched foil heaters. If any malfunction does occur, the system will "fail to cold" to render the effect harmless. The portion that failed will cease to draw additional current, while the rest of the heater will function as normal.
How is this possible? It's simple: These alternative heaters don't get anywhere near as hot. While a traditional heater can run at internal temperatures that exceed 900°F (482°C), a PTC heater stays well below those limits. It also acts as its sensor, removing any opportunity for overheating.
2. Self-Limiting Features
Its self-regulating properties mean that as a PTC heater's resistance increases, the current within the device decreases. The heater can react to the ambient temperature around it, shutting off if it exceeds its preset temperature.
This integrated safety and security feature that helps make sure you aren't generating too much or too little heat for your project needs.
3. Self-Regulating Features
Also, a PTC heater is self-controlling and self-regulating.
A PTC heater adjusts its consumption following environmental conditions. Over time, when it achieves an optimal temperature, it's able to slow production. As it backs off, the heater can maintain its lowest output possible and preserve its temperature.
4. Intricate Heating Patterns
As mentioned above, engineers can design a PTC heater to fulfill customized heating solutions that are as intricate as required.
As you designing your units, you can place your temperature zones exactly where you want them to achieve maximum coverage. You can also change the watt density with simple modifications, and add custom holes and cutouts as desired.
This user control allows for more uniformly distributed, consistent heating. Every point on a PTC heater's surface independently maintains its set temperature, eliminating the presence of hot and cold spots.
5. Fewer Components to Contend With
A PTC heater features fewer functioning components than a standard radiator.
There will be less wear and tear to deal with and fewer pricey pieces to replace. As an added benefit, the ceramic components of your system are less susceptible to water, chemical abrasion, and corrosion. These benefits improve the return on your investment and help ensure that your control system will last as long as possible.
The few pieces that do comprise a PTC heater are only running when required, rather than maintaining high temperatures around the clock. This quality helps keep the parts as durable and sturdy as possible. It doesn't take long for high temperatures applied at a consistent rate to wear materials down.
6. More Cost-Effective Than Traditional Models
The result is less energy use in the long run, which can save users a substantial sum of money.PTC heaters are designed to draw full power at colder temperatures, which allows them to reach their threshold temperature as fast as possible. As they achieve a steady-state, they consume less energy than traditional heaters. In addition to lower utility bills, you can enjoy other savings when you choose PTC heaters. For instance, the smaller number of parts on a PTC heater helps cut expenses associated with maintenance and upkeep.
You'll also avoid the high price of employee and system downtime, as these heaters are more reliable and high-functioning than their standard peer models.
7. Compact and Lightweight Materials
Forget clunky traditional heaters. When you invest in a PTC heater, the system is compact and lightweight. The PTC unit's footprint as small as possible.
PTC heaters are more flexible than silicone heaters. You can even connect multiple PTC heaters in parallel to accommodate heating requirements in an extra-large space.
Though they're not bulky, these materials are far from insignificant. Innovative and efficient, they're the backbone of PTC heating technology. Creating them, however, doesn't take its toll on the environment.
Find Your Next PTC Heater Here
Now that you know a few of the top benefits they provide any industrial manufacturing environment, are you ready to find the right PTC heater you need?
If so, you've come to the right spot.
We carry a wide range of industrial PTC heating solutions, from fans and convection units to surface and air heaters, thermoelectric coolers, and advanced controls.
Feel free to browse our online inventory and contact us with any questions. We'll help you find the right part to complete your project.