How stuff works - your kettle

22 February 2018

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There’s nothing as simple and comforting as putting on the kettle and sitting down with a hot cup of tea. The science behind how it works is really quite straightforward too.

In part three of our ‘how stuff works’ series, we take a look at how electricity powers our kettles.

A brief history

When gas cook-tops became more widely available around 100 years ago, the whistling kettle, otherwise known as a steam kettle became a popular kitchen appliance. The premise was simple, water in the kettle would boil, building pressure which was forced through the lid, releasing a high pitched whistle1.

By 1922, steam kettles were replaced with electric kettles, invented by Arthur Leslie2

Russell Hobbs then manufactured their K2 kettle in 1959, which featured a cool-touch handle and lid, preventing people from burning their hands3

How it works

If you’ve ever wondered how kettles work, we’re going to break it down for you.

Inside each Kettle is a metal coil. Electrical energy travels through the coil, turning into heat and warming the cold water inside it.

The process looks a little something like this:

  1. When the kettle is turned on, a large electric current flows through the coil, or the ‘heating element’.
  2. The coil has an electrical resistance (a measure of the difficulty to pass an electric current through it). This resistance turns electrical energy into heat as it passes through coil.
  3. The heat brings the water inside it to boiling point.
  4. Some kettles use a thermostat, which prompts them to switch off when the water reaches the right temperature.

How to save energy by using your Kettle more efficiently

Kettles are already 50% more efficient than stovetops when it comes to boiling water, but you could save even more energy by avoiding these three common mistakes:

  1. Your kettle will work harder if you’re filling it with large amounts of water. Save on energy by only using as much water as you need.
  2. Forgetting to turn off kitchen appliances can add up to 5% of your energy bill. Save on standby power by switching off after every use.
  3. Sometimes, your appliances just need a little TLC. If you don’t clean your kettle often, you might see a build up of limescale. Remember to clean it at least once a month. This will keep it in good order.

Find more energy efficiency tips here.

3 tips to keep your kettle running efficiently

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Did you know that kettles run more efficiently when you clean them once a month?


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