How Do Electric Kettles Work? A Home Guide

Electric kettles are a quintessential part of any kitchen. They have been around for decades and have evolved to become more efficient, safer, and easier to use than ever before. 

With so many varieties on the market it can be hard to know which one is best suited for your needs.

how do electric kettles work
In this guide we will explore the different types of electric kettles available, what they do, how they work, safety tips and tricks as well as their pros and cons.

An electric kettle is a water boiler that rapidly heats water to a pre-set temperature. Electric kettles have been around since the early 20th century and were originally designed for professional use.

It wasn’t until the 1950s that electric kettles became popular around the world. Today they are one of the most common kitchen appliances, used to heat water for tea, coffee and hot chocolate.

2. How do electric kettles work?

water boiling The kettle’s exterior is made of plastic or stainless steel. Underneath the handle is a heat resistant handle which contains an electric heating element that heats the water in the kettle. Water is drawn into the base of the kettle which contains a faucet and filter for convenience.

Electric kettles can heat water faster than a stove-top kettle and can be set to a specific temperature, usually between 90°C and 100°C (194°-212°F). Some models also offer a preheat function to heat the kettle to the desired temperature before the water boils.

The heating element in the base of the kettle switches itself on when it detects that the water has reached boiling point. When the water is boiled, steam is released. A safety cut-out switch stops the kettle working, should the lid be opened while it is boiling.

3. How does a kettle know when to switch off?

In electric kettles with a built in thermometer, the kettle will switch off when it detects that it has reached 100°C. This ensures that the water does not boil for longer than necessary. 

The thermometer in the kettle controls the power supply to the heating element, which is either turned on or off depending on whether water is in the kettle.

4. What safety features do kettles have?

safety features of kettlesElectric kettles designed for the domestic market conform to strict safety standards. They are fitted with cut out mechanisms which turn off the kettle if the lid is opened or there is a problem with the heating element.

Electronic kettles switch off if the kettle is empty, this prevents overheating and the release of steam. Some models are fitted with an automatic shut-off which is activated if the kettle is filled with cold water. 

This shuts off the heating element to prevent overheating of the element and the kettle.

5. How long does a kettle take to boil?

This depends on the wattage of the kettle and what temperature you set it to – a powerful kettle with an element large enough for rapid boiling may take only minutes. A smaller kettle will take longer to boil, but may be fitted with higher temperature settings allowing you to boil at a lower temperature for gentler heating. 

On average, a 1 litre kettle will take around 5 minutes to boil at a temperature setting of 100°C.

6. Is it safe to leave water in an electric kettle?

leaving water in kettleIt is advisable to utilize the water immediately after it has been boiled. While it is safe to drink or utilize the water after it has cooled, it is not recommended to keep the water in the kettle for longer periods of time. 

When water stands in a kettle, it can support bacterial growth and transfer properties from the kettle to the water.

7. Is it safe to reheat water in a kettle?

Reheating water in an electric kettle is not recommended as the properties of the water may change. If you need hot water for a recipe or other use, it is recommended to boil fresh water in the kettle.

8. How dangerous is an electric kettle?

safety features of kettleModern kettles are designed to shut off when the water reaches boiling point. This can assist in preventing damage or injury. 

However, it is advisable not to use the kettle with the lid off, or with the kettle filled below the minimum water level. This is to avoid the risk of burns or scalds if steam comes out of the kettle.

Like any electrical appliance, the kettle should be kept away from water. In other words, the kettle should not be placed near a sink or open sources of water as this could cause an electrical hazard.

9. How do cordless electric kettles work?

cordless electric kettleCordless kettles have a detachable power supply which can be plugged into the mains. In cordless kettles, the heating element is usually concealed within the base of the kettle.

The base of the kettle is filled with water and placed on top to make contact with the element. The power supply then sits in a cradle at the base of the kettle. Cordless kettles can be more challenging to use, as you have to place the kettle back in the cradle after every use.

However, they are more convenient, as you can easily remove the kettle from its base for pouring without having to unplug it.

10. How expensive are cordless kettles?

Cordless kettles vary in price depending on the make and model. They are a more expensive option than standard electric kettles, but may be more convenient to use. 

As stated, cordless kettles are usually designed for ease of use and offer added convenience with a freestanding design.

11. What is a variable temperature kettle?

variable temperature kettleA variable temperature kettle has a control which allows you to adjust the temperature of your water. This is particularly useful for those who want a specific heat level for a particular drink, such as tea. 

However, it may be necessary to heat water longer or at a higher temperature if you wish to make instant coffee or other hot drinks.

12. Benefits of a variable temperature kettle?

A variable temperature kettle could be beneficial if you regularly drink different types of hot drinks, or if you are concerned about the health effects of hot drinks. 

For example, green tea is generally brewed at a lower temperature than black tea and can be more beneficial for your health.

Final thoughts

Electric kettles are simple appliances that can make our lives much easier. However, it is important to remember the safety precautions associated with these modern conveniences.

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