The physics of a boiling kettle – my question to the commission!


“I understand that the Commission proposes to introduce measures to limit the power of electric kettles. Is this the case?

Does the Commission have any grasp of the basic physics of boiling a kettle?

Is the Commission aware that so far as the water itself is concerned, it takes just the same energy to boil a litre of water slowly as to boil it quickly?

Is the Commission aware that in boiling it slowly, over a longer time, more waste heat will be lost to the environment through conduction, convection and radiation?

Does the Commission therefore recognise that this proposal will increase electricity consumption, generate more waste heat, and tend to increase emissions, both of CO2 and water vapour?”

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66 Responses to The physics of a boiling kettle – my question to the commission!

  1. Maureen Gannon says:

    Now Roger surely you have spent enough time in the den of iniquity otherwise known as the European Parliament that you cannot blind them with either common sense or science , they will probably set up an inquiry to get you an answer to the poser you have set them .

  2. Andy Robertson-Fox says:

    Reminds me of the old story about when being low on petrol remembering to drive as fast as you can to get home before it runs out……
    or the car driver who was stopped by the polıce late a night during the three day week for driving with only the car side lights on. When asked why the driver replied “Well offıcer, the government want us all to save electricity so I am doing my bit”

    Wonder if the Commision has tthought about introducing lighting and heating limitations on retail outlets when not open for business?.

  3. catalanbrian says:

    Superficially it does seem rather ridiculous. However I don’t think that, if it is true, the intention is to save energy, which as you correctly say would not, in any event, happen. It is more likely to be connected with safety and the limitation of the wiring in many continental houses. In some countries, unlike the UK, the supply to ones house is limited. For example in Spain it is possible for the feed into a house to be as little as 2.5Kw, so a 3Kw kettle would just blow the main fuse. And given the state of the wiring in many houses it is just as well that the supply is limited! Mind you the maximum safe limit for a single UK socket is 2990w, so a 3Kw kettle, which is not an unusual beast, exceeds the safe limit. And if it is to do with safety I think that even UKIP would agree that there should be a maximum wattage for any appliance.

    • ian wragg says:

      So how do they go on with air con. Even our little inverter drive is 3KW and we can boil the kettle as well.

      • catalanbrian says:

        Check your facts before implying that my post is incorrect. Most people do not have aircon and clearly your kettle is smaller than 3Kw, so your comment proves nothing.

    • ian wragg says:

      Why should the rest of the world suffer because Spanish wiring is crap. These proposals are justbto try and reduce peak load due to the stupid energy polkicies. No word about the sabotage of the GDF-Suez nuclear plant in Belgium which will result in rolling power cuts when the wind doesn’t blow. No back up you see. Good isn’t it.
      Europe is rapidly reverting to 3rd world status due to our intrepid politicians. Vote UKip.

      • catalanbrian says:

        It is nothing to do with Spanish wiring. Just read the whole piece and you will see that the safety aspect also applies to the UK where the maximum safe load on a socket is 2990w.

      • Andy Robertson-Fox says:

        I am no electrician but I have just looked at the recommended safety levels for one socket and it is, as you say, 2990w but this is the nominal figure and that converts to 3kw in practice, so a 3kw kettle is “in”. Of course it is normally possible to use more sockets on the same ring circuit and, no doubt, in many households one will fınd sockets wıth adaptors that can cause an overlaod.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Its current that blows/trips a fuse/MCB in a domestic Fuse/Consumer Unit. Fuses take longer to blow than MCBs, RCDs are in use primarily to protect from electric shock.

        Whether a fuse blows controlling a domestic spur depends on current drawn and for how long. It could be either 16 Amp or 32 Amp in a modern house Consumer Unit. And there maybe a number of separate spurs. 3Kw draws 12 Amps.

        Older houses (pre 1980) will likely have fuses: 15 Amp (Blue) 30 Amp (Red) and 5 Amp for Lights (White).

        A Kitchen Oven power switching socket may have a combined 3 pin socket and that lot would be on a 30/32 Amp fuse/trip usually. An immersion tank heater maybe be somewhere on a separate 15 Amp spur and possibly an electric heater shower unit. The latter is usually on a 30/32 Amp RCD.

        Plug a 3Kw kettle into a 13 Amp socket in a non kitchen room with another similar device (elect heater on 2 bars) and you may trip an MCB. A fuse may hang on for a while, particularly if its not fuse wire! or wrongly rated?

        Whats dangerous about all this is spur cable rating and the fuse/trip rating in domestic sites. There is no formal check on that unless you have an electrician on a servicing contract….unlikely.

        Despite all this I have not heard of a 3KW kettle frying a house or spur yet.

        Derating our devices is about CO2 saving apparently? Or while they fumble about trying to construct adequate power stations.

      • ian wragg says:

        I just blogged this on Richard North’s blog. He’s a bit of a tosser if you don’t agree with him.

        The Janet and John stuff is for the less educated who will probably think a 2kw kettle rather than a 3 kw kettle will save them money when it patently will not. I work in the power industry and most of this nonsense is being is being discussed by EU governments to try and mitigate the disaster which passes for energy policy. Except of course for the Fatherland which has grabbed the bull by the horns and commissioned a raft of coal and lignite power stations with some of the equipment shipped from scrapped stations in Britain.
        There is proposals to reduce the wattage on most domestic appliances or should I say was until it came into the public domain and the backlash started.
        The EU always starts by stating we have no proposals to…………..
        Now they want to regulate our private ports to the advantage of state ports on the continent. There’s no end to it.

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        alan • 2 hours ago

        From any way I look at this it appears to me to be a managed decline strategy, growing nations are expanding their generating capacity exponentially.
        Our capacity is contracting and what we have is being rationalised, this road only goes in one direction and it isn’t good.

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        RAENorth Mod > alan • 2 hours ago

        You are comparing chalk and cheese … growing nations (such as India) are expanding capacity, but from a very low base. Per capita consumption is still a small fraction of ours.

        That notwithstanding, even if we were needing to expand capacity, improving efficiency is still a good thing.

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        alan > RAENorth • 2 hours ago

        See my post in the main thread, all is not as it seems.

        What was that you replied to me with 48 hours ago about kettles:

        “There is no proposed standard on kettles, and the likelihood is that there will not be one.”
        While there may be no prevailing legislation they are all over it.
        I stand by my thrust, we are in managed decline mode.
        Even if that isn’t the intent, it “will” be the result.

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        RAENorth Mod > alan • 2 hours ago

        There is no proposed standard on kettles, and the likelihood is that there will not be one. The fact that they are commissioning studies, in order to determine priorities, is itself unremarkable. Would you expect them not to prioritise?

        Your point about “managed decline” may or may not be the case. But that does not gainsay the value of efficient energy usage.

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        alan > RAENorth • an hour ago

        Nobody but nobody is decrying the concept of efficient energy usage but as usual it’s edicted by people who have no idea what they’re talking about and the consequences of their idiocy.
        The fact remains, how are you going to sell or expand industrial capacity if there’s nowhere to plug it in.
        It’s a real world out there, the absolutes remain, compete, protect or perish. The whole thing is a gigantic magic roundabout with powerful factions carving a slice off it while it rotates. Regulation may see our lives out but it is a stay of execution. The only winner is autonomous capacity, sorry to be a bit dark but I have been introduced to the big farm and it changes your perspective.

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        RAENorth Mod > alan • 39 minutes ago

        A lot of people on the previous thread were doing exactly that — as is UKIP currently arguing, that it is their God-given right to waste electricity in any way that they please.

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        Ian Reid > RAENorth • 23 minutes ago

        Richard you are coming at this the wrong way round. not many people think it’s their God given right to USE (not waste, who are you to say what I want to use electricity for is waste) as much electricity as they please, it’s the meddling political elites who wish to determine electricity usage.

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      • David says:

        I understand the landfill directive was to stop landfilling happening in the lowlands, Dutch etc, so they applied it too one and all, hence the thousands of trips to waste recycling sites, using thousands of gallons of gas, brilliant, another winner from the boys in Brussels. Some one will now tell me that aint so.

    • Thomas Fox says:

      Not to be considered in UK , breakers already control loads best if Mr Catandbrian has a look at our countries electrical systems and some up to date physics !

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      You’re right, Catalanbrian. They well may be lying in their teeth. But the reason they give in this case is saving the planet and cutting energy consumption, not (this time) health’n’safety.

  4. hannuko says:

    I don’t think this is in the end about saving energy. This is about lowering the standard of living. Making us do with less just because they think we now do with too much. It doesn’t matter whether is makes any sense.

    They are planning to cut european CO2 emissions by 80% by the year 2050. It looks like they are doing it by cutting electricity production by the same amount by incrementally banning everything that consumes more than certain amount.

    I hope nobody tells them that almost every home in Finland has an electric stove in sauna, which usually consumes about 6 – 9kW and is on 1,5 – 3 hours a week. If they try to limit the power of our sauna stoves we might have a violent revolution on our hands – no matter how calm and reasonable we usually are.

  5. Dan H. says:

    Remember also that when boiling a kettle, a little heat is lost to atmosphere through the sides of the kettle. If the kettle takes longer to boil, then more heat will be lost this way, thus the lower-rated kettle will actually use slightly more energy than the higher-rated one.

  6. Henwood says:

    If the Commission is anxious about saving energy, one area might be, as shown above this post, to ensure that retailers’ front door is automatically controlled to shut after each customer enters or leaves, during the months or weeks that their heating is on.

    • David says:

      If the door closing mechanism is leccy driven it may well use up the energy saved by shutting the door, always a downside, seldom spotted by the commisionzars.

      • Andy Robertson-Fox says:

        Walk into any modern store – Boots use to be a good example – and you will usually feel the down blast of hot aır as it wafts past you into the street. Electrıc doors might use some but I doubt if it would match that wasted simply heating the pavement…..revolving doors anyone?…with an ordinary one beside it for those pushing buggies?

  7. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Its this thing:

    Along with washing machines that wash your plastic clothes at 40C needing additives to get the bugs out of a wash.

    I suppose it could reduce peak demands at tricky times of the day, particularly when your power stations have been partly crippled, Tricky – including fires, system faults, terrorist acts and severe cold. Oh…and the wind stopped. Please buy powerful diesels gen sets, before they are banned….wait a minute thats STOR.

    Air conditioning and ventilation systems, including air conditioning system pumps
    Electric and fossil-fuelled heating equipment
    Food-preparing equipment
    Industrial and laboratory furnaces and ovens
    Machine tools
    Network, data processing and data storing equipment
    Refrigerating and freezing equipment
    Sound and imaging equipment
    Water-using equipment

  8. Flyinthesky says:

    Roger, my take:
    From any way I look at this it appears to me to be a managed decline strategy, growing nations are expanding their generating capacity exponentially.
    Our capacity is contracting and what we have is being rationalised, this road only goes in one direction and it isn’t good.

    • eddie coke says:

      I tend to agree. And you’re correct to look at the global arena. Decline of the West was a deliberate plan orchestrated by the UN in order to ensure so-called “developing countries” contributed a 25% share of world industrial production by 2000. You might think I’m a conspiracy theorist…

      Read the UNIDO Lima Declaration & Plan of Action on Industrial Development and Co-Operation, Lima, Peru 12-26 March 1975 (It’s only 26 pages and worth a look.)

      Click to access 1975-Lima_Declaration_and_Plan_of_Action_on_Industrial_Development_and_Co-operation_26.3.1975.pdf

      Our own government treachery had to be hidden from us. I know: let’s call a fake referendum on our EEC membership so nobody’ll notice their factories closing (okay so that’s conspiracy theory!)

      Nevertheless, the pits all closed along with all the factories. And let’s not forget that the UN was funded from the outset by what Max Keiser calls the international banksters. Presumably they’ll have invested heavily in India and China during the 1960s so that they could subsequently coerce the West to inflate their investments under the flag of international aid “altruism” later on (again, that’s just my opinion!)

  9. Flyinthesky says:

    How can we possibly attract any or indeed maintain any industry if theres nowhere to plug it in. (oh for and edit function)

  10. Linda Hudson says:

    Please don’t make E.U. commisioner’s have to think things out, they will be found out that they are totally void, and inept of such a challenge!

  11. Linda Hudson says:

    here’s a thought, the likes of the very successful Dyson appliances, will lose their manufacturing, and new poorer performance E.U. manufactured appliances, will take over the market!

    • catalanbrian says:

      You don’t have to worry about poor performance as this is not an issue. The question is that should we be using poorly designed and inefficient vacuum cleaners that have large motors to deal with their inefficiencies or should the companies that make these products be forced, by legislation, to innovate and to manufacture efficient products that use less energy? The Dyson DC50 has a motor of just 700w and is as efficient as any other vacuum cleaner. And just to finish I quote James Dyson, a man who knows more about vacuum cleaners and innovation than all of us put together “Bigger motors don’t equal better performance. In fact they symbolise outmoded ineffective design”.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:

        Efficiency of an electric motor from China. There are two types and they are as efficient as they will ever be.

        Dyson: Bagless Vacuum with multiple very expensive plastic parts…too complicated.
        Most Others: Bagged, some plastic but very simple and wash carpets using water/shampoo.

        Power(HP/Watts) relates to work and how much needs to be done. Industrially a lot and fast. Domestically, not so much and 1.2Kw lifts a heavy carpet. 1.6Kw is some fools preference that likely did not upset too many VI’s.

        The simple efficiency equation asks a question and you need the answer as close to 1 as is possible. Cost of parts is significant in this domestic appliance game and often lands up with premature scrap as a result. Add labour + VAT. And the scrap goes where?

        Buy a 1.8Kw pressure washer fitted with an Induction motor quickly because they will be gone soon. A clue?

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      Yes — everyone is saying how upset Dyson will be, but I’m reading that they’re very happy as they already make lower powered models. I have no problem if you want to buy a Dyson because of its low power consumption. But I do have a problem with the European Commission telling you that you must do so.

    • Lin Lyons says:

      What Dyson is very, very good at is marketing. Their products are no better than others. I vividly remember their bladeless fan, that didn’t “Cut the air”. I note that I don’t see that add any more because even an idiot could see that “cutting the air” was not a problem. And, the cruddy thing really didn’t work all that well. SO, if you lose Dyson, don’t lose a lot of sleep over it. The model-A Ford isn’t around either, but there aren’t many of crying.

      • Me_Again says:

        Had a Dyson for years, brilliant machine ….but not covered by the EU directives because it has a lower wattage than the directive indicates.

  12. M N Edward says:

    As you say the logic of the EU does not stand up to the slightest scrutiny, but it shows they can’t resist any misplaced excuse to interfere.
    I don’t like the EU’s insidious agenda – the EU apparatchiks increasing power play over us by arbitrarily disadvantaging our way of life against all evidence of any need to do so. Eventually by making our power generation system inadequate and unreliable they will impoverish us all, using mass immigration to enhance the effect.
    And inexplicably the Lib Lab Con Green parties in our Parliament want to stay in the anti-UK EU – just whose side are they on – clearly not ours.

  13. Jane Davies says:

    I’m laughing so much I nearly had an accident. Really is this true (?) what idiots these people are. Do they realise this stuff goes around the world on the internet and people are LAUGHING at them? How to lose credibility in one easy lesson….first vacuum cleaners and now kettles. My friends here in Canada are in disbelief at this latest stupidity from Brussels, I can’t wait to let them know what they think of next.

    • Ex-expat Colin says:

      UK Ports next…Not a joke at all.

      • Jane Davies says:

        I agree Colin…this is NOT funny….Roger do something!!

      • Linda Hudson says:

        Wait and see, I’m sure we will have all domestic appliances made in the E.U. as we have our light bulbs, and wind turbines, and I wager they wont be made in the U.K.!

      • catalanbrian says:

        I don’t think so. They are more likely to be made in China. That is the result of us wanting stuff at the cheapest price. It comes with Libertarianism, one of the cornerstones of UKIP’s muddled policy.

      • Me_Again says:

        I knew you had no idea what libertarianism was and you’ve just proved it. Wow! Game set and glorious match……utterly clueless Brian, utterly clueless. You are conflating economics with political ideology, something Marxists are rather proud of.

        “Libertarians seek to maximize autonomy and freedom of choice, emphasizing political freedom, voluntary association and the primacy of individual judgement.”

        The economic processes that operate are not the primary interest of libertarians Brian, we just want choice AND, to take responsibility for that choice.

      • catalanbrian says:

        But, you clueless fool, these choices come with economic tags, whether good or bad, and individual choice is not always (indeed rarely is) in the best interests of society as a whole. Not that you seem to give a damn about anybody but yourself. What a half witted, selfish and solipsistic viewpoint that is. It is little wonder that you are a UKIP supporter.

      • Me_Again says:

        Your predilection for unusual words has led you astray here ‘Bri’. Are you referring to epistemological solipsism or metaphysical solipsism. I don’t see how either fits with our discourse so far. Another word too far for you I think.

        Anyway, you said that UKIP libertarianism is about getting ever cheaper goods eg. from China. You directly infer that UKIP is all about an economic philosophy which encourages the above and discourages any other economic attitude. You are deliberately misinterpreting libertarianism or assigning your own meaning to it, thereby engaging in your own solipsism, which is utterly unrelated to our definition.
        Ergo you are utterly wrong and once again proving yourself clueless……….

      • catalanbrian says:

        I do not envy your little world of continually trying to score points. I bet you cheated at sports at school.

      • Me_Again says:

        Didn’t need to cheat ‘Bri’, I always won.
        You play the word games.
        We [UKIP] are just ordinary people trying to stop the erosion of our freedoms and those of our nation. libertarianism gives people the right but also the responsibility, it isn’t a panacea but it’s a good starting point.

      • catalanbrian says:

        I can just thank my lucky stars that I am not your neighbour

      • Me_Again says:

        As a neighbour, providing you were considerate, you wouldn’t find a more useful person next door, for help with anything I have a knowledge of, for help against criminal elements invading your privacy and property, I’d be there. We’d only need speak once a month but as long as there was mutual respect and consideration I’d be there as if we were brothers. That’s community.

        If however you were not considerate and respectful of my privacy, then you’d be living next to an implacable enemy. People make choices, it shouldn’t be the state.

      • Ex-expat Colin says:


        Turkey not EU but likely will be when it gets to be another energy highway.

        I suspect that if Turkey does become subject to EU directives as we are, then the likes of Beko will be driven to China. Its China or another outside of the EU that will be the only countries (BRICS) willing to make products at prices lower than what the EU loads on. All very interesting…thats the way bushiness for profit works.

        Then there is Russia with European businesses (factories) solely supplied by Russian business and mostly producing for Russia. Magnify that a little?

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      Hitting the nail on the head, as usual, Jane. Maybe the best weapon against the entire EU project is ridicule.

  14. George Morley says:

    How can I help Mr Commissioner ?
    Should I have one large cup of tea with breakfast rather than having a second one in a smaller cup ?
    Oh but I will have to re-boil the water to top up the teapot for that second cup won’t I ?
    Oh dear, to save energy I only put sufficient water in the kettle for one cup.
    Now I am in a quandary.
    Should I have put more water in for two cups or just enough for each individual cup ?
    Oh but I am forgetting about the bigger cup option.
    Now I am getting confused Mr Commissioner, please help me decide !
    Does this help your argument Roger ?

    • Jane Davies says:

      Just have a cold drink George!!!!

      • David says:

        More work for the fridge eh, ie more leccy used, which might have been used in the kettle.
        I suspect all the fuel used going to recycle offsets or indeed eliminates the benefits ( if any ) of all the recycling, assuming it is all recycled. My site had for a while a large “Hard plastic ” container, but much hard plastic doesn’t recycle. Its not there anymore, I suspect because there,s no use in hard plastic.

      • Andy Robertson-Fox says:

        The water in the well in my back garden is cold pure and perfectly drinkable.!

      • Jane Davies says:

        I should keep quiet about that Andy…someone will come along to your place and put a tax on it!

  15. DICK R says:


  16. Me_Again says:

    Purrrrfect Rogar.

    Can’t wait for whinger and Brian in Spain to justify this one!

  17. Lin Lyons says:

    One might think that, to boil a kettle of water takes the same amount of heat, whether you use a high energy or a low energy kettle, the low energy just takes longer.
    On the surface, that’s absolutely correct. But is that really all there is to it?

    Actually not. While boiling, all of the steam that you see is wasted energy.
    There’s almost none before it starts to boil.
    Once it’s boiling, any extra energy is wasted.
    And, if you have a high energy pot, you waste energy faster.

    One thing I’ve learned is that, when I don’t agree with something, I try to find out why my ideas are different than those presented.
    I very rarely consider that I’m the smartest one in the room and everyone else is dumber than me.
    It wouldn’t be all that difficult to do some kind of study to see how long kettles were left to boil, and determine that, if there was a lower power setting, then electricity would be saved.

    • Me_Again says:

      “I very rarely consider that I’m the smartest one in the room and everyone else is dumber than me.”

      Plainly. Physics is simply physics, it has no politics. steam starts coming off water at about 80c.

  18. Lin Lyons says:

    “Does the Commission therefore recognise that this proposal will increase electricity consumption, generate more waste heat, and tend to increase emissions, both of CO2 and water vapour?”

    OH my lordy sakes alive. “increase emissions of water vapour?” Really? And the effect of that will be ….. what? How ’bout I wait for an answer? ……. Still waiting. ……. Nothing? Might I suggest that water evaporates from the oceans all the time. When there’s too much in the atmosphere, it rains. Water is a self limiting greenhouse gas. CO2 is a problem. Water is not.

    Here in America I’d always assumed that we had the dumbest politicians. It sure is nice to see that the rest of the world is doing it’s best to catch up.

    • Me_Again says:

      Lin, he was suggesting that by increasing the electricity consumption you will automatically increase the bi-products of electricity generation. One of which is water vapour, responsible for more than 95% of the total global greenhouse effect. So water vapour = very important. CO2, trace gas = unimportant in the grand scheme. The last 18 years of no temperature rises coupled with around 25% of all the CO2 ever produced by man, occurring over the same period seems to support this hypothesis, whilst your ideas are based on pseudo science.

      Yes you do have the dumbest politicians.

    • catalanbrian says:

      Lin, you may have a number of dumb politicians, but not all of them. The UK has its fair share, most of them within UKIP. And for the record the suggestion by me-again above that there has been no global warming for 18 years is poppycock. The evidence is quite the other way. See

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