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Does an air fryer have a heating element?

Air fryers have become increasingly popular in recent years as a healthier way to enjoy fried foods. But how exactly do they work to crisp up your favorite snacks with little to no oil? The simple answer is yes, air fryers do have a heating element that allows them to quickly circulate hot air around food to produce a crispy, fried finish.

What is an Air Fryer?

An air fryer is a small countertop convection oven designed to simulate deep frying without submerging food in oil. It uses rapid air circulation and high heat to replicate the results of traditional deep frying. Food is placed in the air fryer’s basket and hot air rapidly circulates around it, quickly browning the exterior and producing a crispy texture.

Air fryers work by using convection, meaning hot air is rapidly circulated around food to cook it fast and evenly. This rapid air circulation results in a crispy exterior similar to deep fried foods, without all the oil. The temperature inside an air fryer typically reaches around 200°C to 240°C.

Key Components of an Air Fryer

There are a few key components that allow air fryers to work their magic:

  • Heating element – This provides the high heat needed to quickly circulate hot air around the food.
  • Fan – A powerful fan rapidly blows the hot air from the heating element around the food.
  • Basket – A basket holds the food while allowing optimal air circulation.
  • Temperature controls – Allow you to adjust the temperature as needed for different foods.
  • Timer – Most air fryers have built-in timers to shut off cooking after a set time.

The combination of these components allows the air fryer to quickly cook food by surrounding it with piping hot, circulating air. But the heating element itself provides the high heat that gets this air nice and hot.

Heating Element Design in Air Fryers

The specific design of the heating element can vary somewhat between different models of air fryers. But in general, it will consist of a heating coil or heating tube that heats up rapidly when turned on.

Common locations for the heating element include:

  • Above the cooking basket
  • Behind the back wall of the cooking chamber
  • Underneath the bottom of the basket

No matter where it is situated, the key is that the heating element can quickly raise the temperature of the air inside the sealed cooking chamber up to 200°C or more.

Above the Basket

Having the heating element located directly above the food basket is a common and effective design. This allows the element to directly heat the air that gets circulated down and around the food by the fan. The heating element is protected from any splatter by a cover between it and the food.

Behind the Back Wall

In some models, the heating element is positioned behind the back wall of the cooking chamber. Openings in the back wall allow the hot air to circulate into the cooking area. This design protects the element from any mess or splatter for a longer lifespan.

Under the Basket

Another option is to have the heating element situated under the bottom of the cooking basket. This can allow for more direct heating of the food from below as the hot air gets forced up and around the food by the fan. The underside of the basket may have a nonstick coating to prevent any drips from burning on.

Power of Air Fryer Heating Elements

The power of the heating element in an air fryer can range from about 1200 to 2000 watts typically. More powerful elements heat up faster and can reach higher maximum temperatures. Common power ratings include:

  • 1200-1400W
  • 1500-1800W
  • 1900-2100+W

More powerful heating elements allow the air fryer to heat up rapidly and recover temperature quickly during cooking. This provides faster cooking times and crispier results. Models with 1200-1400W elements may take a little longer to cook but use less electricity.

Air Fryer Heating Technology

There are a couple different technologies used to create the heating elements in air fryers:

  • Metal heating coil – This uses an electric coil made of tightly wound metal that heats up rapidly when electric current is applied. It works similarly to a stovetop heating element.
  • Ceramic heating tube – A tube made of ceramic material that conducts heat well generates heat when electricity runs through it. Ceramic holds heat longer.

Both technologies allow the air fryer heating element to quickly reach optimal cooking temperatures above 200°C. The coil designs heat up marginally faster, while ceramic tubes retain heat a little longer.

Pros and Cons of Each Heating Technology

Here is a comparison of the pros and cons of each heating element technology used in air fryers:

Heating Technology Pros Cons
Metal Heating Coil
  • Heats up rapidly
  • Inexpensive to produce
  • Doesn’t retain heat as long
  • Can be prone to breakage
Ceramic Heating Tube
  • Retains heat well
  • Durable and resistant to breakage
  • Heats up slower than metal coil
  • More expensive to produce

Typical Air Fryer Heating Element Lifespan

With proper care and maintenance, the heating element in an air fryer can last for several years. Most air fryer manufacturers estimate the lifespan of the heating element to be 3-5 years with regular use.

Factors that can impact lifespan include:

  • Quality of materials and construction
  • Frequency of use
  • General wear and tear
  • Excessive moisture or grease

You can maximize the lifespan of your air fryer’s heating element by:

  • Using nonstick spray rather than excess oil
  • Avoiding very greasy foods
  • Regular cleaning to prevent buildup
  • Not overfilling the basket
  • Avoiding dropping or bumping the appliance

With proper care, most people can expect several years of regular performance before the heating element may need replacement.

Signs Your Heating Element Needs Replacement

Some signs that the heating element in your air fryer may need to be replaced include:

  • Unit is taking much longer to preheat
  • Food is not getting browned or crispy
  • Cooking times have become excessive
  • Burning smell from the element
  • Visible damage or cracks in the element

If your air fryer is displaying these issues, the heating element is likely wearing out or defective. Most manufacturers make replacement heating elements available for purchase and provide instructions on properly replacing it.


In summary, air fryers absolutely contain a heating element as a core component – this is what provides the high heat needed to fry foods with just air. The heating element rapidly heats air that a fan then circulates around food at high speed to cook and crisp the exterior.

Common heating element designs include placement above the basket, behind the back wall, or below the basket. Power typically ranges from 1200-2100+ watts. Coil or ceramic tube heating technology may be used, with coils heating up fastest and ceramic retaining heat longer.

With proper maintenance, an air fryer’s heating element can last 3-5 years under regular use. Keep the area around the element clean and dry, avoid overfilling, and replace a damaged heating element promptly. As long as the heating element is functioning properly, your air fryer will continue to cook up delicious “fried” foods minus all the oil!