When it comes to oven repairs, one of the most common issues homeowners face is a faulty heating element. But finding a replacement heating element can be a challenge, especially if you’re not sure whether they are universal or not.

In this article, we’ll answer the question: Are oven heating elements universal?

Are Oven Heating Elements Universal?

What is an oven heating element?

A heating element is the oven’s primary component that generates heat by converting electrical energy directly into thermal energy/heat.

It is simply that peculiar-looking wire that typically glows red/orange hot inside your oven cavity each time you turn it on.

Heating elements are typically made of conductive materials that have relatively high resistance. This ensures a good heating effect. The elements can be located either at the top or bottom of your oven cavity.

Some ovens, however, come with both the top and the bottom elements. You can choose to use either of them independently, or in combination to get a  more precise temperature control.

Oven top heating element
Sorry for the poor image quality. Definitely not the best photographer out there

A few others, especially high-end stoves or ranges come with a hidden bottom element, that offers a number of advantages.

Your oven is likely to have two most common heating elements; the broiler element which is normally located at the top of your oven cavity, and the baking element that’s located at the bottom.

The broiler element, in most cases, is normally for broiling and browning the top surface of your food. The baking element however happens to be the most used of the two, as your general oven cooking depends on it.

Are oven heating elements universal?

You’re probably wondering, if the function of a heating element is the same across all ovens, in that case, are they all compatible? Are oven heating elements universal?

Different oven models come with different sizes and shapes of heating elements. This makes it difficult to use one heating element in place of another.

However, there are instances where a single heating element can be used in multiple ovens. Oven heating elements are sometimes universal for specific models manufactured by the same company.

If your oven is not matching your heating expectations, you can easily find a generic replacement heating element that is compatible with the specific make and model of your oven.

During your hunt for a perfect heating element replacement for your oven, keep in mind the;

  • make and model number of your oven
  • size and shape of your heating element
  • correct wattage rating of your element

How does the heating element work in an oven?

In an oven, the heating element uses the Joule heating principle to directly convert electrical energy into heat/thermal energy.

Whenever you turn your oven on, an electric current flows through the heating element. The element, for the most part, is made up of high-resistance wire or sometimes a ribbon of metal such as nichrome i.e 80%nickel and 20% chromium.

The current heats up the element which then transfers the heat into the air inside the oven and then to your food.

Based on the type of your oven(conventional or convection) heating elements are of two types:

1. Radiant heating element: 

These are your usual broil and bake elements that are located at the top and bottom of your oven cavity respectively. Radiant heating elements are responsible for heating and radiating heat into the oven cavity.

These elements are made of a continuous wire or a ribbon of a heating material. These materials normally coils into a spiral shape and embedded in a ceramic material.

2. Convection heating element: 

Commonly found in convection ovens. Convection heating elements are usually located at the back or bottom of the oven. 

This element heats up with electricity activation. The fan then circulates the hot air around your oven. This ensures a consistent temperature throughout the oven.

In both cases, the thermostat controls the heating element. The heat controller regulates the temperature of the oven by turning the heating element on and off as needed.

Whenever the elements reach a set temperature, the thermostat automatically turn off the heating element until the temperature drops below a certain level, at which point it will turn the element back on to maintain the desired temperature.

What is the difference between top and bottom elements in an oven?

Most people tend to confuse the oven’s top and bottom elements. Which one to use in which case.

The two elements are connected together but they each serve a specific need:

The bottom element

Also known as the bake function. This element provides an ambient all-round heating up from the bottom.

When you turn your oven on bake mode the elements at both the top and bottom of the oven will heat up to quickly bring the oven to desired temperatures.

Once the oven hits your desired temperature , the top element turns itself off while the bottom element remain active throughout your cooking.

Note that the bottom element does not give direct heat as there’s always a pan or a baking sheet between your food and the actual heat.

So, in this case, it’s the rising heat that causes the oven temperature to rise hence cooking your food.

Top element

Also known as the broil setting. Whenever you turn on your oven on a broil function, the top burner heats up providing direct heat to the surface of the food.

To broil something you will want to move the rack up near the top element for a perfect grill/toast.

You can also use the broil setting for browning the top surface of your food.


In conclusion, while it would be convenient if all oven heating elements were universal, the reality is that they are not. However, with a little research and careful consideration of your oven’s make and model, size and shape of the heating element, and correct wattage rating, you can find a replacement that is compatible with your oven.

Consider seeking professional help if you’ve not done this before. With the right heating element, your oven can be back to working order in no time.