Electric heating, what are my options?
There are many different types of heaters and heating systems. But choosing the right heater for your needs can be difficult and confusing. When choosing a heater, it’s important to weigh up when and how you will be using it, how big the room is, how cost-effective it is to run, and of course the initial outlay.
As a rule of thumb, the higher a heater’s wattage, the more heat it will produce. Choose a heater with enough wattage to heat up your room within a reasonable timeframe. The table below gives a rough guide. The maximum available wattage of plug-in electric heaters is 2400 Watts.
Let’s break down the different types of heaters:
All electric heaters are equally efficient, that is, they all convert the electricity they consume into useful heat. Having said that, choosing the right type of heater for the right use and room is important to get the full benefit of all of the heat (or electricity) you’re actually paying for.
Despite them being promoted as ‘cheap to run’, they in fact produce very little heat. Certainly not enough to heat up a sizeable room to a comfortable temperature. They can be seen as safe and kids can’t burn themselves, but this low heat output also means it takes a looooong time to heat up the room. We would recommend them for heating very small rooms, like bathrooms.
Oil column heaters
Convection and oil column heaters mostly heat air rather than surfaces. The hot air rises and then slowly circulates around the room, providing background warmth. Oil-column heaters also provide some radiant heat. They can take a while to heat up a cold room. Some of them come with an in-built fan to mix the air more effectively but often aren’t as effective as simple fan heaters at doing this. We recommend oil heaters to use in bedrooms overnight on the coldest of winter nights. They can dry the air out so for kids (or adults for that matter!) with colds and flu, it is best coupled with a humidifier to get some moisture circulating into the air.
Radiant bar heaters
These heaters have glowing elements and a reflector and work by heating objects and people, as opposed to heating the air in a room. They can make a small room toasty warm quickly and come as free-standing or wall mounted. They are good for rooms with high ceilings, and large rooms where you only need to heat one area of the room. We recommend them for instant heat and definitely not for bedrooms where they can be dangerous if on when you are asleep.
These mainly heat objects and people rather than air in a room and are available as either free-standing, wall or high-wall-mounted models.
Fan heaters can be noisy, but distribute heated air around your room rather than letting it form a layer of hot air below the ceiling. Fan heaters can boost convection heaters – providing additional heat and distributing the heated air more evenly, so your room feels warm quicker. The bigger the fan, the better the heated air will mix around the room and they provide instant warmth for smaller rooms.
Electric Underfloor heating
A great option if you are renovating or refitting your floors. Can be applied to tiled floors and some floating floorboards. It’s a cheaper alternative to hydronic underfloor heating (heated water pipes embedded in the floor). Because you are heating the whole floor, it is expensive to run. We recommend in bathrooms but as a second preference instant heat heaters from an energy efficiency perspective as underfloor heating takes time to heat up.