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Watt does it cost to run an electric heater?

Posted by Ross Lammas on 29 February 2012 at 8:32 am

Keeping warm at home is important and as spring shows signs of appearing it’s tempting to warm up a room with an electric heater, rather than turn on the whole central heating. But how much will it cost, and can you get energy efficient electric heaters?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. All portable electric heaters, whether they are fan heaters, oil filled radiators or halogen heaters, will consume the same amount of electricity and produce the same amount of thermal heat, relative to power input. So a 3kW heater will use 3kW (3000 watts) per hour and cost roughly 43 pence to run* or £3.43* for 8 hours.

The power rating (watts/kWs) will dictate the running costs; the higher the watts the more it costs to run. For a quick comparison see sust-it’s Electric Heating Cost Calculator. The difference between electric heaters is in how quickly they deliver the heat. For example fan heaters are a good choice for heating specific areas of a room, as you can direct the heat.

The best thing to keep your bills down is to keep heat in and drafts out by insulating – low cost solutions such as lined curtains, draft excluders, thermal blinds will help. You must also make sure the heater has a thermostat, and set it to the correct setting to avoiding overheating rooms.

Which are the best types of heaters?

It depends what you want to heat.

Convection heaters - are best suited for heating enclosed spaces. They operate silently and have a lower fire risk hazard.

Fan heaters - are a good choice for quick heating of enclosed spaces. There is a risk of ignition if they are near furnishings and curtains.

Electric fires (radiative heaters) - directly warm people and objects in the room, so may be good for warming cold feet, but can be a fire hazard.

Halogen heaters - the advantage of these is that they radiate (safe infrared spectrum), the heat generated, which is absorbed directly by us, without heating the air first. This makes them suitable for warming people in poorly insulated rooms. Halogen heaters convert up to 86% of their input power to radiant energy.

Oil-filled heaters - can take longer to heat up, but retain the heat better, similar to storage heaters, and provide heat from all sides.

And what about the new Dyson Hot fan heater? It still uses the same amount of energy as other 2kW heaters, but it does heat a room up efficiently by directing the heat around better. The sleek design, with no exposed parts to get hot and cause burns, could be a bonus to parents of small children, or those with elderly relatives. The huge £270 price tag may make it less attractive though.

Other stay warm tips include:

Wear layers – several thin layers of clothing will generally be better than one thick one.

Stay active if you can – get up and move around. Whether you are sitting at a desk, or watching television – a quick walk around will improve your circulation and help you feel warmer.

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More information about heating from YouGen

Heating and hot water information page

How to use heating controls to reduce your energy bill 

Heat your home with passive solar energy

Keep warm; spend less 

About the author: Ross Lamas is founder of sust-it.

If you have a question about anything in the above blog, please ask it in the comments section below.

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3 comments - read them below or add one


sugga12Comment left on: 1 September 2020 at 8:15 am


bellaj78Comment left on: 14 December 2012 at 12:53 pm

Electric heaters are the first most requirnment for winters and it becomes really essential if your house is at some cold areas. Most of the electric heater work on low power consumption. If we talk about storage heating devices they are the much cheaper and easy to use and most importantly they can be fitted anywhere in the house.

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Linn Rafferty

Linn Rafferty from JTec Energy PerformanceComment left on: 9 March 2012 at 3:44 pm

Great post, clear explanation and good to know.

Just one thing to add, and that's to mention that due to the way the suppliers charge for electricity, if you have a system that uses off peak electricity you can save money compared to the on peak heaters. This isn't because they are more efficient, just that the suppliers charge you less for the electricity used at night to charge up these 'storage' heaters.

Installing storage heaters isn't cheap so it's probably not going to be an option for many readers who live in an electrically heated home. However, if you're looking for a property to rent or buy, and are considering one with on peak electric heating, think twice.  The one with storage heating is likely to cost you less.

Check out the home's EPC (energy performance certificate) to see which type of electric heating it is. The expensive sort will be classed as poor (1 star on the scale) with storage heating scoring more stars. The home with the storage heating will also have a higher EPC rating (the letter on the front page) than the one with expensive heaters. 

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