Ceramic heater vs fan heater - there’s a clear winner if you want to heat your home on a budget this winter

Who wins the battle of the portable heaters?

Russell Hobbs 700W Ceramic Plug In Heater plugged into a kitchen wall socket above a wooden countertop
(Image credit: Future PLC/Simon Whitmore)

Now temperatures are dropping and energy bills are rising, the ceramic heater vs fan heater debate is heating up. That’s why we’ve consulted with experts to find out which electric heater will help you beat the chill without breaking the bank. 

After all, choosing between the best electric heaters can be a minefield. Most of them claim to supply instant heat at an affordable price in relation to the energy price cap, which makes them an intriguing prospect for those who want to save on their central heating. But as there are many different types of electric heaters out there, how do you know which one will work best for you and your home?

To help you keep warm on a budget this winter, we asked the experts to discuss the differences between ceramic heaters and fan heaters. And there’s one portable heater that stands out as the clear winner to keep your home warm this winter

What is a ceramic heater?

Russell Hobbs 700W Ceramic Plug In Heater plugged into a kitchen wall socket above a wooden countertop

(Image credit: Russell Hobbs)

If you’re wondering which portable heater wins in the ceramic heater vs fan heater debate, it’s important to understand the difference between them. After all, they both heat rooms in very different ways. 

In simple terms, a ceramic heater is designed to heat up a room using resistive heating - a process that involves passing an electric current through a conductive ceramic plate. However, as the current struggles to pass through the ceramic plate, the resistance created ultimately heats it up and allows that heat to be released into the air. 

There are countless ceramic heaters on the market, from plug-in options like the Russell Hobbs 700W Ceramic Plug-In Heater we tested to this stylish Small Olive Square Heater from Dunelm that will heat your room and also add a pop of colour in the process. 

What is a fan heater?

Electric fan heater standing up in room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

‘When it's really cold, sometimes the radiator in the room just isn't enough to heat the whole space, so fan heaters are ideal’, explains Nicholas Auckland, heating expert at Trade Radiators. But what is a fan heater, and how does it work? 

A fan heater essentially does what it says on the tin; it heats a room by passing air over a heat source and then pumping the hot air into the room like a fan. And they’re perhaps the most common type of electric heater you can buy today.

Thomas Halpin, at PriceYourJob.co.uk, says, ‘There are many different models on the market, and most are inexpensive to buy. Being small and lightweight, a fan heater is portable and can be used in any room easily. It will quickly warm up a small space and is safe to use with no exposed heating element or emissions.’ 

picture of nicholas aukland
Nicholas Auckland

Nicholas Auckland is a heating and energy expert with over 10 years of experience in the industry, as well as the Managing Director of Trade Radiators. Nicholas is dedicated to finding the best heating solutions for every need, as well as optimising energy usage, reducing costs and helping others live with lower costing energy bills. Nicholas has become a trusted leader in the industry, frequently collaborating with the media and other partners to assist with cost of living issues and other home-related problems.

Ceramic heater vs fan heater: Which produces more heat?

Although both ceramic and fan heaters will give you a break from the cold, they produce different kinds of heat and have their downsides, which may impact your decision.

In terms of ceramic heaters, Nicholas says, ‘Due to the speed at which they heat up, they are more effective at heating spaces quickly, but it can sometimes find it difficult to heat a room evenly for extended periods of time.’ However, they do retain their heat for a while after they’ve been turned off.

There are negatives to fan heaters, too. ‘Once they’re off, the space will cool down rapidly as there will no longer be hot air being blown through it,’ adds Nicholas.

At Ideal Home, we’ve had the pleasure of testing both ceramic heaters and fan heaters. Our expert tester, Rachel Ogden, put these heaters through their paces to test them on their heat output, overall performance, energy usage, size, and affordability. 

When testing the Russell Hobbs 700W Ceramic Plug-In Heater, she was aware of the fact that it’s one of the smallest heaters on the market. And while she was expecting it to lack power, she was pleasantly surprised with the outcome. 

She said, ‘At first, I found the reach of the Russell Hobbs 700W Ceramic Plug-In Heater to be limited – I found I got about a three-metre range of direct heat after the heater had been running 10 minutes or so. However, when left running for about half an hour, the heat diffused around a metre further, warming the whole 15 sqm room after about 45 minutes. 

‘This is no mean feat considering I was pushing the heater a bit beyond its capacity; it's designed to be used in a 10sqm area. In fact, considering this compact heater is far smaller and less powerful than all the other heaters I tested, I was really impressed by its performance.’

A group of the best electric heaters sat on a wooden floor

(Image credit: Future / Rachel Ogden)

Rachel also tested a few different fan heaters, including the Beldray Flatbed Portable Fan Heater. In her review, she was impressed with the burst of heat that it was able to produce. And while she raved about its performance, there was a slight negative. 

‘For its size, the EH0569SSTK fan is a hard worker. Even on its lowest setting, it supplies a good boost of heat instantly. However, that heat has a limited reach and took a while to diffuse around the whole room when tested. Close up, the Beldray is cosy, but it would probably be a costly way to heat a medium-to-large room from cold.’

Of course, both of these options would be perfect for heating small rooms. But if you’re looking for something that’s more hardcore and suitable for heating larger rooms, it might be better to opt for something like the Dreo Fan Space Heater, which Rachel dubbed the ‘best overall’ electric heater in terms of heat output.

Ceramic heater vs fan heater: Which is safer?

In today’s modern age, electrical appliances are kitted out in all kinds of safety switches to ensure they’re as safe as possible in the home. However, it’s still important to consider the safety risks between these two heaters.

Giuseppe Capanna, Product Safety Engineer at Electrical Safety First says, ‘Different types of heaters come with different benefits – but also different risks. Fan heaters heat a coil that, in turn, warms up a room or items within that room with intense heat. Because of this intense heat, they can pose a higher fire risk if left too close to fabrics or if their vents are blocked.’

On ceramic heaters, Giuseppe adds, ‘Ceramic heater elements can be live mains voltage, so it’s imperative to ensure your heater meets safety standards to ensure you’re not exposed to electric shock. Stick to a reputable high-street retailer you know and trust.’

As well as considering the fire safety risk, you might also want to consider how these heaters will affect the people in your house - especially if someone in your family has allergies. ‘Electric fan heaters may cause issues for those who suffer from allergies, as they can distribute dust throughout the space they’re heating while blasting hot air through it’, says Nicholas. 

Because of this, it’s generally considered that ceramic heaters are much safer than fan heaters.  

Electric heater standing up in room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Ceramic heater vs fan heater: Which is more affordable?

When comparing the price of ceramic heaters and fan heaters, you need to look at two different prices: the prices of the appliance itself, and how much they cost to run

In terms of the price of the appliance, both electric heaters are extremely affordable and fairly similar in terms of price - and you certainly won’t struggle to find a ceramic or fan heater under £50. In fact, you can find many electric heaters for under £20. 

However, when it comes to which is the cheapest electric heater to run, our tests found that fan heaters were more costly to run than ceramic heaters. The Russell Hobbs ceramic heater cost just 19p an hour to run at its highest setting based on a rate of 27p per kWh, while the Beldray fan heater cost 54p per hour on the highest setting and 27p on the lowest setting. 

This price difference is something Thomas echoes. He says, ‘Although they are small and portable, fan heaters use a lot of energy even in a relatively short period of time, making them very expensive to run.’

‘As well as being expensive to run, fan heaters are not very energy efficient. Unlike a ceramic heater, there is no heat retention benefit, even in the short term. As soon as the fan heater is turned off, it stops producing heat, and the room will cool down quite quickly.’

Final verdict: Which one do you need?

'We've all noticed the drastic drop in temperatures of late, so it’s time to reach for your heaters to keep home nice and cosy,' says a representative from Russell Hobbs

However, the debate between ceramic heaters vs fan heaters is a tough one. They both have their positives and their negatives, and where one falls short, the other often thrives. Overall, Russell Hobbs concludes, 'As it is more energy efficient, a ceramic heater would be the perfect option for heating different sized areas.'

There is a way for us to answer this question without having to choose between the two, though.

That’s because there are many fan heaters on the market today that have a ceramic element rather than a metal element, which means that they offer the best of both worlds while combatting the negatives of both. 

Plus, it’s incredibly easy to find a ceramic fan heater on the market, and we’ve popped some of our favourites below. 


Are ceramic heaters cheaper to run than fan heaters?

Yes, they are generally considered to be cheaper to run than fan heaters. Not only that, but they also retain heat after they have been turned off - unlike fan heaters - which means that you get the added benefit of having some extra heat for free. 

What are the disadvantages of ceramic heater?

One of the biggest disadvantages of a ceramic heater is that it can struggle to warm up a larger room, which means that it might not be suitable for those with a bigger house. Alongside this, they can also dry out a room, which could be an issue for those with asthma. 

Now you’ve got the lowdown on the best type of electric heater to buy, you have all of the info you need to stay warm this winter. 

Lauren Bradbury

Lauren Bradbury is a freelance writer and major homes enthusiast. She graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in English and Creative Writing from the University of Chichester in 2016, before dipping her toe into the world of content writing. After years of agency work, writing everything from real-life stories to holiday round-ups, she decided to take the plunge and become a full-time freelancer in the online magazine world. Since then, she has become a regular contributor for Real Homes and Ideal Home, and become even more obsessed with everything interior and garden related. As a result, she’s in the process of transforming her old Victorian terraced house into an eclectic and modern home that hits visitors with personality as soon as they walk through the door.