What is the cheapest electric heater to run? Experts reveal the 'best product' for heating a room quickly

Experts debate the age-old question, and there's a clear winner

Electric heater standing up in room
(Image credit: Getty / Liudmila Chernetska)

Opting for the cheapest electric heater to run will not only help keep your home toasty in the face of plummeting temperatures nationwide, but will also allow you to do so without breaking the bank.

The best electric heater is easily a non-negotiable for the winter season, but of course, as with anything it pays to be clued up on the ins and outs of them.

If you needed a dire reminder of how much it costs to run an electric heater, but in bite-size form, we've nailed which of the bunch is the cheapest to run so you can remain cost-conscious this winter. Even more so now that the energy price cap is set to rise again this coming January.

What is the cheapest electric heater to run?

Electric heaters are a viable option for many to keep their homes warm in winter, allowing people to save energy at home if utilised correctly with a smart meter. If you're in a toss-up about which one to purchase to stave away the cold this winter, rather than waiting for your central heating to get to your desired temperature, we have the verdict.

'The cost of running an electric heater depends on a few factors such as the type of heater from oil-filled to infrared heaters, its energy efficiency, electricity rates and how often you like to have your heating on,' starts Jess Steele, heating and technology expert at BestHeating.

'The cheapest electric heaters are those that are most energy efficient, can retain the most heat and can effectively heat a room without using up loads of electricity.' 

Here are different types of electric heaters you can expect to see on the market, and their cost to run.

Halogen heaters

outdoor area with sofa and hanging heater

(Image credit: Wayfair)

'Halogen heaters are directional, so once on, you'll instantly feel the heat. As soon as you turn them off, however, the heat quickly dissipates,' says Jonny Samuel at Ryman.

'Convection heaters, electric panel heaters or free-standing electric radiators work by heating the air around them to create a convection current. They take some time to heat a room, but once turned off the heat lingers.'

'Halogen heaters prove the cheapest option and one of the best products when it comes to heating a room quickly,' adds James Longley, managing director at Utility Bidder.

Andy Kerr, founder of online boiler installers, BOXT, continues, 'Halogen heaters have a wattage of 1200W, lower than fan heaters or oil-filled radiators, and use around 1.2kWh each hour. With an hourly running cost of around 32p.'

Martin Lewis has also agreed that halogen heaters are a recommended source of warming your home this winter, as they are the cheapest to run. The cost to run is also dependent on the size and power you purchase. Amazon's best seller, the Bellaco portable heater has over 1,100 positive reviews.

Oil-filled heaters

Electric heater standing up in room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Oil-filled heaters have been proven to be very energy-efficient, quiet, and safe for households with children and pets.

'Oil-filled heaters are one of the cheapest options as they are great at retaining heat even after being turned off meaning you spend less heating up the room. They provide a slow and steady heat that can be cost-effective,' assures Jess at BestHeating.

Experts at Ryman have calculated the cost of running this type of heater for an hour to be around 22p, however, this doesn't account for those that vary in size and power.

William Hobbs, energy expert at the UK's leading trades matching site, MyJobQuote recognises this variation, saying 'This means they can cost between 17p and 85p per hour to run.'

Although prices can go up to 85p, this is still cheaper than the average cost of heating your home with a 24kW boiler which currently stands at 91p per hour.

Fan heaters

Electric fan heater standing up in room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fan heaters are typically a lot lighter and easily portable. The oscillation angle and automatic tilting fan head are designed to spread warmth across a 90-degree angle in each direction for an efficient distribution of heat around the room.

Convector and fan heaters use about the same amount of power to work, typically 2kW. So, they cost up to 61p per hour to run on full power.

Convection heaters

Electric heater standing up in room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Jonny Samuel, buying manager at Ryman says that 'Radiators, electric panel heaters and convection heaters work by creating a convection current in a room. As the hot air rises, it circles to the other side of the room, cools and sinks and travels back along the floor to the heater to be reheated again.'

As previously mentioned alongside fan heaters, both use around the same amount of power to work and, therefore, incur a similar cost of around 61p per hour.

Infrared heaters

Infrared heater standing in furnished living room

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Infrared heaters produce heat that is a product of invisible light. This is done by converting electricity into radiant heat,' explains James Longley at Utility Bidder.

'This heat is effectively the same heat feeling we would get from the winter sun, and an infrared heating panel would commonly be visualised as being a long panel with radiant orange light.'

James continues, 'With this in mind, infrared heaters can be used as heating solutions for the whole home, or simply as a conventional heater to keep an immediate space warm alongside your home's alternate central heating system.' Therefore, how much an infrared heater costs to run will depend on how you plan to use it.

If you're using an infrared heater to keep a patio seating area warm that works at 1500W, it would cost around 40p per hour.

Alternatively, if you want to implement infrared heating in your home as a regular system, James assures that 'infrared heaters panels are easy to install and commonly appear in size and shape like a flat-screen TV mounted on the wall.'

These panels are available in lower wattages but will ultimately work for longer in the day. 

Radiator bar-style heaters

radiator in white room with plants

(Image credit: Future PLC / Hannah Argyle)

'Radiator bar-style heaters tend to use around 1.2kW of power while infrared panel heaters need as little as 300W of power. So, these heaters are often cheaper to run per hour,' says William at MyJobQuote.

'But they won’t necessarily heat the room up as quickly, meaning you could need them on for longer and therefore use more electricity overall than with a fan or convection heater.'

However, Stephen Hankinson, an energy-efficiency expert at Electric Radiators Direct says, 'Compared to convection (or fan), radiant heat lasts longer and isn't affected by air movement, so it does a great job at keeping us cosy.'

'For maximum efficiency, look out for ceramic radiators which are able to produce much more radiant heat. As ceramic has excellent thermal properties, these radiators offer up to 50% of their warmth as infrared heat.

Stephen concludes, 'If you need fast-acting warmth, its convection abilities are still there to deliver, but with a much slower cooldown time to keep running costs low.' 

The verdict: what is the cheapest electric heater to run?

The verdict is in and we can say that in considering both the cost to run per hour as well as how quickly you can expect to actually feel warm, a halogen heater is the cheapest electric heater to run. Not only are halogen heaters cheap to run, but they are effective at getting the job done, so we think that investing in this type of electric heater this winter will be the biggest bang for your buck.

However, Andy at BOXT does flag that even the electric heater with the lowest running costs will eventually rack up your bills with prolonged use.

'If this heater is used for around 8 hours per day each month, this comes with a monthly running cost of around £76.80. This is almost half of the average monthly energy bill of UK households, who can expect to pay around £1,834 a year on energy bills or around £152 a month according to the October Ofgem price cap,' explains Andy.

Therefore, if you want to reduce costs even more, it's worth looking at how much you pay for your gas and electricity. You might be able to save money by switching to a cheaper tariff or supplier.

Use a price comparison website like Go.Compare to see whether you can save money by switching.


Can outdoor halogen heaters be used indoors?

Heaters designed for outdoor-use should never be used indoors, and outdoor halogen heaters are not designed for installation or use in bedrooms, living rooms or any other space, since they are not suitable for being used all day long. 

Are halogen heaters cheaper to run than fan heaters?

The answer is, yes, they are, as they give off less heat, therefore using less power. If you're also wondering how much it costs to run an oil-filled radiator, we have a separate guide, but be sure to look at any heater with a thermostat to control the temperature.

Ultimately, James at Utility Bidder concludes, 'The consensus is that the most effective product for you all depends on factors such as electricity rates, efficiency, and your overall usage.'

Jullia Joson
Junior Writer

Jullia Joson is Ideal Home’s Junior Writer. She’s always loved all things homes and interiors, graduating with a bachelor's degree in Architectural Studies from the University of Nottingham in 2022. Previously, she was an Intern Editor for ArchDaily. Now focused on news stories, Jullia can be found down the TikTok and Pinterest rabbit hole scrolling through any new and upcoming trends, hacks, and home inspiration.