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Electric heaters can be handy for warming up a room and can be faster than cranking up the thermostat. But how much does it cost to run an electric heater?
If you’re concerned that your electric heater is adding to your utility bills, it’s a good idea to work out how much you might be spending to run it. Different types and sizes use different amounts of electricity. Knowing how much using yours costs means you can decide how often you use it and when.
We’ve worked out how much you can expect to spend per hour or evening to run an electric heater – as well as ways you can reduce your energy bills.
How much does it cost to run an electric heater?
According to the Energy Saving Trust, (opens in new tab) the national average price (as of November 2021) per pence/kWh of electricity is 20.33p. We have rounded it to 20p for illustration purposes.
Electric heaters show much energy they use as their heat output. For example, a 2kW fan heater would cost 40p an hour to run on full power. Over a four-hour evening, this would be £1.60, and over a week, £11.20.
Similarly, an example 3kW convector heater would cost 60p per hour to run on full power, £2.40 an evening and £16.80 a week, which shows how a more powerful heater can cost more than £5 extra over a week.
‘Remember that central heating is a lot cheaper to run than an electric heater,’ says John Lawless, heating expert at BestHeating. ‘For every unit of heat put out by an electric heater, it will cost around three times as much as a unit of heat from one of your radiators.’
Are some electric heaters cheaper to run than others?
‘Electric heating is a little different in terms of judging a product’s energy efficiency,’ explains Nick Duggan, Director at the Radiator Centre. ‘Unlike washing machines, electric radiators do not come with Energy Performance certificates as, in theory, putting 1000 watts into an electric radiator should produce 1000 watts of heat.’
There are several types of heater that use electricity:
- Fan heaters are light and easily portable. They heat rooms quickly by running a current through a coil to heat it up, then drawing air over it. This warm air is then blown out and circulated. You find different heat outputs ranging from 0.5kW to 3kW. Heaters with ceramic plates around the element will be more efficient and safer.
- Convector heaters work in a similar way, by heating up the air using an element, but are usually larger and can look more like radiators. They may have an optional fan to speed up heat distribution but not always, meaning they’re quieter to run but slower. Common heat outputs range from 2kW to 3kW.
- Oil-filled radiators work by heating up an element that’s submerged in fluid, which when warm, circulates around the radiator. While their heat outputs are similar, around 1kW to 2.5kW, they’ll continue to provide heat after they’ve been turned off, so don’t have to be on as long.
What energy saving features should I look for when buying an electric heater?
Electric heaters are more expensive to run than gas central heating, so look for features that make them as efficient as possible.
1. Thermostat/climate control
Most electric heaters will have a thermostat or climate control, meaning that when the temperature you’ve set it to is reached, it’ll maintain it. Not only does this prevent you from becoming too hot, it means you won’t have to keep turning the heater on and off.
Timers allow you to set your heater to come on before you arrive home – meaning that you can opt for a lower heat for longer to help save energy. They’re also good for switching it off so you don’t forget.
3. Variable heat
Multiple settings on an electric heater enable you to choose a lower one on milder days. Ideally look for at least three settings and/or a variable dial so your space won’t overheat.
How can I cut the cost of running an electric heater?
1. Buy the right heater
Choose an electric heater that suits the size of the room. A small heater will struggle to heat a large space, meaning it’ll be on constantly on full – less efficient than a larger heater on a lower setting less of the time.
2. Turn down your thermostat
It can be more economical to set your central heating to low and use an electric heater to boost the temperature in the room you’re in. This means you can be cosy while watching TV without heating the rest of your house as much.
3. Set a schedule
If your electric heater doesn’t have its own timer, or is limited to one setting, add a timer plug. This means you can decide when the heater is on and off all day long.
4. Keep the heat in
Poor insulation can cause up to 25% heat loss, meaning you’ll have your electric heater on for longer or at a higher setting. Add draught excluders around windows and doors, keyhole covers to exterior doors, and opt for thicker curtains. On a larger scale, upgrade any single glazing to double, check your loft insulation is sufficient and think about installing cavity wall insulation.
Rachel Ogden is a freelance journalist with more than 20 years’ experience of writing, editing and sub-editing. Since 2007, she's worked exclusively in interiors, writing about everything from extending your home to kitchen worktops, flooring, storage and more. She specialises in product reviews, having reviews hundreds of small and large appliances and homeware.
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