For many people, heating your home in the winter is essential, yet it can also be very costly. In this guide, I’ll show you which types of heaters generate the most heat with the least energy so that you can stay warm while spending as little money as possible.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that 43% of all energy used in homes is for heating. That’s a huge amount, but it doesn’t need to be so high.
At certain times of the day, it can make sense to heat just one or two rooms of your home, rather than the whole house. In this case, using a portable space heater can save you a lot of money compared to running the central heating.
A heater can also be handy to heat a space that doesn’t have central heating such as a garage or to use as a backup heater if your main heating system isn’t working.
But which type of heater is the cheapest to run? I’ve spent over eight hours researching this topic to give you the answers you seek…
Choosing The Right Size And Kind Of Heater
There are many different kinds of space heaters on the market. While most are powered by electricity, some are powered by burnable fuels such as natural gas, propane, fuel oil, or wood.
In almost all cases, an electric heater is the best option to use indoors as these are portable, safe, and don’t give off any fumes.
Within the category of electric heaters, you have various types including convection heaters with a metal or ceramic heating element, oil-filled heaters, and infrared heaters.
As well as choosing the best type of electric heater, you’ll want to make sure that you choose the right size, so that you have enough power to heat the room, without wasting energy with a heater that’s too large.
How Much Does It Cost To Run A Heater?
To work out how much a heater costs to run and which type of heater is most economical, you’ll need to pay attention to two things:
- The wattage of the heater
- The cost of electricity where you live
The Wattage of Electric Heaters
All electric appliances are rated by wattage e.g. 1500W. This number tells you how many watts of electricity it uses per hour. The higher the number, the more powerful it is, but the more it will cost to run.
If you run a 1000W heater for one hour, it will use 1 kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity.
The Cost of Electricity
Electricity is billed in kilowatt-hours (kWh) and the amount that you pay depends on your electricity tariff.
The average in the US in 2022 is $0.14, but this varies quite a lot by state and can be more than double this in some areas.
If you pay the US average of $0.14 per kWh for electricity and run a 1000W heater for one hour, it will cost you 14 cents.
Read More: Exactly How Much It Costs To Run a Heater
Although heaters can seem to be quite expensive to run, using a small, energy-efficient electric heater is almost always the cheaper option compared to heating your whole house.
The Cheapest Heaters to Run
Here are my recommendations for the most efficient types of electric heaters, in order of cheapest to most expensive to run…
1. Infrared Heaters
Infrared heaters emit invisible infrared light that heats up people and objects, rather than the air. This is the most efficient way to heat a room, making infrared heaters the cheapest type of heater to run.
Infrared heaters can be small, portable electric heaters or some modern homes use infrared panels as an alternative to a furnace and ducted heating system.
- Cheapest type of heater to run
- Look stylish
- 100% safe
- Fast to heat up
- Higher cost to buy than other heaters
- Only heat objects in their direct path
Best Infrared Heater: Dr Infrared Portable Space Heater
2. Fan Heaters
Fan heaters have a metal or ceramic heating element which heats up the surrounding air. A fan helps to move the warm air around. These are the most popular types of electric heaters.
Because fan heaters direct airflow towards a particular area, they can feel warmer than other types of heaters if you have the warm air blowing directly towards you. They’re also very cheap to buy, making them the best option for people on a tight budget.
- Cheap to buy
- Simple technology
- Fast to heat up
- Can also be used to cool
- Can have a nasty burning dust smell
Best Fan Heater: Dreo Ceramic Fan Heater
3. Oil-Filled Heaters
Oil-filled radiators work by using an electric element to heat a reservoir of thermal oil which then heats the body of the appliance. This process can take at least 30 minutes to get going, but once they’re warm, oil heaters retain their heat and can be an energy-efficient way to heat a room cheaply.
Oil heaters may seem like an old-fashioned option, but they’re still popular today and provide a good way to heat the whole room with no noise or smell.
- Completely silent
- Keep their heat for a long time
- Take a long time to heat up
- Hot to touch
Best Oil Heater: DeLonghi Oil-Filled Space Heater
4. Halogen Heaters
Halogen heaters use halogen lamps which are similar to light bulbs, except that they give off heat as well as light. They’re okay to use in small areas, but you have to be sitting quite close to the heater to feel the effect. Plus, they’re pretty bright, so you should avoid looking directly at the heater.
- Provides immediate heat
- Good for outdoor use
- Not safe around kids or pets
- Give off light so not good for night time
- Not very efficient
Best Halogen Heater: Comfort Zone Halogen Heater
5. Storage Heaters
Night storage heaters are used in combination with special Time of Use (TOU) electricity tariffs that have cheap off-peak hours. They use the cheaper electricity at night, store it within their thermal bricks, and then use this electricity in the day to act like a normal heater.
While storage heaters are cheap to run, the problem with off-peak tariffs is that you’ll pay more in the day. So in the summer, when you aren’t using your storage heaters at all, you’ll end up paying over the odds for your electricity. Plus, the heaters themselves are very expensive to buy.
Storage heaters aren’t very popular in the United States but have been more commonly used in the UK, where off-peak electricity tariffs such as Economy7 are more commonplace.
- Pay a lower rate for electricity
- Very expensive to buy
- Need a special electricity tariff
- Can increase overall electricity cost
Which Is The Best Heater To Save Electricity?
All electric heaters are 100% efficient at turning electricity into heat. A 1000W heater will cost the same to run, whether it’s infrared, ceramic, or oil-filled.
However, because some heaters are more efficient at distributing the heat in the best way, they can be run for less time or on a lower setting, therefore using less electricity.
When choosing an electric heater, you’ll want to look out for energy-saving features such as thermostats and timers. Using these properly can mean that the heater will use only the minimum amount of electricity that it needs to heat the room to the desired temperature.
Rather than waiting until you feel too warm and then getting up to turn off the heater, an electric heater with a thermostat and timer will automatically reduce its output before the room overheats.
Of course, you’ll also want to consider the cost of buying the heater. An infrared heater may save you money on your electricity bill, but if it costs hundreds of dollars more to buy the heater, then you’ll end up spending more overall.
Tips For Getting The Most From Your Heater
1. Set the thermostat to between 60 and 70F
If you’re buying a new electric heater then you should definitely choose a model with a thermostat. Set it to the desired temperature and you can forget about it, trusting that the heater will cycle on and off as needed to keep your room temperature consistent.
2. Use the timer function
If you have an oil-filled heater that takes a while to warm up, then using the time can mean that it can begin working before you arrive home or at your office. A timer can also be handy to stop you from forgetting to turn it off at the end of the day or when you go out for lunch.
3. Position the heater carefully
With certain types of heaters, positioning is vital. If there’s an object between you and your infrared heater, you won’t feel the heat at all. It would be like trying the feel the warmth of the sun from beneath an umbrella. With fan heaters, you’ll benefit much more if you point it right at you, but if there are several people in the room then you may be better choosing a model that oscillates.
Electric Heater FAQs
The cheapest way to heat a room is with a small, energy-efficient space heater. Infrared heaters are the cheapest to run. Choose a model with a thermostat and a timer for maximum energy-saving.
A 1500w fan heater and a 1500w convector heater will both use the exact same amount of energy and cost the same to run. Fan heaters can direct the heat better so they are best for one person who stays in the same seat all day, whereas convection heaters are better for heating the whole room.
The safest electric heaters are wall-mounted flat-panel heaters as these can be mounted out of reach of children and pets and will not burn anyone who touches them for short periods. However, you should be sure never to hand clothing on an electric heater as they all have the potential to catch fire.