Best Electric Heater Buying Guide
To get the best electric heater for your needs, you need to know the basics of each type of electric heater. First, we have to negotiate the technical jargon, but please don't worry, this is very straightforward (honestly). The output of electric heaters is usually rated in kilowatts (or kw for short). This is a direct indication of how much heat they are capable of putting out. As an example, a 400kw heater can give out twice as much heat as a 200kw model.
Broadly speaking, there are four distinct types of electric heater which are suitable for home use. These are as follows:
- Fan heaters
- Convection heaters
- Infra-red radiators
- Oil-filled electric radiators
As their name suggests, fan heaters utilise an electric fan to move a current of air around the room. They are able to produce a considerable amount of heat relatively quickly. This means however, that they may consume quite a bit of electric power in the process and running costs can be quite high, particularly if they are left to run unattended.
Convection radiators, or convector heaters work on the same principle as a central heating radiator warms a room. Cool air is heated inside the bottom of the heater by an electric element which produces a warm air current. This warm air rises out of the top of the radiator and flows out to heat the room.
Infra-red heating is a system that emits energy into a space which warms anything within its range, be it a wall, a floor, furniture or a person, rather than simply warming the air in the room.
The principle behind oil-filled heaters is that a quantity of oil within the heater is warmed in much the same way that a central heating radiator contains hot water. In this case however, the oil does not flow but is sealed within the radiator. Since this oil will both hold more heat and release it more slowly than air, it can be an efficient way to radiate heat around a room.
The first thing to know about electric heaters is that the unit must be suitable for the size of the room it is required to heat. Heaters commonly include a guide to the amount of space they are designed to heat, either on the packaging or in the owner's handbook, which we highly recommend you check before purchasing a unit. Too large a heater will waste energy, while too small a heater will simply not provide sufficient heat for the intended space.
But there are other features of a good electric heater to look for. For a start, a portable heater should be just that, portable, and must therefore be easy to move around.
The best electric heaters will also include a certain amount of adjustment of their heat output. This should be easy for anyone to operate. Some models may have a remote temperature control facility, although this feature often comes at a price and is more often seen on the more expensive models. Still, it is useful to have a 24 hour timer so that the room is already warm before you plan to use it. In fact, some models are now programmable up to a week in advance.
It's a good idea to pay special attention to the thermostat as it's an essential feature. A good thermostat will make the heater switch off when the required temperature is reached, or switch on again when the temperature drops.
Many fan heaters will also have a cooling function which can useful during hot weather. Some models may include what is known as a frost or freeze protection feature. This means that the heater can be programmed to switch on when the ambient temperature drops low which is particularly useful for greenhouse and conservatory heaters.