Economic Electric Heaters – A Comprehensive Guide

Looking for an economical electric heater can seem like an impossible quest at times because we’re all searching for that mythical one product that is all things to all people: the cheapest, the most economical, the best looking, the most versatile, and so on. If it was really so simple, we’d all be using the same heater by the same brand; so, as you can see, this kind of thinking can needlessly complicate the process of selection. The truth is the vast majority of modern electric heaters are exceptionally economical to run – especially considering the new energy efficiency regulations waiting to come into force in January – but it all depends on how and where they’re used. If you want a comparison on how economical our different types of electric heaters are, read on.

Electric Radiators

Economical features at a glance:

• Use a mixture of radiation and convection, so less heat is lost.

• Come with integrated 24/7 programming facilities to minimise energy consumption.

• Have accurate digital thermostats to precisely monitor room temperature.

In-Depth Review

Haverland SmartWave Self-Programming Electric Radiators

Electric radiators are a firm favourite with customers because of their reliable warmth and easy heat management. Combining exceptional efficiency with a low purchase price, they’re often the first port of call for anyone looking to update their heating system. Part of the reason electric radiators are so economical is because they come with their own integrated controls. All of the best electric radiators are fitted with digital thermostats which are accurate to within a fraction of a degree so energy waste is kept to a minimum. They’re leagues apart from old mechanical thermostats that can be inaccurate by up to a few degrees, overheating your spaces or cooling down so much that your system has to work harder to top up heat levels. Electric radiators also come with their own 24/7 programmers so you can customise heat levels for each room in the house depending on how they’re used throughout the week. The type of heat produced by electric radiators is just the same as a central heating equivalent: a comfortable mix of convection and radiation. Though convection is more prone to heat loss through doors and windows, the radiant heat these products also provide means that you’ll still be retaining a good portion of heat despite any occasional through-draughts. While cheap electric radiators are available, it’s often worth spending a little more to get a premium model with more features to keep long-term running costs low.

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Infrared Panels

Economical features at a glance:

• Use radiant heat only, which isn’t lost through draughts.

• Require lower wattages to heat the same space vs other electric heating systems.

• Can have 24/7 programming when fitted with a thermostat.

In-Depth Review

Herschel Select Infrared Heating Panels – White

Infrared panels are one of the most economical electric heating systems available because of how radiant heat warms spaces. Instead of heating the air volume of a room, infrared heats the surfaces and mass of a building to provide a comfortable ambient warmth that’s uniform from floor to ceiling.  The heating method of infrared panels can be tough to get to grips with at first as they need time for the surrounding walls to absorb their warmth, but once they do, they only ever need to switch back on occasionally to top up heat levels. What makes infrared so economical is that it’s unaffected by air movement, so even as you come and go from the house, you’ll experience minimal heat loss from the building. This also means that in comparison to other electric heating methods, they can often heat the same space with a lower wattage. Though it’s possible to use infrared panels without any additional controls, it’s a real disservice to their efficiency if you choose to go down this route. Thermostatic controls can minimise the running costs of your infrared panels even further and allow you to set a bespoke heating schedule tailored around your lifestyle for total convenience.

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Panel Heaters

Economical features at a glance:

• Can be economical if used for occasional heating.

• Come with integrated 24/7 programming facilities to minimise energy use, though this depends on the brand.

• Have digital thermostats to monitor room temperature with a greater degree of accuracy.

In-Depth Review

Ecostrad iQ Plus Panel Heater

Panel heaters aren’t the most efficient products but they can still be economical if used properly. The reason they’re not used for whole home heating is because they create warmth using convection only, which as we’ve already mentioned, can be dispersed through draughts and air movement. If you’re mindful of this fact, there’s no reason they can’t be welcome additions in the home. They’re best used as occasional heaters for rooms you use less often or for short periods of time. For example, if you use your home office every couple of weeks but tend to stay in there for a few hours when you do, a panel heater can be a wonderfully convenient solution. Their quick heat can make spaces comfortable in minutes, and as many newer models come with in-built programmers, you can even pre-heat rooms according to your routine. Like electric radiators, good quality panel heaters also come with accurate digital thermostats to keep energy usage to a minimum.

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Quartz Heaters

Economical features at a glance:

• Use radiant heat, which isn’t lost through draughts.

• Allow you to zone heating to specific areas rather than heating the whole room volume.

• Have additional controls to adjust output, though this varies from product to product.

In-Depth Review

Ecostrad Thermaglo Infrared Patio Heater - Black 2kW

Quartz heaters are another infrared-based product, but unlike infrared panels, their use is restricted to occasional use in hard-to-heat areas of the home. Infrared products have the benefit of being unaffected by draughts so you can be sure that all of the heat produced won’t escape to other areas. In fact, quartz heaters are excellent for spot heating specific spaces so you don’t need to try and heat the entire volume of the room to feel warm. For example, if you’re doing some work in your garage, you may only need to keep your workbench area heated. Quartz heaters handle situations like this with ease whereas other heating methods may struggle as they try to heat poorly insulated and draughty interiors. In this respect, quartz heaters can be superbly economical as you’re only ever heating precise areas of the room that need warmth. Some quartz heaters come with built-in controls which allow you to adjust the desired output – a great energy-saving feature if you only need a little supplementary warmth rather than the product’s full heating capability.

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Piggy BankEnergy-Saving Functions & Features

For an economical primary heat source, your best bet is to look at electric radiators or infrared panels, although occasional heaters can also be a suitable option for secondary spaces. When looking for an economical electric heater, it’s beneficial to look at how many energy-saving features a product offers to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Digital thermostats and 24/7 programmers usually come as standard with products of today, but you should also keep a look out for additional features such as open window detection or Wi-Fi controls for additional energy-saving potential. As new energy efficiency regulations are coming into force from January 2018, it may help to look for heaters that are already compliant with the new rules if you want to make sure that your heater is as economical as possible.