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You may not need to wait for winter before ensuring your home heating is set up correctly. Maybe you need to upgrade your heating system. Perhaps, you even need to buy a new heater.
Thus, a heater buying guide can be of some benefit when shopping for a heater to warm your home. You will also get the chance to know various types of heaters and heating options, their features, safety tips, ventilation, and benefits.
This article will help you uncover how to choose the best space heaters for your home and where to get expert advice.
What Are The Various Types Of Heaters?
When searching for a heater, you are likely to hear about fan heaters, convector heaters, electric heaters, and gas heaters. How do you know the best type of heater for your home? You can start by looking at the different types and understanding their merits and demerits.
Electric fan heaters are available in an array of sizes. More importantly, they are available at different prices from other manufacturers. You can use this as a cheap heating option.
Since they are relatively small and portable, they are ideal for heating small heating spaces. Likewise, people use them over shorter time spans. They fan heated air into your room, which is why they are called fan heaters. The heated air is usually circulated over a heating element.
Fan heaters have a heating and cooling function, making them useful throughout the year. You can also use fan heaters with a limited budget or a small room. They are great when you need immediate warmth in a small heating space.
- Fan heaters instantly heat up.
- They have good energy efficiency.
- There is heat oscillation from heating to cooling.
- Their housing is typically cool to the touch.
- Fan heaters are less efficient in large spaces.
- They stop radiating heat immediately after they are turned off.
- They rely on insulation to maintain warmed air in your living space.
- There is some degree of safety risk as some feature exposed elements.
A radiant bar heater has several bars built into it to radiate heat outwards. It uses infrared rays to radiate heat. This type of heater transfers heat directly to the surrounding area. This includes people and objects close to it. As a result, such heaters are not an ideal option for heating your entire room.
Radiant bar heaters (or strip heaters) are appropriate for personal use. Just like fan heaters, they are small, portable, and can provide heating for small spaces. For instance, you could use them to provide heating for your office, bathroom, or a small bedroom.
However, unlike fan heaters, heated air is not circulated by a fan. Thus, radiant bar heaters operate silently. Also, radiant heaters are available at budget-friendly rates. Nonetheless, take note of the number of bars that they typically feature. Radiant bar heaters have either two or three bars.
- Radiant heaters are energy efficient.
- Generally, they are quieter than convection heaters.
- You can have them as freestanding or wall-mounted units.
- Since there is no circulating air, they are an excellent choice for allergy sufferers.
- They are limited to providing targeted heating. This means they cannot heat the air in a room very well.
- They have limited temperature control settings.
- They stop radiating heat as soon as you turn them off.
- Their exposed heating elements can pose some risk to children or pets.
You can also refer to convection heaters as convector heaters. They are electric-powered heaters. Their operation mechanism involves drawing in cold air (convection currents) over a heating element that is then released back into the room.
Convection heaters are capable of heating up an entire room. This differs from radiant heaters that are limited to heating up a particular area. Additionally, convection heaters can function over an extended period of time. These features make them an excellent pick for use in shared living spaces such as living or dining rooms.
In addition, convection heaters work silently. If you are looking for efficient heating, go for convector heaters with mica-thermic panels. They can absorb and release warmth. In other words, you get to enjoy the advantages of both convection and radiated heat.
Some convection heaters are fitted with a fan. This speeds up the heating process, but the heater operates at elevated noise levels. There are smaller units of convector heaters and other sizes and shapes. As such, there is a range of price points.
- Convection heaters warm up spaces fast.
- They can heat your entire room for quite a long period of time.
- They do not have exposed heating elements.
- They have a lower price point compared to radiant heaters.
- Their energy efficiency is not quite as good as those of radiant or fan heaters.
- They can overheat when the fan is damaged or faulty.
- Convector heaters take more time to heat a room with a cold draft.
- They make more noise than other choices.
Note: Go for solar air convection heaters, which are a rare option, if you do not want any operating costs. Solar air convection heaters depend on sunlight. As such, they do not always provide heat as needed.
These are also referred to as column heaters, recognisable for their column design. Oil-filled column heaters provide radiant heating through the following process:
- First, you plug the heater in; an oil-filled heater runs on electricity.
- Then, the oil within it gets heated. Thus, there is heat transfer to the casings, the air circulating the fins, and throughout the columns.
- After that, heat is produced.
- Oil-filled heaters can produce heated air for quite a while after being turned off since the oil retains heat.
As such, you get to enjoy heat all night, even after switching off your column heater. Furthermore, they operate silently, just like radiant and convector heaters. Electric-powered oil-filled heaters come in different shapes and sizes. Note that some column heaters may not be oil-filled but use other heating technology.
Generally, column heaters are heavier and bulkier than other portable heaters. Modern models have castors to help with mobility. Column heaters are available at a range of prices that are often higher than radiant and fan heaters. However, they are generally preferred over other portable electric heaters because of their efficiency and safety rating.
- Oil-filled heaters give off long-lasting heat.
- They can heat large rooms really well
- There are oil-filled and oil-free radiator options.
- They operate silently.
- Their heat-up time is slow compared to other portable types.
- They come in large sizes and are heavier than other options.
- They can be hot to the touch.
- The cost of repairs can be high.
There are other choices if you do not want to go for electric heaters. If there is natural gas in your area, you could opt for a gas heater that provides convective or radiant heat. Alternatively, you could go for an LPG heater if you do not have natural gas available.
As regards gas heaters, you could choose the flued or unflued option. Unflued means your gas heater will be portable. Flued gas heaters are fixed and have a flue pipe to vent out emissions from your home. However, note that the unflued option generates dangerous emissions.
These emissions can cause serious health effects to you or your family. Gas heaters are not affected when there is a power outage as they run on gas. Regarding pricing, gas heaters are generally more expensive than electric alternatives.
- They can heat up quickly.
- The heat generation capacity is enough to warm your entire home.
- They can last up to 20 years with regular maintenance.
- They are more environmentally friendly.
- They are relatively pricier than other types of heaters.
- You may need professional installation.
- A possible carbon monoxide leak presents a potential safety risk.
- Condensation and mould can occur due to the condensation of water vapour.
Reverse cycle air conditioners
Reverse cycle air conditioners have two great features going for them. First, they can provide heated air for the winter season and colder air during the summer. This makes reverse cycle air conditioners (heat pumps) effective heaters. They are among the most energy-efficient heating options.
Regarding pricing, reverse cycle air conditioners tend to be more expensive than other heaters. However, to balance the scale, they have the potential for long-term electricity cost savings. They are an efficient heating option.
- Reverse cycle air conditioners have both heat and cool functionality.
- Their energy efficiency is greater than that of portable heaters.
- They also help purify the air.
- With routine upkeep and maintenance, they can last up to 20 years.
- Its buying price is higher than that of portable heaters.
- They require professional installation.
- You need to close doors and windows for maximum efficiency.
- They must be wall-mounted.
Geothermal heat pumps
This can be an expensive option due to its high installation cost. However, they are quite cheap to run. Geothermal heat pump systems draw heat from the ground to cool your home.
Wall-mounted electric panel heaters are cheap to run too. Most panel heaters operate through convection. This makes them reasonably safe to use. However, some models combine convection and radiation. These models are also generally quite efficient.
- Panel heaters can be quite light and portable as compared to oil-filled column heaters.
- They can heat the air in your room quickly and evenly.
- A ceiling fan set at a really low speed can help distribute the heat quickly and evenly, as is the case for column heaters.
- Some models can be relatively expensive.
- Panel heaters with fans can be noisy.
Electric fires allow you to enjoy the comfort of real fires without needing a chimney. You can set them to produce a flicker flame effect. In addition, some models have concealed controls to give a more realistic look. Electric fire heaters are available as freestanding, inset, or wall-mounted types.
Their mechanism of operation involves heating ceramic plates or in-built blocks. After that, each plate absorbs and subsequently radiates heat. The result is an effectively warmed-up room.
Ceramic heaters are of two main types: convection and radiant. A convection ceramic heater uses fans to blow warm air, while a radiant ceramic heater radiates heat directly. The merits of ceramic heaters include:
- The element is positioned behind the block. As such, ceramic heaters are safe for families with young children.
- Their operation is near silent, making them ideal for heating workspaces.
- Ceramic heaters with an oscillating function can heat a wider area. They are ideal when you wish to heat a focused area in your room (spot heating). Use a tower heater with bigger ceramic blocks to heat larger or taller areas.
Infrared heaters warm up a room the way the sun heats your face. But don't worry; they do not carry cancer-causing UV rays. Where other heaters heat objects, infrared heaters heat the air.
- You can even mount them on walls or ceilings.
- They also work well in rooms that cannot be draught-proofed. This is because they heat up objects rather than space.
- You can mount them behind mirrors in bathrooms. The infrared rays can still pass through.
- They instantly heat up.
- They are quite silent.
- Infrared heaters require little maintenance.
- They are relatively expensive.
- The objects they heat up need to be in the line of sight.
- If they are installed opposite windows, the heat goes straight through.
Hydronic heating uses a process that involves pumping heated water to radiators through a network of pipes. You can also use them for under-floor heating.
Wood heaters and fireplaces
This option can provide you with cosy and radiant heating. However, you need a constant supply of fuel. In addition, they have to be occasionally cleaned to keep them functioning well.
Off-peak storage heaters or heat banks
These are pretty appropriate for cold climates. With off-peak storage heaters, the hours when off-peak electricity rates apply is the time they heat up.
Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs)
Heat recovery ventilators (HRVs) and energy recovery ventilators (ERVs) do not use energy. Still, they are quite efficient and effective in ventilating tightly sealed homes. They can help maintain indoor temperature.
You can use these lamps as heat sources. They are pretty good at providing warmth for your bathroom, especially during cold weather.
Electric underfloor heating
Electric underfloor heating is an excellent way to keep your toes warm in the morning and keep your indoor temperature consistent and comfortable.
Heated blankets are a perfect addition to your bed during winter. Not only do they make it super cosy, but they also help with pain relief and get rid of muscle strains.
For your convenience, install an outdoor heater or a patio heater. Your guests will stay warm as they are entertained outdoors.
Heated towel rails
A warm towel is excellent and ensures that your whole bathroom feels nice and toasty. If you have heated towel rails present in your bathroom, they'll help keep the room at a perfect temperature.
Features Of Heaters
Heat output is measured in watts or kilowatts. Knowing what heat output you should aim for in your heater can be complicated. However, you can get a clue from the following:
- The heat output your room needs is affected by conditions like external temperature. However, heat output between 2000-2400W is likely enough for most uses.
- Large homes without insulation or double-glazing are likely to need more powerful heaters.
- Higher heat outputs usually result in higher running costs. Opt for energy-efficient models if you need more power.
You should consider getting a thermostat-controlled heater for your home. That way, you can easily change the indoor temperature to your liking and have more peace of mind. They are also easy to operate and will make the heater more effective and beneficial.
Those who are asthmatic or suffer from allergies will enjoy the relief of heaters with built-in filters. Their heating process does not spread dust and allergens.
Space heaters have not only caused 43% of home heating fires, but they are also responsible for 85% of associated deaths each year. This is why putting safety first is vital for space heaters.
Today's electric heaters are safer than their predecessors. Some modern models can use flammable, liquid fuels and pose a fire risk. By contrast, modern models come with safety features built-in.
Check for the following safety features in your heater:
- Tip-over protection: This can be useful in heaters with exposed heating elements. It stops the operation of the heater if it falls over.
- Drip protection: Typically found in heaters used in the bathroom, this feature reduces risks of injury when water droplets or condensation enters the unit.
- Automatic cut-out feature: This heater features thermal cut-outs and tilt switches that protect your home if you forget to turn your heater off.
Which Heaters Are Safer Options?
Panel and oil-column heaters are generally safer than other convection heaters. Their heating elements are not exposed, and their surface temperatures are lower because of this. They're also heavier, so they're stable if someone trips on the cord.
When considering space heaters, you can consider column-oil heaters to be relatively safe. They may not have high surface temperatures like other types of heaters, but it's still important to take care when using them. Nasty burns are a risk.
Because of these risk factors, technicians may need to be called in for repair.
Is It Safe To Leave Heaters On All Night?
You can read on to know which heaters are safe to leave on through the night.
Panel and oil-column heaters are safer choices for leaving on all night. They offer a gentler, slower heating system, which helps people sleep better at night. They are also safer to touch than other types of heaters.
Radiant heaters and fan heaters
You should monitor the use of radiant heaters to prevent the possible risk of fire. The fan safeguards the heating elements, but their noise may be distracting.
Heaters with timers
There are a few options to help keep your electricity bill down. Timers on heating devices can automatically turn on again in the morning, so you don't need to worry about them being off when you wake up.
Safety Tips When Using A Heater
The following tips can help you maintain safe operations, no matter what type of heater you use:
- Keep your space heater on an even floor. Not a shelf, bench, or raised surface.
- Space heaters are not ideal for use in wet areas like bathrooms and kitchens. Water should not mix with electricity.
- You should keep curtains, furniture, and other flammable items to a metre away from your space heater. This reduces the risk of fire and of objects falling on the heater.
- Be mindful of a running space heater if you have small children around.
- Examine the plugs and cords as you look through various space heaters. Plug your space heater into open outlets and no extension cords to avoid creating a fire hazard.
Oil heaters and risk of fire
Compared to other types of heaters, the risk of a fire with oil-column heaters is relatively low. This is because, unlike radiant heaters, they don't have exposed elements, which means a lower surface temperature. It also helps that their fire risk is less than most types of radiant heaters. However, an electrical appliance filled with hot oil carries some fire risk.
Burning oil is still a fire danger, so the same safety tips mentioned before apply. You should replace your old oil heaters if they look unsafe, show any signs of corrosion, or are leaking.
Electric heaters and ventilation
Electric heaters do not emit carbon monoxide, unlike a combustion heater would. A gas or kerosene heater typically does emit CO. Space heaters evaporate moisture from the air, while oil column heaters do not. Although convection heaters don't need ventilation, it can be helpful to have some natural airflow.
For example, try putting your fan on the reverse setting instead of making your heat rise and create a hot spot on the ceiling. Air will then circulate, and heat will be dispersed more readily.
Gas heaters and ventilation
Keep your unflued gas heater ventilated and not in a closed-off space like a bedroom or bathroom. Do this, and you won't have to worry about carbon monoxide poisoning.
Benefits Of Electric Space Heaters
You can place these small, portable heaters virtually anywhere in your home. Indoor air quality is paramount. That's why some homes use various forms of air purifiers and air treatments. Electric space heaters don't impact air quality, so you can quickly raise the temperature to your preferred level.
Besides, electric space heaters come with variable temperature control systems. In addition, they come in different sizes and features to choose from.
Types Of Space Heaters
There is an assortment of space heaters. For example, infrared space heaters, ceramic space heaters, fan space heaters, and panel space heaters all may come up in conversation. Here are some characteristics of the different types of space heaters.
Convection space heaters
Convection heaters can be water/oil-filled or baseboard. Oil-filled and water heaters are very efficient: they essentially warm the air in a room. Air circulates in the room when hot air produced by your heater rises and escapes from an open-top.
Radiant space heaters
Radiant heaters heat people and objects instead of the air directly. That is why you can sit in front of it and enjoy the warmth. Moreover, the heat-up is done quickly. However, there is a risk of being burnt when you touch it. Similarly, you would do well to keep flammable or combustible materials away from the space heater. Place such materials at least three feet away from the space heater.
Combination space heaters
You can get the best of both options. The fan helps to distribute heat. Still, their efficiency is less than that of other types of space heaters.
Choose The Best Space Heaters For Your Home
An electric heater will heat an area in a much faster time than a gas radiator. To heat an entire room, you may opt for an electric convection grill. But if you need a powerful heater that can contend with more formidable challenges, then you should go for a combination of these two forms.
It helps to consider your needs, the room size, and how often you plan to use it when you're looking for a space heater.
Heater Buying Guide
The type of heater you buy can affect so many things. There are financial implications, health implications, and other implications. This is why you should weigh your choices.
For this process, you can refer to the following heater buying guide (and home heating guide).
- It should have safety features like automatic cut-off, tip-over sensors, and drip protection.
- A lightweight model or one with castors is preferable if you wish to use it in different rooms.
- Let the heat output match the size of the room. Do not waste energy and money by choosing a higher output.
- The heating process for portable electric heaters is more effective for insulated rooms without draughts.
- Cheap and portable heaters are great for short-term use.
- More expensive heating options can offer better savings in the long run.
- When buying second-hand heaters, it is wise to check that it is not listed for recall at recalls.gov.au.
Electric heaters have to comply with Australian electrical safety standards. So check for electrical compliance using guides on regulatory websites like NSW Fair Trading and the Electrical Equipment Safety System.
There are different types of heaters, each with its own advantages. Radiant, convection, and combination heaters all warm up your room differently. You can use them in tandem with each other, so you don't need to spend as much on heating. That way, you can reduce your heating bills overall. Basically, electric heaters convert virtually all of their electricity to heat.
Depending on where you live in Australia, electric heaters may be the most expensive form of heating, while gas and wood heaters may be the cheapest. If that's not the case for you, consider using a reverse-cycle air conditioner as it is the most cost-effective solution.
Small portable heaters are pretty inexpensive. But the high running costs might make them not worth the investment. Oil column heaters, on the other hand, can be pretty cheap to use. Similarly, convection heaters like panels and mica-thermic panels also have low operating expenses.
Though they take some time to warm up, AI fans can be powerful enough to improve your workplace's air quality. You'll still need a fan, though, as they don't evenly distribute heat.
Electric heaters may be cheaper to buy than gas heaters. Still, electric heating may be more expensive and unsustainable for the environment because they fail to generate effective heating and can account for up to 40% of your total energy bill.
To calculate the running cost of electric heaters, multiply the price per kilowatt-hour of your electricity by the electrical input wattage in kilowatts to get an approximated cost of running your portable electric heater. It may be difficult to calculate this if the technical specifications are unavailable, but try to look up similar products.
Take note, though, that your calculation depends on what area is being heated and the insulation in your home.
Where To Get Expert Advice
By now, you have become familiar with the types of heaters, heating options, features of heaters, and their safety tips. You also understand their ventilation aspects, benefits, and factors when choosing the best space heaters.
However, you may still need extra advice on the pros of heaters, what mobile plans to go for, or the best air purifiers for your home. You can get expert advice from electrical service companies in Australia.
In addition, they can offer you indoor and outdoor heating solutions. This includes home heating systems such as electric fireplaces, propane heaters, baseboard heaters, water heaters, or even patio heaters and garage heaters.