Electric Heaters – Comparisons and Recommendations

In this guide:

Which Electric Heater is Cheapest to Run?
Why Conventional Radiators Can Leave You Feeling Cold
Save on Heating Bills
Avoid Clutter! Is Your Electric Heater Hidden?
How to Choose the Most Suitable Electric Heater
What This Means For You

First, a bit of background:

Electric heaters are ideal as they give you heat ‘on-demand’ and can be focused on a particular area.

Many of us have central heating in our homes but modern lifestyles mean this often isn’t the most efficient way to heat them.

Central heating suited the typical family in the 60’s and 70’s.  The system would be off during the day while you were at work and the children at school, and then only come on for a few hours in the evening.

But our lifestyles have changed considerably since then so it’s right to question whether there is a better way to heat your home.

  • More and more people work from home, often from a single room, yet many have to heat the whole house to keep warm
  • Older children, who tend to spend evenings in their bedrooms doing homework, or watching TV, want their bedrooms to be as warm as the rest of the house
  • As the demand for space grows, we build extensions and add-on conservatories which can’t be added to the central heating

And rising energy costs mean none of us want to waste heat, particularly in rooms where we don’t spend much time. All this means the need for room-by-room on-demand heating is growing.

Electric portable heaters are very useful when you want focused heat in a specific area.  It often means you can have the central heating switched off, or you can run it in the background on a lower setting.

This guide compares the most popular electric heaters and gives you the information you need to make the right choice.

Which Electric Heater is Cheapest to Run?

Let’s look at 5 popular types of electric portable heater:

  • Under Rug Heaters
  • Oil Filled Radiators
  • Convector Heaters
  • Fan Heaters
  • Halogen Heaters

The easy thing about comparing electric heaters is they all have a power rating in Watts (W) or kiloWatts (kW).  A kiloWatt is 1000 Watts.

As the heaters are all more or less 100% efficient it’s easy to see that a 2kW heater will give out twice as much heat, and cost twice as much to run, as a 1kW heater.

At the time of writing running costs for different size heaters are:

UPDATE OCTOBER 2022: Please multiply the figures below x3 for approximate current running costs.

RugBuddy running costs
But knowing the power rating isn’t the whole story when calculating running costs.  Real world factors will determine the size of your heating bill.

Factors such as

  • how long the electric heater runs at full power and whether it’s self regulating or thermostatically controlled
  • whether it’s comfortable enough so you can compensate by turning down (or turning off) the central heating

So we need to look at

  • the way the heat is generated
  • how long the heater takes to warm up and cool down
  • the nature of the heat
  • how close you are to the heater

After all, you’re buying a heater to feel comfortable and all these factors will be important to you.  You will also be concerned whether the heater is safe, silent and healthy.

Why Conventional Radiators Can Leave You Feeling Cold

A recent news story showed that many households have the thermostat turned up 4 degrees hotter than in the 1970s.

Obviously they have chosen to ignore the Government Minister’s advice to ‘put on a jumper’!  But they may be wondering why they still don’t feel that warm and cozy despite the higher temperatures and higher energy bills.

The reason is simple. The typical central heating system relies on wall mounted radiators and these have a serious drawback – they deliver convected heat. Let me explain what this means.

The radiator heats the air as it is drawn through a series of vanes at the back.  The warm air rises to the ceiling and pushes across to the far side of the room where it cools and slips down to floor level.  It’s now drawn back across the floor to be warmed by the radiator and the cycle repeats.

These convection currents mean the warmest air is by the ceiling and the coolest air, and strongest draughts, are at floor level.

It’s easy to see that this is the exact reverse of what you want.  You don’t want cold feet and a hot head. You feel most comfortable if you are out of draughts, with warm feet and ankles, and with your head in un-stuffy air.

Central heating radiators fail to deliver any of the comfort factors you want, and electric heaters that rely on the movement of warm air (convectors, fan heaters, oil filled radiators) are just as bad.

Radiant heat offers a much more comfortable experience.

In our World the biggest source of radiant heat is the Sun.  Think how much warmer you feel moving from the shade into sunlight on a bright day even though the air temperature is constant.  That’s the power of radiant heat.

So electric portable heaters that deliver radiant heat are more likely to give you the comfort you want.  In this guide halogen heaters and under rug heaters are the only radiant heaters. All the others rely on warm air movement.

Any object that is hotter than its surroundings will radiate heat. Cooler objects close to the radiant heater will absorb the heat and, in turn, warm up. This is why you will feel warmer near a radiant heater even if the air temperature is cool.

As air is not a dense ‘object’ it will not be heated quickly by the radiant heater. However this is generally not a problem and many prefer the clear-headedness they get by breathing cooler air. It also means a radiant heater will not generate draughts or cause the damaging condensation you get when warm air moves over a cold surface.

Save on Heating Bills

According to energy regulator Ofgem many households face four-figure energy bills. On-demand heating can offer a solution as these households look for ways to reduce the cost.

Having a safe, silent and healthy source of heat where you spend most of your time means you can save on your heating bills.

For example, under rug heaters are designed to be an efficient form of ‘secondary heating’.  You still need your ‘primary heating’ (usually central heating) but you can turn down the primary heating thermostat when you’re enjoying the warmth from the under rug heater.
Energy Saving Trust

The Energy Saving Trust used to calculate that for every one degree you turn the thermostat down you will save £75 per year. That was before the last year’s energy price rises.

Under rug heater customers report being comfortable with the central heating thermostat turned down by up to 3 degrees which means a saving of over £200 is possible!

Avoid Clutter! Is Your Electric Heater Hidden?

Convector heaters hung on the wall can be positioned behind chairs and tables and, so long as the air vents aren’t obstructed, will work as intended. But the drawbacks outlined above mean convectors are not the best choice.

Anything free standing – convector or radiant heater – is going to take up floor space and get in the way.  In fact, with radiant heaters like halogen heaters, you don’t want any obstructions between you and the heater or you will be in the ‘shade’.

But think for a moment how underfloor heating works.  It heats the floor and the floor itself radiates heat, evenly and comfortably, over its entire surface.

What if your electric heater could work this way – silently, reliably, and, best of all, completely hidden from view?

Under rug heaters work this way and are simple appliances that plug directly into the wall.  So you can have trendy floor heating without having to dig up the floor!

You can have an under rug heater anywhere you want; in front of the sofa, under the kitchen table, beside the bed, under the desk, even in a conservatory.  You choose.

Sandwiched between an insulating underlay and your own decorative rug on top, the under rug heater warms the rug so that it radiates warmth upwards.  This is wonderful as the heat is just where you need it, under your feet, and the heater is completely out of sight.  This avoids the clutter of other types of heater.

Not only that but you’ll then find you can usually turn down the thermostat on your central heating by a couple of degrees – and cut down on some of the draughts and overheated stuffy air at ceiling level too.

How to Choose the Most Suitable Electric Heater

In this section I’ve combined all these factors into an at-a-glance comparison table, comparing each type of heater with the one heater you’re most likely to be unfamiliar with – the under-rug heater. BeWarmer sells an under rug heater called RugBuddy™*and the table shows how it compares against oil-filled radiators, convector heaters, fan heaters and halogen heaters. In the table, the RugBuddy ‘Typical Maximum Energy Usage’ refers to a 1.25 x 1.6 m (4’1” x 5’3”) size that suits many popular rugs. The sizes and energy use of the other heaters are typical of heaters for sale on-line in the UK.

William Haseldine, Founder BeWarmer Limited* “I scanned the international market and couldn’t find another under rug heater as reputable as RugBuddy™. RugBuddy™ has established itself over the last 10 years in the US and South Africa and has an enviable record of safety, reliability and effectiveness. Fully IEC compliant, RugBuddy™ meets all UK safety standards and is the only under rug heater that can be laid on any floor finish, including carpet.”

William Haseldine – Founder, BeWarmer Limited


Heater types chart

What This Means For You

Before you choose your heater you have to decide which features are important to you. Otherwise you may end up with a heater that is expensive to run, gets in the way, is difficult to get comfortable with, or isn’t that safe or silent. Each of the heaters has significant shortcomings compared with a RugBuddy.  If you want to find out more about RugBuddy please go here.

Good luck with your electric heater purchase.  I hope this guide has made you better informed to make the right choice.


William Haseldine

FOOTNOTE:  Most renewable energy (wind, wave, PV, etc.) will be delivered to your home as electricity. Having electric heating is potentially very green and future-proof. Having the comfort of an under rug heater with the lowest possible electricity consumption is even greener!