What Are the Cheapest Electric Heaters to Run?

Written by Adam Morris
8 Min read
Table of contents

When winter starts to bite, it can be common to start searching out alternative ways to heat your home. Electronically powered heaters are the best answer to fighting the deep freeze, but you might be left worrying about the added costs on top of your, already expensive, winter heating bills.

So, we wanted to give you the best of both worlds. In this blog, we’ll tell you about the best portable electric heater choices, plus we’ll also define which option is most effective at battling the chill without breaking the bank.

But before we get into all that technical detail, we’ll tell you which type of heater is the cheapest to run. To do this, we’ll list all the options below:  

  1. Mica Heaters
  2. Infrared heaters
  3. Ceramic heaters
  4. Electric fan heaters
  5. Oil-filled heaters
  6. Storage heaters
  7. Space heaters
  8. Electric heat pumps

What are the different types of heating?

But, before we talk more about each style of heater, we should probably understand what methods of heating each one uses. The main four heat creation processes we’ll cover in this blog are convection, conduction, radiation, and forced heat. But what are they?

Convection

Convection works on a molecular level as it transfers heat from liquid to gas by the movement of particles. For example, if you consider a radiator or air conditioner, cool air enters them and is heated up, as the hot air escapes the cool air comes in to replace it creating a convection cycle.

Conduction

This process works more through the passing of heat. Conduction heating occurs when a hot object comes into contact with a cooler object and heats it until both are at the same temperature.

Radiation

Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with nuclear fallout. Radiative heating is the action of energy being emitted or projected through electromagnetic waves, rays, or particles.

Forced heat

As you can probably tell, forced heat appliances generally blow warm air out directionally. Fan heaters are perfect examples of this.

Micathermic Heaters

Micathermic or Mica heaters are incredibly cost-effective, as they use a mixture of convective and radiant heating methods. The element inside the heater warms and once it hits a specific temperature the heater emits electromagnetic waves into the space to heat objects as the sun would.

As well as being efficient, mica heaters are quieter than general convective heaters as they don’t have an onboard fan blowing cool air over the element. This means there are no moving parts to create a noise, ensuring your heater is a silent runner.

Also, You can generally pick up a mica heater for anything from $30 - $200 online.

Infrared heaters

Next up are infrared heaters and, if it weren’t for the staggering efficiency of the mica heater, these would be top of the pile. The key difference between infrared heaters and the alternatives is, that they heat objects around them, not the air.

Once the warm energy is directed out of the heater, it warms the closest object to it which in turn heats the atmosphere. This means that, like a mica heater, any drafts won’t suck the heat out of the room.

However, all this good energy and excellent performance do mean an infrared heater will cost you more up-front than a typical electric heater. But, as it boasts a really low running wattage, it won't induce any panic attacks when you open your monthly heating bills.

Ceramic heaters

A ceramic heater is a brilliant option as they are sleek and wonderfully efficient. Utilizing a ceramic element rather than a metal component, they can include a fan to dispense the hot air around the room.

But, in terms of their cost-effectiveness, they can be as cheap to run as you want them to be. Placed in an open area it will heat a space well and quickly.

However, unlike the infrared and mica heaters, their heat can become blocked if objects are placed in front of them – this could also result in overheating or just generally becoming more expensive to run.

Electric fan heaters

Fan heaters or forced air heaters are good options in terms of being one of the cheapest heaters to run. Another convective product, an electrically heated element inside provides the warm energy while a fan blows cool air over it and out into the space. The air is warmed by the element and over time they can raise the temperature of your space.

Although, one thing to be aware of with a fan heater, unlike an infrared appliance, is they heat the air rather than objects in the space. This means the heat can escape through poor insulation or doors being opened.

So, really, your fan heater is as expensive or cheap to run as your insulation allows it to be. But we'll talk more about the importance of your energy efficiency shortly.

Oil-filled heaters

Oil heaters are perfect for warming larger spaces. While they may be perceived as an outdated or old concept, modern oil-filled appliances are incredibly efficient.  

The main pain point is the amount of time it takes for them to heat up. However, once there, they can project heat for hours really cheaply and your room will stay warm for a decent amount of time afterward.

So, if you can get past the long wait time, or pick one up that you can pre-set to click on at a specific time, then an oil-filled heater could be the perfect option.

Storage heaters

The only reason a storage heater doesn’t make it further up the list is because of the, not unsubstantial, up-front costs. For example, a good model can end up setting you back anywhere from $400 - $1,000.

Essentially, the story of storage heaters is, that if your energy company offers reduced rates at off-peak times then, even with the eye-watering up-front costs, they could be an ideal option for saving you money in the long run.  

Storage heaters work with your energy tariff and store up power during those less-busy hours – usually through the night. Then when you need them through the daytime or busier times, you can just flip them on and they’ll start putting that “cheap” stored energy to work.

Pretty cool solution, right?

Space heaters

At the opposite end of the spectrum to storage heaters, we have space heaters. These appliances are popular options because of their comparatively low up-front costs. However, while they can heat up a space quite quickly, any open doors, windows or drafts will suck the heat right out of your room.

This inability to keep the generated heat in the space means that they are not one of the cheapest space heaters to run.

Having said all that though, because a good space heater can improve the temperature in your room in no time at all, they are still worth considering. Once you have the room at the desired heat, you can always use a lower power setting on the appliance. Or look at improving your and your home’s efficiency to make the most of the heat when you have it.

Electric heat pumps

At the end of our list of cheapest heaters to run comes an electric heat pump. These are great if you live in the central or southern, milder states.

The utilities of a heat pump are twofold as they have the ability to heat homes or offices in the winter or keep them cool in the summer months.

As they work by extracting and transferring warm or cold air from the environment rather than creating cool or warm energy, they are reasonably efficient. Although, they are not recommended for harsher conditions. So if you live in one of the cooler states then it’s probably worth going for a more powerful alternative.

What other ways can I save on Heating Bills?

So, that’s all our low-cost heater options. But maintaining your energy efficiency and ensuring you’re not spending a fortune on electricity bills isn’t all about choosing the cheapest electric heater to run.

There are also a couple of things you can do to improve your home or office’s efficiency. Let’s take a look at those now.

5 simple ways to cut down your bills

1. Upgrade to a Programmable Thermostat

If, for example, your Honeywell thermostat has stopped working or you actually don’t have a manageable system, then making the switch to a more modern thermostat could slash your bills. Try turning your thermostat down a couple of degrees while you’re using it, so your central heating isn’t being made to work as hard. In addition, you might even consider making the switch to a system you can operate from your phone to ensure it’s as efficient as it can be at all times.

2. Check the filters on your system

Your current system might not be singing as perfectly as it’s supposed to. But that could be down to the fact that the filters are caked in lint. Make sure you complete regular checks of your air conditioning or heating system, or it could start hitting you in the wallet with expensive repairs or, worse, replacements.

3. Cover leakages and drafty windows

Your home may be full of little areas which let the cool air from outside in. this could be causing your heater to work even harder to warm the space. While this issue wouldn’t affect the efficiency of an infrared system, it’s definitely worth getting the filler out and patching any holes.

Additionally, it is an expensive fix, but if you’re wanting to stay in your home for a while, it could benefit from new, more efficient windows and doors. Old wooden fittings will be especially leaky or drafty.

4. Use energy-efficient lighting

It sounds weird to say it, but your lighting could be affecting your home’s efficiency too. Old halogen fittings are super-greedy when it comes to wattage, plus they give off lots of heat when used over a few hours too. A greener alternative would be making the switch to LED bulbs throughout your home or office. These use much less wattage and will last so much longer than those outdated alternatives.

5. Use the sun

One of our biggest allies when it comes to improving home heating efficiency is that big ball of super-hot gas in the sky. In the sunnier hours, it always pays to open your curtains and allow the sun’s heat to radiate into your space. Similarly, at night, closing the curtains will help keep some of that warm energy right where you want it.

Making the most of the sun’s rays through winter is also a great way to stop your electric heater from overworking or trying harder than necessary to heat your space. The closer you can get to ambient temperature naturally, the better on your pocket.

To sum-up

As we said above, mica or infrared heaters are probably the best ways to go when it comes to getting the most cost-effective heater for your space. Because they focus on heating objects rather than air, there’s a better chance that the heat will last and survive those leaks and drafts around the house.

However, before you buy, you need to consider the size of the space you’re heating and your own energy efficiency. For example, you wouldn’t employ a large space heater when you’re only trying to warm up a small living room or bedroom. Likewise, if you live in a cooler state, it’s probably best to go for a punchier option than a pump-based system.

Lastly, at Appliances Made Simple we know there are always some steps available to make your home more energy-efficient. For example, making the most of the natural heat sources we have is a good way to offset some of the workload being undertaken by your heater. Remember, if an electric heater is having to work harder, then you might as well throw it away and start trying to heat your space by burning dollar bills.

Appliances made simple. 

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