How much does it cost to run an electric heater?  Calculate your costs using this guide

Written by Adam Morris
8 Min read
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Table of contents

Did you know that in the US, the heating and cooling of residential homes accounts for 38% of the greenhouse gases we emit?

There is a multitude of less carbon-heavy heating alternatives available, such as electric heating, but the higher cost of installing and running this can be prohibitive.

But how much does it actually cost to run an electric heater, and how does this stack up against other more traditional heating alternatives?  We’ve run the data so that you can make an informed decision.

What is electric heating?

According to Wikipedia, electric heating is the process that converts electrical energy to heat energy at around 100% efficiency.  It refers to any heating system that uses electricity as its main energy source and includes storage heaters, electric boilers, electric heat pumps, and underfloor heating.

With climate change accelerating at a terrifying rate, the potential for eco-conscious, low-carbon, electric heating systems is enormous. For example, for every 1 kWh of electricity a heat pump uses, it produces 2 to 4 kWh of heat energy, making it up to four times more energy efficient than traditional furnace heating.

What are the advantages of electric heating?

  • Economical – The initial cost of electric heating is low compared to other heating types such as gas. There are no moving parts involved in electric heating systems and because of this, wear and tear-related issues and maintenance costs are greatly reduced.
  • Free from pollution – Electric heating does not release ash or dust like coal heating and is, therefore, one of the cleanest ways of heating a house.
  • Super efficient – Electric heating utilizes 75-100% of the heat it produces compared to 40-60% of other heating systems
  • Safe – With other gas furnaces and boilers there is a small risk of carbon monoxide gases escaping that can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Electric heating poses none of these risks
  • Lots of different heater types available – These include electric radiators, heated towel rails, and fan heaters for smaller spaces
  • Quieter to run – Without the need to pump hot water all around the house, electric heating solutions are generally much quieter than gas central heating systems – no banging pipes or humming boilers!
  • Complete control – It is much easier to control the heating in individual rooms or spaces using electric heating systems

What are the disadvantages of electric heating?

  • Can be more expensive – Electric is generally more expensive to run on a daily basis than gas, although this is likely to stabilize as we reduce our reliance on fossil fuels to generate this energy
  • Slower to heat up – It can take slightly longer for some electric heaters to heat up fully from cold

What are electric heaters?

An electric heater is an electrical device that converts an electrical current into heat. They contain heating elements that provide the fire that gives the heater its warmth and is controlled on and off at the flick of a switch.

What is a heating element?

Heating elements are usually shaped like a coil, a ribbon, or a strip of wire. When an electrical current runs through the element, it glows red hot and converts the electrical energy into heat, this heat radiates in all directions.

Heating elements are used in most household appliances that heat up – toasters, hair dryers, kettles, and electric stoves.

About the cost of electricity

Obviously, being able to accurately predict the cost of electricity is difficult, especially due to rising wholesale power prices, the rising cost of fuel, and the escalating situation in Russia. Whilst we have provided rough estimates, it’s wise to cross-reference these against the cost of electricity in your state.

What drives the cost of electricity?

There are a number of factors that influence the cost of electricity, with even small changes to any of these factors resulting in an increase or decrease in the cost. These include:

  • Demand
  • Availability of generation sources
  • Fuel costs
  • Power plant availability
  • Supply constraints
  • Weather
  • Time to delivery

Heating with electricity Vs other energy sources

A recent study conducted by the federal Energy Information Administration analyzed the varying costs of heating US households. The study concluded that U.S households’ using natural gas to heat their homes would spend approximately 30% on average in 2022. Those using heating oil were likely to spend around 43% more and propane users face a shocking 54% increase. Those homes heating primarily with electricity were looking at just a 6% increase.

What are the different types of electric heaters and how much do they cost to run?

Electric radiators

Electric radiators are standalone units filled with either a thermal fluid or electrical element. They heat up when switched on and fill the air surrounding the radiator with warmth.

Electric radiators typically use around 2,000 watts of electricity and cost between $15-$20 per week when used for around five hours each day.

Space heaters

Ideal for smaller spaces and are usually lightweight and portable. Ideally, space heaters should be used as a secondary source of heat and for short periods of time as they can be costly to run.

Space heaters are available in a number of different types, including forced-air heaters, ceramic heaters, and radiant heaters.

Most space heaters use 1,500 watts and cost around $7-$10 per week to run over short periods of time

Oil-filled radiators

These use an electrical element that is submerged in a reservoir of thermal oil situated inside the appliance to create heat when it is switched on.  

Oil-filled radiators are a type of electric inertia heater, which means they accumulate a lot of heat when they’re on, which is then stored inside itself and will continue to heat the room after it has been switched off.

The maximum power setting on an oil-filled radiator will use about 1,500 watts, costing around $7-$9 per week to run over short periods of time, but most modern models will feature a low power setting that will use between 600-700 watts.  

Convector heaters

Convector heaters are a type of indirect heating system. They work by sucking up cold air via the heating element at the bottom, which is then heated up before being pushed up towards the ceiling. This air then cools, drops down, and then the process starts again, it is a very efficient way to heat a room.

If low energy consumption is a priority for you, then a convector heater is a great option. Using around 1,500 watts of electricity each hour it will cost around $7-$10 per week to run over short to medium periods of time.

Fan heaters

Good fan heaters can almost instantly heat a room! Large volumes of air are quickly pushed through the heating element using a built-in fan, sometimes with the ability to oscillate 180 degrees. Most fans also allow you to switch the heating element off to perform like a conventional fan.

Fan heaters are ideal for areas where quick blasts of heat are required, rather than having to consistently maintain a specific temperature. Fan heaters can be mounted onto walls, stand on the floor, sit on desktops, or be incorporated into ceiling fans.

Not necessarily the most cost-effective choice, fan heaters use around 2,000 watts of electricity per hour and will cost around 40 cents an hour to run.  However, given the fact they’re designed to be used in short bursts, it is still an affordable way to heat a room.

Halogen heaters

Halogen heaters use a halogen element within their heating bulb and lamp - the halogen gas increases the efficiency of the heating element.

Unlike the other types of electric heaters we’ve featured, halogen heaters use halogen gas to produce radiant heat which is very effective at heating small spaces rather than whole rooms. They are lightweight, portable, and relatively cheap to run when compared to other electric heating systems.

Halogen heaters usually feature multiple heat settings, each using a varying amount of electricity per hour - 400, 800, and 1,200 watts. At 400 watts this will cost $0.08 per hour, at 800 watts this will cost around $0.16 per hour and 1,200 watts will cost around $0.24 per hour.

Storage heaters

Storage heaters are a type of electric heater that are usually installed in houses that have no direct access to mains gas. In a nutshell, they charge up overnight, warming up thermal heating bricks that are situated inside the unit, ready to release the stored heat during the day.

Storage heaters offer the best electric solution at the lowest price, as they use energy during times the prices will be lowest. They can be used as a standalone system or installed as a supplementary option to be used in conjunction with another heating source.

Storage heaters are available in a range of sizes from between 2 and 7 kilowatts and typically use 2,500 watts per hour. However, because they use this electricity overnight when the cost of electricity is at its lowest.

Infrared panels

Infrared light isn’t visible to the naked eye as it is beyond the spectrum humans can see.  An infrared heater uses light that is invisible to our eyes to heat us by being absorbed into our skin and clothes – it’s the equivalent of sitting in the sunlight as opposed to sitting in the shade – you feel warmer in the sun because the light that is hitting you is being absorbed, but when you’re in the shade the light can’t reach you as well.

Infrared heaters consume less electricity than some other heating units and usually require no more than 1,500 watts of electricity to run at a cost of around $10 a week when used regularly.

Electric underfloor heating

If bulky heating systems aren’t right for your house, then you might want to consider electric underfloor heating. These radiant systems produce heat by heating the floor rather than the surrounding air, and this heat rises up to help warm the entire room. Underfloor heating is a cozy and comfortable way to heat a home as it maintains a steady and even temperature throughout.

It costs around $10 to $15 per square foot to run and is cost comparable to a washing machine or dishwasher.

Summary

Thankfully the days of electric heaters being both expensive and aesthetically displeasing are well and truly over! Today’s ultra-modern, energy efficient, environmentally friendly, and stylish electric heaters offer discerning consumers huge amounts of choice.

Whilst electricity is still a slightly more expensive energy source than gas, over the coming months and years, there will be even more exciting developments in the electric heating industry, driven by the enormous demand for clean and efficient heating. This innovation will bring the cost of electricity down, making electric heaters affordable for everyone.

FAQs

How much does it cost to run an electric heater for a month?

The answer to this question all depends on the type of heater you are running and the cost of electricity in your state.  However, as a guide, the average electric heater uses between 1,500 and 2,000 watts of electricity an hour and will cost between $55 and $65 dollars a month to run. This is based on eight hours each day usage, seven days a week.

Is electric heat more expensive than gas?

Comparing electric heat and gas heat is challenging as they are billed in different energy units – electricity is in kilowatt hours and gas is in therms. Historically, however, natural gas prices are generally two to three times lower than the cost of electricity.  Over the next few years, there will be a huge focus on reducing our reliance on fossil fuels by using cleaner energy like electricity which should help reduce the cost for households across the world.

What costs more to run, AC or heat?

It may surprise you to learn that it uses less energy to cool a house than it does to warm it. This is because it’s much less energy-intensive to remove heat from a room (which is what air conditioning does) than it is to create enough heat to warm a room up (which is what heating systems do). Therefore, on this basis, it is cheaper to use AC than it is heaters, but this is based on the system working perfectly, to its maximum efficiency and with no leaks anywhere.

Appliances made simple. 

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