Choosing and using a room heater

Running costs and other things to think about

16 November 2015

Room heaters have a reputation for being expensive to run, and actually, this isn’t a myth. Most types consume a lot of gas or electricity. If you have a central heating system, it’s better to use this to heat your home, and keep room heaters for when you need an extra source of heat – like in spaces occupied by people who are elderly, ill or with limited mobility.

Which type should I use?

There are lots of different styles of heater. Some are fitted to a wall so you’re stuck with what's there. But you can still make sure you understand the controls and select the right temperature and time to have the heater on. If you’re using a portable heater, you can choose something suitable for your use, but again, check that you know how to control it properly.

[We have advice on controlling your night storage heater]

Electric room heaters

The higher the power rating (in watts) the more it will cost to run.  The cheapest to run are halogen heaters and oil-filled radiators, whilst bar heaters and fan heaters are the most expensive.

Before switching your heater on, ask yourself:

  • Does the heater have a timer? If not, you can buy a timeswitch for the plug from a hardware shop.
  • Is there a thermostat on the heater? Make sure it’s not turned up too high (more on recommended room temperatures here).
  • What kind of electricity tariff am I on? If you’re on Economy 7, try and avoid using the heater for long periods during peak hours. It’s better to use night storage heaters that are charged at night when your electricity is cheaper.

The table below shows typical running costs for a range of electric room heaters. The actual costs will vary as electricity prices change, but have a look how they compare with each other.

Type of heater (with typical power rating)Average cost to run
Radiant bar fire (2 kW)31p per hour
Halogen heater (1.2 kW)19p per hour
Convector heater (2 kW)31p per hour
Fan heater (2 kW)31p her hour
Oil-filled radiator (1.5kW)23p per hour

Gas room heaters

These include traditional gas fires, convector heaters, open fires and bottled-gas heaters. All can be run on mains gas or liquid petroleum gas (LPG).

Bottled gas heaters (and paraffin stoves) don’t need flues (chimneys). However, the water vapour they produce can cause condensation, and lead to damp and mould problems if the room is poorly ventilated.  If you already struggle with damp in your home, avoid using these.

The table below shows typical running costs for a range of gas room heaters. Again, the actual costs will vary as gas prices change.

Type of heaterAverage cost (mains gas)Average cost (LPG)
Radiant gas fire (on full)28p53p
Radiant gas fire (on low)6p11p
Gas convector heater9p32p
Open gas fire32p85p
Bottled gas firen/a48p

We have further advice on heating – and lots more – on our advice site.

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