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Avleen M.
Avleen M.May 13, 2020

Electric and Gas Heaters Buying Guide

With the chilly season just around the corner, investing in a heater can keep you wonderfully cosy and content. Read on for more information to help you to strike a match with the perfect room heaters for your space, lifestyle and budget.

Which is better, a gas or electric heater?

Here’s a quick-glance summary of the two main home heater options available:

Best forElectricGas
Purchase Price
Running Costs
Small rooms
Medium-sized rooms
Large rooms / Open plan spaces

Gas Heaters · See All

Gas Heaters

A gas heater works quickly and efficiently, providing an abundance of warmth that gets right into a room’s corners. It's a great option for warming up rooms with multiple people, and will work even in a power outage.

When considering what the best gas heater for your home is, consider the following factors:

  • Gas Source: Firstly, check your home is equipped with the right gas source for the model you’re thinking of buying: reticulated natural gas or bottled LPG.
  • Flued or unflued: Gas heaters are either flued (requiring installation) or unflued (portable).

A flued model eliminates the low levels of carbon monoxide and other fumes from your home via a pipe (the flue).

A portable model feeds vapours back into the heated room. This makes effective ventilation a must for health reasons. It’s illegal to use flued gas heaters in bedrooms or other small rooms like bathrooms.

  • Room Size: Most suitable for medium to large rooms, and open plan spaces.
  • Cost: Often more expensive than electric heaters to buy, but cheaper to run. Flued models are safer, but will be dearer due to installation costs.

Are gas heaters safe?

  • Yes - the small amount of combustion gases vented back into a room is limited by government regulations. Generally installed models maintain purer air quality.
  • Look for unflued gas heaters that automatically turn off the heater if oxygen levels in the room become too low. A flame failure shut-off mechanism, if included, will halt the gas supply if the flame falters.
  • Unflued models have an open front and exposed flame, so these models might not suit homes with young children or pets.

Electric Heaters · See All

Electric Heaters can be a cheap and efficient type of room heater to keep your bedroom or small to medium living room warm. Here are the types available:

Fan Heaters · See All

Fan Heaters

Offering instant ‘spot heating’, a fan heater radiates heat to the person sitting directly in front of it, via a fan.

Pros

  • These handy units are the smallest electric heaters - you can pop them under your arm and take them with you from room to room.
  • Can also warm up a small, low-ceiling room. If you’d prefer heat to be distributing more evenly around the room, opt for a model with an oscillating fan.
  • Often equipped with both heating and cooling functions, fan heaters can be used in summer, too. (Reverse split-system ACs also provide dual heating/cooling functionality).
  • Fan heaters are some of the cheapest electric heaters on the market, along with radiant heaters.

Cons

  • Can be noisy, and dehydrate skin if you’re sitting too close. Pair with a humidifier, which can help. These heaters are not suitable for heating large rooms.
  • The fan can make this type of heater very hot, very fast. Make sure kids or pets don’t accidentally touch the unit.

Convection and Panel Heaters · See All

Convection and Panel Heaters

Convection heaters blow cool air over a heating element, which converts into warm air that rises to heat a room.

Panel heaters are a type of convection heater with a slimline, low-profile design. You can wall mount them to save space, or move them around the house if they're portable. Some types, like micathermic panel heaters, combine convector and radiated heating methods, for even more efficient heating.

Pros

  • Convector heaters usefully heat a whole room, not just an isolated spot. They’re great for quickly flooding shared spaces like living rooms with near-instant warmth.

Cons

  • Since warm air rises, convection heaters can be inefficient if your home has high ceilings.

Oil Column Heaters · See All

Oil Column Heaters

Their columns, or fins are filled with oil, which radiates heat. Oil heaters heat a room evenly and thoroughly, with a superior ability to retain heat.

Pros

  • Oil heaters are an excellent choice for keeping warm overnight. When switched off just before bed, you’ll remain toasty under the covers. You’ll also save on your energy bill by avoiding leaving the heater on overnight.
  • Not especially hot-to-the-touch, even when left on for prolonged periods. This makes them safer for households with curious kids and pets, especially compared to models with partially exposed hot elements, like radiant heaters.
  • Often equipped with both heating and cooling functions, fan heaters can be used in summer, too. (Reverse split-system ACs also provide dual heating/cooling functionality).
  • Smaller models are affordable, making them ideal for childrens’ bedrooms when you have multiple kids.

Cons

  • The oil inside the heater takes a while to become hot. This makes oil heaters a less favourable pick if getting warm fast is a priority.

Radiant Heaters · See All

Radiant Heaters

Containing tubes that heat up and usually glow orange, these heaters use either a quartz or ceramic heating element. Also known as infrared heaters, heat is radiated into the air in a small radius, warming whoever is directly in front of them – making for an effective personal heater.

Pros

  • Since these heaters don’t circulate air containing dust or other allergens, they are allergy-friendly.
  • Radiant heaters are virtually silent in operation.
  • Along with fan heaters, these are the cheapest types of electric heaters you can buy, with models starting as low as $20.

Cons

  • You need to sit or stand close to the heater in its direct path, making it ineffective if you’re getting up and moving around frequently.
  • The glowing tubes that heat up, though protected by a metal grid, are relatively exposed - a danger if small fingers are poked through. Use with caution if children are present.
  • Avoid placing anything atop the heater, as this can be a fire hazard.

Ceramic Heaters

Ceramic Heaters · See All

Designed with an inbuilt ceramic block, which absorbs heat that it radiates to a small area.

Pros

  • The ceramic block provides a safety barrier in front of the heating element. This makes ceramic heaters safe for young children, and suitable for families.

Cons

  • Ceramic heaters are effective spot heaters, but aren’t efficient for heating up whole rooms.

Other factors to consider when buying a new heater

Room size/Watts

Watts (W) are units of power that measure heat output. The higher the wattage, the more expensive your electricity bill, so it’s important to select correctly for your room size.

If you’ve selected a large, powerful heater for a small room, the high wattage means you’ll waste money and energy. Select a heater with the lowest number of watts sufficient for your room size.

For smaller rooms (around 20 sqm), heaters should have around 1500W (or 1.5kW). A heater with around 2000W is suitable for a medium-sized room.

For larger rooms wattage can go anywhere up to 2400W.

You might also need a higher wattage with any of the following present in your room: high ceilings, uncarpeted floors, consistently high outdoor temperatures, or frequent drafts. Also try and shut doors and curtains to retain heat.

Budget

Buying a new heater can cost anywhere between $20-700, so you can choose to splurge or be thrifty. Fan and radiant heaters tend to be the cheapest, while convection and oil heaters are more costly.

Running costs depend on factors such as your electricity provider’s usage rate, how often you switch on your heater, and the heat setting you commonly use.

Also check the energy star rating of a prospective model – the higher the rating, the more you’ll save, and be kinder on the environment.

Generally speaking, oil heaters and infrared heaters take the win for cheapest to run. Oil heaters boast superior heat retention, so you can switch them off more often, while infrared heaters offer the lowest wattage per unit of heat.

Convenient extra features add on to the price, but can also make life easier. These include: built-in filters to prevent the spread of dust and other allergens, digital controls, a thermostat to maintain ideal room temperature, and timers, so you can come home to a toasty-warm house.

Safety Features

Many electric heaters have additional safety mechanisms that reduce the risk of fire. These include:

  • Automatic shut-off: Turns the heater off if you forget
  • Overheat shut-off: Switches the heater off if the heat setting is too high, especially if left on for a prolonged period
  • Tip-over protection: Turns the heater off if it’s knocked over, and
  • Drip protection: Safeguards the heater from damage caused by water or condensation.

Whether you choose a gas or electric heater, an electric blanket or heated throw can complement your choice with wraparound warmth that clings to you specifically. If you have a large space or are the most cold-sensitive household member, an electric blanket might even be a worthy cheaper alternative to a heater altogether. You can browse our Electric Blankets Buying Guide for more information.

Whatever your final decision, rest assured there are plenty of heating options to make your home a cosy den of comfort when Jack Frost comes to visit.