Although most homes have central heating systems, sometimes they aren’t enough to warm up the whole house. Standalone heaters may be the answer to your heating needs as an easy way to warm up your house. Our useful guide takes a look at different types of heater you can use to replace your central heating or add to it.
What types of heater are there?
There are two main categories of heater; portable and fixed. Portable (or non-fixed) heaters can be moved around, and are largely powered by electricity, although you do find some that are powered by gas. Fixed heaters do not move and can be powered by mains gas, LPG, electricity and solid fuels. These include heaters such as fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. They are more energy
efficient than portable heaters and cost less to run.
Fixed heaters include the following:
- Wall panel heaters – using electricity to generate heat by convection.
- Wall fan heaters – also electrically-powered and generally used in bathrooms fixed at head height or higher, blowing heat downwards.
- Gas fire heaters – either open flame, radiant, glass-fronted or flueless. Gas fires with balanced flues are more effective as there is no need for ventilation.
- Solid fuel fires – these include traditional fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. You can burn coal or wood in these, making them cheap to run depending on your solid fuel supply. Make sure you don’t live in a smoke control area before installing a solid fuel fire. Enclosed glass-fronted stoves are the most energy efficient.
There are a variety of portable electric heaters:
- Fan heaters and convector heaters – these are one of the most common portable heaters and are cheap to buy. They heat up and cool down fast so make sure you use them in a draught proofed room.
- Halogen heaters – commonly seen in pubs, these heaters use radiant heat to warm up, rather than convection heat. They radiate heat, rather than warming up the air, they will warm everything. They are easy and fast to heat up but cool down at the same rate. They can also be used in draughty rooms and in the open air.
- Infrared panel heaters – these are similar to halogen heaters, using the same technology. Rather than having a strong, directional heat though, they are ‘far infrared’, so have a wider dispersal of heat.
- Oil-filled radiators – when electricity is run through the radiator, the fluid inside heats up. These heaters will heat a room more slowly and evenly than other portable heaters, but also need to be use in a room that does not have a draught.
You can also get portable gas heaters which have wheels and are semi-portable as they are bulky and quite hard to move around the house. They use gas bottles which have to be replaced or refilled which is a big disadvantage.
Pros and Cons of Portable Heaters
There are advantages and disadvantages to portable heaters depending on the size and type of your home, as well as the location. The main advantage of portable electric heaters is that they are cheap, easy to use and all of them heat up very quickly (apart from oil-filled radiators). This means you can use them at any time of the day and be warm within minutes. All electric heaters are considered to be 100% efficient as standard.
However, you have to be careful with portable heaters for a few reasons:
- Portable heaters can get extremely hot, so you need to be careful to keep them away from flammable items or items that are easily damaged by heat. They are also a risk to children or pets.
- They are not fixed and therefore can be unstable if anyone bumps into them.
- As they are non-fixed they can also be damaged easily if they are knocked over or dropped.
How much do portable electric heaters cost?
The price of buying and running different portable electric heaters varies, though they are still relatively cheap to run and warm up your home. Take a look at the breakdown of the costs:
- Range from £10 to more than £600 depending on the model and size you need
- Cost around 28p per hour for a 2kw heater to run
- Cost between £20 and £400
- Cost around the same to run as fan heaters, 28p per hour
- Cost between £15 and £400
- Cost around 21p per hour for a 1.5kw heater to run
- Cost between £15 and £150
- Cost around 17p per hour for a 1.2kw heater to run
Are standalone heaters better than central heating systems?
Generally, standalone heaters are not a suitable alternative to a central heating system in terms of heating your entire home. They’re likely to be more expensive and less energy efficient to run too. However, if you heat one room up at a time then an energy efficient standalone heater could work out better than a central heating system. Just make sure you are choosing the right type of heating for the purpose and space.
Fixed heaters are more likely to be cheaper to run than portable heaters as you can run them on gas, which is typically cheaper than electricity. Modern gas wall heaters can be almost as efficient as a central heating system.
Whatever method of heating you decide upon, make sure that it is safe and suitable for your home. You also need to ensure that you insulate your home properly so that you keep the heat in, making your home as energy efficient as possible.