Choosing the right electric heater for your home

Benefits of electric heating

  • Clean. No ash, splinters, soot or smoke stains to clean up.
  • Healthy. Clean, renewable electricity is better for the environment, for you and your family. Electric heat pumps filter and clean the air. Electric heating is recommended by the Asthma Foundation of Tasmania.
  • Economical and efficient. Electric heating is efficient; switches, timers and thermostats avoid waste.
  • Versatile. Whatever the space, whatever the use, there's an electric heater to suit.

Energy efficiency

This is the ratio between the amount of energy put into an appliance and the amount of energy that leaves the appliance as heat.

Electric heating is the most efficient form of heating. It is at least 100% efficient – for every 100 units of energy used 100 units will be turned into heat.

The heat pump has a remarkable 300% efficiency rating.

Open fires have a very low efficiency factor and most wood heaters are only 50–60% efficient. Wood heaters and open fires also pollute the environment and can be a health risk. 

Calculate the heat

The first step is to calculate the output you need to heat the area adequately. If you have an underpowered heater you will never be quite warm enough on colder winter days. If you choose a heater that's too powerful, you'll pay extra money but never use the extra capacity.

What suits your lifestyle?

If you and your family average only a few hours a day indoors, then running costs may not be a major consideration. However, if you spend a lot of time inside, running costs are critical.

If life is unpredictable you'll probably need a form of instant or on-demand heating, rather than one that takes time to warm up. However, if your family follows a routine then you can consider just about any system.

There is also a question of taste – some like an ambient glow to add cosiness to their room and may opt for a radiant/fan heater. Others prefer their heating to be neither seen nor heard and could choose either ceiling, floor or ducted heating.

Comparing different heating options

On-demand heaters are heaters that are switched on and off as desired. They are easily compared with one another based on temperature, and the area to be heated.

It is more difficult to compare an electric or gas heater with a woodheater.

On a per hour basis, a wood heater's running costs are between that of a heat pump and a fixed fan heater. However a wood heater is not on-demand heating; fuel is burned even when heating is not required.

Radiant or convection?

The two main methods of heating your home are convection and radiant heating. Convection is heating the air temperature; usually fan assisted to speed up the process. Radiant heating directly heats up surfaces.

Some people love the toasty quality of radiant heat, while for others it is too intense. Some like the evenness of convection heating, while others claim that the fan in a fan-forced convection heater makes a room feel draughty. (This can be caused by the heater being positioned badly, the size of the heater, or the design of the house. )

Purchase, installation and running costs

When you know the amount of output required from your heating system and have considered your needs and preferences, you need to consider purchase, installation and running costs. For example, a heat pump costs more up front but is extremely efficient, while a fixed fan heater costs less but is more expensive to run.