A guide to energy efficient heating

As we head into the colder months, a lot of households will be looking for ways to stay warm at night, but many of us will also be concerned that staying toasty could come at the expense of a nasty electricity bill.

While space heating isn’t necessarily an expensive pursuit, it can quickly become one if done carelessly, or in an inefficient manner. With that in mind, we’ve put together this guide to energy efficient heaters, along with some general tips to keep your electricity consumption low and the temperature… less so.

General advice for more energy-efficient heating

  • Don’t heat more space than you need to. Only make an effort to heat rooms actively being used – usually bedrooms and li0ving rooms.
  • Make sure that any rooms being heated are sufficiently closed up. Open windows or doors will make it harder for the room to get warm, and cost you additional money.
  • Don’t feel that you have to run the heater constantly. Once the room feels warm enough, you can either drop your heater down to a lower setting or even turn it off entirely, and trust your home’s insulation to keep the room warm.
  • On that note, try not to heat rooms that won’t hold onto heat particularly well. If you’re looking to curl up with a book and don’t particularly mind where, your smaller bedroom might be a better bet than the larger living room with single-glazed windows and a tall ceiling. If you can hang out in a smaller room for the sake of more efficient heating, it’s not a bad idea to do so.

Which type of heater is best for me?

Generally speaking there’s a bit of a hierarchy when it comes to the base energy efficiency of different space heaters. A reverse-cycle air conditioner will be more efficient than an electric heater, and that same electric heater will most likely be more efficient than a gas heater. However, it’s not quite as simple as that.

For example, even though electric heaters don’t come first on the energy-efficiency rankings, for some people an electric heater may very well be the best option. If you live by yourself and only really need to keep yourself warm at any given time, a cheap and cheerful electric heater could be your best bet.

Conversely, while an air conditioner may be the most energy efficient heating method available, it won’t be an efficient choice unless it’s servicing a large home with several occupants. Otherwise it’ll be space-heating overkill that doesn’t get used enough to justify itself, and costs you more money than it’s worth.

Gas heaters tend to serve as a middle-of-the-road option. Depending on which particular model you buy, a gas heater can service a small house or a large one – an individual or a family. They’re not quite as cheap and cheerful as most electric heaters, but they’re nowhere near as pricey or involved as an air conditioning system.

How can I tell how energy efficient my heater is?

This is a tricky question to ask due to the fact that many space heaters you’ll find aren’t rated for energy efficiency like other appliances are. Gas heaters in particular aren’t part of the government’s E3 Program, and there are no regulatory requirements for gas space heaters, making them a bit of a crapshoot in terms of gauging efficiency.

However, there is some good news. If you fancy an electric heater then you’ll get a heater that’s, technically speaking, 100% energy efficient! This means that for every 100 units of energy you’ll get 100 units of heat – however this doesn’t mean you can’t end up with a hefty energy bill using an electric heater. Your dinky little electric heater might be 100% efficient but that won’t stop it from chewing through quite a bit of energy if you let it, so just be mindful of that.

Air conditioners are a little more straight-forward in terms of figuring out their energy efficiency. They are regulated by the government’s E3 Program, meaning they come with the little sticker that tells you their star-rating for energy efficiency. However, it’s worth noting that air conditioners generally have different kW capacities for heating and cooling, and the number is generally higher on the heating side of things. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but just something to be mindful of.

That’s more or less everything you need to know in regards to the basics of energy efficient space heating. We hope this helps you make smarter choices when it comes to staying warm this winter, whether you’re looking for a new heater or just seeking to use your current one in a more efficient way. Have a good winter!

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