A guide to heating appliances

With the winter months on their way, now is a good time for households looking to buy a new heater, or to upgrade their current heating set-up, to consider their options. There are a number of factors to consider when deciding on what type of heater is appropriate for your living space, and a number of different options to choose from, each with various benefits, dependent on individual circumstances.

From fan heaters to convector heaters, heaters running on electric power and those running on gas, the following is a guide to some of the more popular heating options available.

Factors to consider before making a purchase

While there are a number of factors to weigh up before buying a new heater, you would do well to first consider the bottom line of your energy bills, in that the most energy-efficient heating choice made – determined by budget – will save you money in the long run.

Ramping up heating-related energy costs throughout the winter months can cause financial headaches when bills arrive, and avoiding potentially energy-demanding appliances is a practical first step. That said, there can be a dramatic difference in heater costs, ranging from the budget through to premium, so you should research the running costs of any potential purchase and carefully consider both your short-term and long-term budget before making a purchase.

Fan heaters

Electric fan heaters are available at a range of costs and sizes from a variety of different manufacturers, and as a general rule are one of the cheaper heating options straight off the shelf.

These sorts of heaters, which operate by fanning heated air (circulated over a heating element) into a room, are usually comparatively small, portable, and are suited to heating small spaces, rather than a whole home, generally being used over shorter periods of time.

Fan heaters may be suitable for households on a limited budget, for people looking to heat a small room, or for those looking for a heater that will provide immediate warmth within a smaller space.

Radiant bar heaters

Radiant bar heaters, like fan heaters, are electric-powered and, as the name suggests, radiate heat outwards, generated by a number of bars built into the heater.

When shopping for a radiant bar heater, you will notice that the bars are numbered – such as a two-bar or three-bar heater. As opposed to fan heaters, radiant bar heaters do not circulate heated air, but instead heat people and objects directly, and not being built with a fan for air distribution, operate silently.

Like fan heaters, radiant bar heaters are small, portable, and suited for personal use, providing heating for small spaces, and are available at a range of budget-friendly prices.

Convector heaters

Convector heaters, which are also electric-powered, operate by drawing air in (convection currents), with the air circulated through the heater, warmed (via a heating element) and emitted, in turn warming the room.

Like radiant and fan heaters, convector heaters are portable, and are also suited to heating smaller spaces. Like radiant heaters, they also offer the benefit of operating silently.

Convector heaters can be purchased at a range of price-points in a variety of shapes and sizes, but generally cost more than fan and radiant heaters.

Oil-filled heaters

Oil-filled heaters, also known as column heaters (sporting a recognisable column design), produce radiant heat. Once plugged in, oil within the heater is heated and circulated throughout the columns, producing heat.

Given that the oil retains heat, oil-filled heaters continue to produce heat for a period of time once they are turned off. Oil-filled heaters are electric-powered, are widely available in a variety of shapes and sizes, and like radiant and convector heaters, operate silently.

They can be found at a range of prices, however are generally more expensive than radiant and fan heaters.

Gas heaters

For households with natural gas in their area, a gas heater, providing either convective or radiant heat, may present a viable option to electric – while for those without natural gas, LPG heaters are also an option.

Gas heaters are either unflued, meaning they will be portable, or flued, which means they will be fixed, with a flue pipe venting emissions out of the home. Given that unflued gas heaters emit emissions directly into the home, it is recommended that you research and understand potential side-effects before making a purchase.

Gas heaters tend to be more expensive than the electric options listed, and whether they prove cheaper to run will, of course, depend on economic factors. Given that they run on gas, if there is a power blackout, gas heaters will not be affected.

Reverse cycle air conditioners

Reverse cycle air conditioners offer the option of colder air during the summer and heated air during the winter, and in addition to their dual-functionality, can also be among the most energy-efficient heating options.

There are many variations on these types of air conditioners, suited for different homes and environments, and for people interested in making a purchase, it is important to talk to a professional.

While reverse cycle air conditioners are as a rule considerably more expensive than some of the other options listed, you should keep in mind their potential to deliver long-term electricity cost savings.

Making the purchase

When purchasing a heater it may all come down to an initial budget, and for short-term use cheap and portable heaters may well be the best option for consumers. However, when thinking longer-term, heating options that are initially more expensive may well deliver savings in the long run.

You can help aid the heating process by making sure your home is well insulated and by buying an appropriate heater for your purpose. It is certainly worthwhile shopping around, and talking to heating experts, before making a final decision.

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