When the temperature starts to drop, it’s time to start considering if you’re properly prepared. Heaters are a great way to stay warm through the colder months but are also space hoarders during the rest of the year. For this reason, many of us Aussies are a little reluctant to spend big money on a heater, so to help you out, we’ve put together a guide on the different types to choose from and a list of some of the most affordable heaters around.
Types of Heaters
Cheap heaters are all well and good, but you first need to determine what type of cheap heater you need. There are several different types of heaters available, each designed for different purposes and budgets. Here are a few different styles:
- Fan heaters: are comparatively small, portable, and suited to heating small spaces. They come in a range of sizes and costs, plus are generally one of the cheaper heater types to buy, but can be huge energy suckers. These operate by fanning heated air (circulated over a heating element) into a room.
- Oil column heaters: also known as oil-filled heaters, are electric-powered and produce radiant heat. They are widely available in a variety of different shapes and sizes, plus continue to produce heat for a period of time once they are turned off.
- Gas heaters: are ideal for households with natural gas in their area, providing either convective or radiant heat, while for those without, LPG heaters are also an option. Gas heaters are either unflued, meaning they will be portable, or flued, which means they will be fixed. These tend to be more expensive than the electric options but won’t be affected by a power blackout.
- Panel heaters: are typically slim and streamlined in design, providing reliable electric heating without using up too much space. Some stand upright or roll on castors, while others can be wall-mounted. These are available in a range of sizes and styles to suit all budgets.
- Electric fire heaters: electric heaters with a flame effect, designed to provide a classic fireplace look but without the chimney and wood. These use lights and water vapour to create the flame effect, while the electric heating maintains a reliable temperature. You can choose from a number of sizes to suit your specific room.
Size of Heater
To help you find the right heater for your home, you can start by measuring the size of the space you wish to heat. To do so, simply multiply the length of the room by the width. Typically, for a small room, you’ll need a heater with 1,000W to 1,500W of power, while for heating larger areas, opt for a heater with 2,500W+. As a general guide, you can use the following chart:
Cheap Fan Heaters
Fan heaters are small electric appliances designed to warm small areas of your home for just a limited amount of time. Fan heaters are usually the cheapest option to buy, but prices could range anywhere from $15 to $900. Keep in mind that fan heaters are one of the more expensive to run and could cost up to $162 during the winter months (based on a hypothetical usage rate of 30c/kWh). Nevertheless, here is a guide to some of the cheapest fan heaters around and different retailers where you can pick one up. But keep in mind stock availability will vary between stores.
|Kmart Fan Heater||Kmart||$15*|
|Goldair 2000W Upright Fan Heater||Big W||$19*|
|Kmart 5 Fin Oil Heater||Kmart||$35*|
|Kogan 1000W Portable Electric Panel Heater||Kogan||$59.99*|
|Omega Altise 2000W Electric Panel Heater||Bing Lee||$159*|
|De’Longhi Electric Oil Column Heater||The Good Guys||$199*|
|Dimplex Mini Cube Fire Heater||Winning Appliances||$169*|
|Rinnai Cosyglow Heater||The Good Guys||$659*|
|Omega Altise Lancer Radiant/Convector Heater||Appliances Online||$799*|
|Modern Flames Spectrum Built-in Electric Heater||Appliances Online||$1,495*|
*Prices are taken from respective retailers, Appliances Online, correct as of June 2021.
Kmart Fan Heater
The cheap and cheerful Kmart heater is packed with all the features you would expect to help keep you warm and comfy during the colder months. It comes with 2000W of power and two heat settings. Other features include a power indicator light and an adjustable thermostat, coming in a white finish.
The Kmart fan heater is equipped with overheat protection and a safety tip-over switch, which automatically shuts off the appliance in the event that it gets bumped. Kmart states that all of its heaters are tested to applicable Australian electrical safety standards and are certified as compliant. Durability and performance testing are also carried out prior to QA approval.
- Size (HxWxD): 257 x 220 x 155mm
- RRP: $15*
Goldair 2000W Upright Fan Heater
Goldair provides a compact design with its 2000W Upright Fan Heater (GSFH18), making it a convenient way to provide instant heat where you go. This particular fan heater offers up to 2,000W of heating power and contains two heat settings and a fan-only mode. Other features include an adjustable thermostat, safety tilt switch and integrated carry handle.
The Goldair Upright Fan Heater is available at Big W and comes with a two-year warranty.
- Size (HxWxD): 257 x 215 x 145mm
- RRP: $19*
Cheap Oil Column Heaters
Column heaters use electricity to heat oil and circulate it through columns, producing heat. They’re generally more expensive than electric fan heaters, with prices ranging between $35 and just over $400. Here are a couple of budget-friendly options to think about:
Kmart 5 Fin Oil Heater
This 1,000W Kmart column heater, featuring five fins, is ideal for small rooms. It’s equipped with three heater settings for your comfort – low, medium and high – and comes with an adjustable thermostat. Generally, oil heaters, including this Kmart model, don’t produce instant heat, so they’re not suitable for spot heating. Nevertheless, it produces long-lasting heat, unlike a fan heater.
Similar to the Kmart fan heater that was mentioned above, the Kmart oil heater is said to have been tested to applicable Australian electrical safety standards and certified as compliant, being equipped with overheat protection and a safety tip-over switch. It comes in a traditional white colour finish.
- Size (HxWxD): 705 x 162 x 330mm
- RRP: $35*
De’Longhi Electric Oil Column Heater
For a larger model, the De’Longhi 11 fin heater (DL2401TF) has a maximum heating power of 2400W, suitable for a medium-sized room. This column heater is packed with features, including a thermostat, three power settings – Max: 2,400W, Med: 1,600W, Min: 1,300W – and a 24-hour timer, so you can program the heater to run at the times of day when you’ll be at home, for added comfort, convenience and efficiency. It’s also boasted for its enlarged radiator fins which are claimed to produce better heat distribution.
For easy movability and storage, it’s designed with cool-touch handles, plus cord storage and snap-lock castors. You’ll also find an anti-frost function and a safety tilt switch. On top of this, De’Longhi’s column heater comes with a seven-year warranty!
- Size (HxWxD): 630 x 510 x 150mm
- RRP: $199*
Cheap Gas Heaters
Gas heaters use natural gas or LPG to generate heat. They’re generally more expensive than other heaters, but can also be much more effective, particularly in larger rooms. The price for a gas heater ranges between $500 and $2,300. For running costs, expect to spend approximately $130 for radiant-convection models (20MJ) and $143 for standard convection (22MJ) designs.
Rinnai Cosyglow Unflued Natural Gas Heater
Rinnai’s Cosyglow Heater (650SN) is stated to be a great option for medium to large-sized rooms. According to Rinnai, the Cosyglow can effectively heat rooms between 23m² and 42m² in size, depending on your local climate – larger rooms in milder regions and smaller rooms in colder areas. This model uses natural gas, but there is an identical model that uses LPG instead, so you can choose according to the gas connection you have in your home. The Cosyglow heater also boasts a 5.9 energy-efficiency rating.
The heater’s safety features include the tilt switch and oxygen depletion safety device, which will shut the heater off if it’s tipped over or if there’s too little oxygen in the room. A flame failure device will also cut off the gas supply if the flame is extinguished accidentally. It uses a battery ignition, so you won’t need a powerpoint, allowing you to move it wherever you are with the molded handles equipped at the sides. In addition, this model comes with a three-year warranty.
- Size (HxWxD): 405 x 440 x 250mm
- RRP: $659*
Omega Altise Lancer Radiant/Convector Heater
Next up is Omega Altise’s Lancer Radiant/Convector Heater (OALAFNGSD). This heater uses natural gas and has a 5.9-star energy-efficiency star rating. Claimed to be suitable for living areas up to 53m², the appliance provides two convection heat settings and two convection fan speeds. Other features include push-button controls, a safety tip-over switch and a flame-failure shut-off function. This Omega Altise heater additionally comes with a three-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- Size (HxWxD): 568 x 604 x 285mm
- RRP: $799*
Cheap Panel Heaters
Panel convector heaters, or electric radiators, are slimline heaters that are capable of rapidly heating large rooms. Panel heaters can be portable or wall-mounted, and will generally cost between $100 and $850.
Kogan 1000W Portable Electric Panel Heater
For a slim, easily portable heater, you might like to consider this Kogan 1,000W electric panel heater. It can be wall-mounted for neat, space-saving use or freestanding with four castors, giving you easy movability with a total weight of 4.6kg. Featuring a special ‘x’ shaped heating element, this unit is stated to heat up efficiently.
The Kogan panel heater is equipped with two heat settings – 500W and 1,000W – and thermostat control, allowing you to choose your ideal temperature while the heater does the rest. Typically, a 1,000W of heating power is suitable for small rooms, up to 20m². To keep your home safe, the unit has a water-resistant design (IP24), featuring overheating protection and a tip-over switch. It has a one-year standard care warranty for peace of mind.
- Size (HxWxD): 576 x 81 x 439mm
- RRP: $59.99*
Omega 2000W Altise Electric Panel Heater
The Omega 2000W Altise Electric Panel Heater (OAPE2000W) is designed to keep your room toasty during the chilly winter months. It has a slim and lightweight design, just 85mm in width, providing plenty of flexibility for setting it up in your home. It includes a 24-hour timer that you can program to efficiently suit your daily schedule. With a maximum 2,000W heating power, you’re looking at warming up rooms of up to 30m². Other features include an LED display control panel with soft-touch buttons.
You can wall-mount the unit using the included brackets, so it’s out the way, or you can use the castors and operate it freestanding anywhere around your home. While the wheels are claimed to be stable, the model has a safety tip-over switch to automatically turn it off if the appliance falls over. In addition, it’s equipped with a child lock and overheat protection, to help keep your home safe. It has a five-year warranty and is available in matte white or black.
- Size (HxWxD): 440 x 85 x 775mm
- RRP: $159*
Electric Fire Heaters
If you’re after a stylish heater, then an electric fire heater is probably what you’re looking for. These heaters produce considerable heat and display a convincing flame animation. Many of these can alternatively be used simply for its looks and display the same LED flame effect without generating heat. Prices for these heaters usually start around $150, however they can cost upward of $2,000 for a full fireplace.
Dimplex Mini Cube Fire Heater
Dimplex offers a variety of electric fire heaters, including suites, wall-mounted fires, fireboxes and portable electric fire heaters. The Dimplex Mini Cube Fire Heater (MINICUBE-B) is just one option to choose from and boasts 1,500W worth of heating power as well as Optiflame LED for a flame and coal effect.
This electric heater features a curved steel casing and a louvered front panel. It comes with two heat settings – 750W and 1500W – and a two-year manufacturer’s warranty. This Dimplex fire heater is available in either red or black.
- Size (HxWxD): 370 x 330 x 205mm
- RRP: $169*
Modern Flames Spectrum Built-in Electric Heater
If a freestanding or wall-mounted electric fire heater isn’t up your alley, a built-in alternative might be worth considering for a more seamless and ‘authentic’ look. This electric fireplace from Modern Flames provides 1.5kW heating power and comes with variable heat settings, an adjustable thermostat and two fans. The Modern Flames Spectrum Built-in Heater (SL50-B) also provide 12 flame colour options, three-stage lighting intensity levels, manual controls and what’s claimed to be a low-energy LED flame technology.
You can additionally purchase driftwood pieces to bump up the realistic feel. Similar to other electric heaters, this Modern Flames model offers a two-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- Size (HxWxD): 482.6 x 1262.6 x 195mm
- RRP: $1,495*
Should I buy a cheap heater?
It could be worth buying a low-cost heater, but it largely depends on what you consider a ‘cheap’ buy:
- a heater with a low upfront cost that makes it affordable now but expensive to use long-term due to poor energy efficiency;
- a heater that has a heftier price tag as a result of its higher energy efficiency and flexible functionality, which help it become comparatively more affordable to use over the years.
Like with buying budget appliances, wallet-friendly heaters are often cheap for a reason, either because they don’t provide the same level of features as more expensive models, or because they’re costly to run. That’s why it’s important to consider energy efficiency, as opposed to solely price, and to buy the most efficient heater within your budget range. Functionality, of course, is also a key factor to think about. Generally, low-cost appliances come with fewer functions and offer less flexibility (e.g. adjustable thermostat and multiple settings). So, if you’re not shivering for a heater that can be used all day, every day (or even every second day), a basic model with minimal features might be all that you need.
Electric heaters are fairly cheap to purchase but can be quite expensive to use. They’re ideal for heating small areas and should be used sparingly to avoid unexpectedly high electricity bills. It will ultimately be a trade-off between cost and comfort when it comes to these portable heaters.
To minimise costs, you should set your heater as low as you comfortably can and check that all windows and doors are closed. For every degree warmer you set your heater, the more it is going to cost you. If you have a reverse-direction ceiling fan, this can also be used on a low setting to circulate the warm air throughout your home. As hot air rises, it can tremendously boost heating effectiveness. Finally, make sure you don’t leave the heater running when no one is using it, as the longer the heater is running, the larger your energy bill will be.
If you’re paying too much for electricity and gas, then you’re already paying too much for heating. You can compare energy companies via the link below to see what your options are and if you could be on a better deal.