Canstar Blue’s 2021 portable heaters review compares Dimplex, Dyson, Kambrook, Goldair, De’Longhi, Sunbeam, ALDI, Arlec, Rinnai, Kogan, Target and Kmart on effectiveness, functionality, reliability, quietness while operating, appearance & design, value for money and overall satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Australia might be renowned for its sun-drenched beaches and hot summer days, but of course, it does get a little chilly Down Under in the winter months, especially the further south you go. If your place isn’t fit for a fireplace, and you don’t have a reverse-cycle air conditioner to last you year-round, you can always snuggle up by a good portable heater.
If you’re looking to buy one to keep on hand for when temperatures plummet, we can help you narrow down your search. Canstar Blue has once again conducted a survey of nearly 1,300 Aussie consumers for feedback on the portable heater(s) they’ve purchased and used in the last three years. Respondents rated brands on effectiveness, functionality, reliability, quietness, design, value for money and overall satisfaction. Manufacturers that received the minimum sample size of 30 responses are compared in our latest report.
Dimplex toasted the competition for the second year running, rating best with five stars for overall satisfaction. It also earned full marks for reliability, appearance and design and quietness while operating.
Here are the best portable heaters in Australia, as rated by consumers in Canstar Blue’s latest review:
Dimplex topped our portable heaters review after being the only brand to achieve a five-star review for overall satisfaction and also achieved top scores for reliability, appearance and design and quietness while operating.
Runner-up Dyson, Kambrook, Goldair, De’Longhi, Sunbeam and ALDI all followed behind on four stars overall, while Arlec, Rinnai, Kogan, Target and Kmart rounded up the results on three stars for overall satisfaction.
Goldair turned up the heat after rating best for value for money, before achieving another set of full marks for reliability alongside Kambrook and De’Longhi. Dyson similarly proved to be the most effective at keeping households warm, receiving the only five-star review for that category.
Dimplex is a popular brand well known for its cost-effective cooling and heating solutions. Its range largely consists of convector heaters, ceramic heaters and portable electric fire heaters with 3D flame and smoke effects. Common features to expect from the convector and ceramic heaters include carry handles, thermostat function, two heat settings and a two-year warranty. Some models also contain a turbo fan function to speed up the time it takes to spread around.
Most portable heaters from Dimplex sit between the $170 and $800 mark, except for larger electric fire models which cost over $1,000. So, there are plenty of choices to suit different budgets.
Dimplex’s portable heater range includes:
Dimplex continues to impress Aussies, receiving five-star reviews for reliability, quietness while operating, appearance and design and overall satisfaction. It got four stars for effectiveness, value for money and functionality.
You might be more familiar with Dyson’s range of vacuum cleaners, but it also offers two types of purifiers that also function as a fan and heater ─ the Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool Purifier and the Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool Formaldehyde Purifying Fan Heater. Featuring a unique, blade-free design, these portable heaters can be used all year-round and placed either on the floor or on a table or work desk.
Dyson’s fan heater is said to offer long-range heating, with the lack of blades and Air Multiplier technology also stated to ensure constant and even airflow throughout the room. The model is also described as easy to clean and safe to use and automatically shuts off when tipped over. The brand additionally claims the heating elements never go beyond 200°C, making sure there’s no ‘burning smell’ that’s typically created by dust being burned by extreme heat.
The Dyson Hot+Cool Fan Heater is controlled using a remote control. It comes in a couple of designs:
Dyson was rated best for effectiveness, earning five stars, and achieved four stars for the majority of the remaining categories such as reliability and overall satisfaction. It got three stars for value for money.
Kambrook produces a large range of portable electric heaters to suit most needs and household sizes. It offers several ceramic and fan heaters at the time of writing, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the brand since it also typically produces oil column and radiant heater options.
Some of its ceramic heaters are in a slimline tower shape, perfect for the corner of a room. Other than that, most Kambrook heaters feature simple designs and provide 2000W worth of heating power. Prices usually start from just over $50 for an upright fan heater, while the personal ceramic heaters start at around $90, with prices maxing out close to $200.
Kambrook’s portable heater range includes:
Kambrook earned five stars for reliability and four stars everywhere else, including for effectiveness, design, functionality, quietness, value for money and overall satisfaction.
Goldair is another brand with a wide range of affordable portable heaters to choose from. These include fan, ceramic, convector, radiant, oil column, panel and even heaters with a flame effect. There are various indoor and outdoor models available, with various options to suit different size areas. Goldair portable heaters usually come with either 1000W, 1500W or 2000W of power. Some of its panel heaters are additionally Wi-Fi enabled, so you can control them via your smartphone.
Most Goldair portable heaters have a standard white finish, but you can also find some fun colours such as retro yellow or black. One option to check out is the Ecosave Panel Heater (GEC0250), which uses convection and radiant technology to draw cold air in and radiate warm air out, supposedly resulting in less electricity usage. Goldair heaters are available for as little as $19 at retailers such as Big W.
Several portable heaters from Goldair include:
Goldair won over consumers in terms of reliability and value for money, receiving five stars in both categories. It landed on four stars for the remaining factors, including effectiveness and overall satisfaction.
De’Longhi is a home appliances specialist, mostly known for its popular range of coffee machines. Its line of portable heaters includes a wide selection of oil column heaters, sleek panel heaters and small ceramic personal heaters. A lot of them come in compact, ergonomic designs perfect for plonking in the corner of a room and carting around with you during a cold winter’s morning.
Expect features like variable power settings, room thermostats and automatic switch-off systems for safety. Prices for the oil column heaters start at around $100, with a couple of models just under the $500 mark. For ceramic panel heaters, you can expect to fork out between $79 and $549, with most options being under $400.
De’Longhi’s portable heater range includes:
De’Longhi was rated five stars for reliability and four stars across the rest of the board, including for effectiveness, value for money and overall satisfaction.
Australian home appliances brand Sunbeam recently discontinued its line of heaters. However, you can still find its models around from some local retailers and online. Most heaters feature adjustable thermostats, which is notable given their price. Prices for Sunbeam’s range of portable heaters vary between $70 and $140.
Well known for its Special Buys, ALDI typically offers a few heaters in its middle aisles just before the ‘cold snap’ hits every year. In recent years, it has offered a seven-fin oil heater, a 2000W tower ceramic fan heater, and a convection heater. Some features offered include various heat settings, a turbo fan function, an adjustable thermostat, plus a 24-hour timer so you can set and forget about your heater.
Prices have previously started from around $28, with the most expensive ALDI heater costing $70. But you’ll have to keep an eye out for its Special Buys to see when they’re back in stores.
Some of the different portable heaters that have featured in ALDI’s Special Buys include:
ALDI scored four stars for effectiveness, appearance and design, value for money and overall satisfaction. It ended on three stars for reliability, functionality and quietness while operating.
Australian-owned company Arlec, has everything from lighting and cooling and heating, to power boards and security products. When it comes to staying warm, it offers a variety of panel heaters, freestanding heaters, fireplace heaters as well as bathroom heating and heated towel rails. Its line of portable heaters includes a small list of ceramic, convection and micathermic heaters. The brand typically offers models that provide 2000W worth of heating power, although the panel heaters usually have a 4000W power output.
Arlec’s portable heater range includes:
Arlec maintained a four-star review for the majority of factors, including reliability, design, quietness, functionality and value for money. It got three stars for effectiveness and overall satisfaction.
Rinnai produces a range of ducted gas heaters, flued gas heaters, electric panel heaters and portable gas heaters. The minimum amount of output power you can expect is about 1000W, while some models deliver over 2000W.
Most Rinnai heaters are priced around the $1,100 mark and up to $2,000 for LPG and natural gas heaters. You can also find radiant heaters, either LPG or unflued, for slightly cheaper. Many Rinnai portable heaters contain basic caster wheels, while the gas models can be moved around a room with the hose attached to the mains. Its heaters come with pretty generous warranties of three or five years.
Rinnai’s portable heater range includes:
Rinnai achieved a respectable four stars for reliability and quietness while operating, before ending on three stars for effectiveness, design, functionality, value for money and overall satisfaction.
Kogan is an online-only superstore, selling everything from clothes to mobile phones and mobile phone plans, to cheap TVs and yes – cheap portable heaters. Aside from stocking a wide variety of other brands, Kogan also has its own branded heaters. It generally produces oil column, panel and fan heaters. You can also find freestanding heaters with an LED flame effect.
Most Kogan portable heaters come in a white design, while some feature a sleek black design. Prices start from just under $70 and go upwards of $500, although the majority of models cost less than $250. Many Kogan heaters are from the retailer’s SmarterHome range and feature built-in Wi-Fi, allowing you to control the heater via your smartphone. While you’re loading your online cart with a TV and a mobile phone, you may want to consider a cheap portable heater as well.
Kogan’s portable heater range includes:
Kogan achieved four stars for reliability, design, quietness and value for money. It also scored three stars for effectiveness, functionality and overall satisfaction.
While not available all year round, Target does sell a few heaters in stores during the winter months. Previously, its range included an 11-fin heater, a compact ceramic heater and a radiant three-bar heater. Expect fairly basic functionality such as different heat settings and temperature sensors.
Target’s personal heater collection typically retails for $15, while its radiant heater can be found for as low as $30. Its budget-friendly compact heater has everything you’d expect including an adjustable thermostat, two heat settings and a power indicator light.
Target’s portable heater range includes:
Target was rated four stars in most areas, such as effectiveness, reliability, design and value for money. It got three stars for overall satisfaction.
You can keep warm during winter with Kmart’s budget-friendly heater range. It features oil heaters, convection heaters and electric heaters. However, similar to Target, Kmart’s line-up can change from time to time and may not be available during certain times of the year (at least for online shopping).
Compact fan heaters and ceramic heaters are available for $20-$25, while the larger panel, oil column and tower heaters can cost just under $50.
Common features include overheat protection, a safety tip-over switch, two heat settings, plus an adjustable thermostat. The full range is stated to come with a 12-month warranty.
Some models available include:
Kmart rounded up the scores with a four-star review for value for money, before landing on three starts for effectiveness, reliability, overall satisfaction and everywhere else.
Now you have a good idea about the brands in our report, let’s review some of the things to consider before buying a portable heater. Here’s what our research found that influenced our respondents’ satisfaction with their purchase, listed in order of importance.
Can’t choose between a couple of great contenders? It’s worth keeping in mind that standard portable electric heaters don’t come with energy efficiency star ratings like you would see with your refrigerator or washing machine. So, you won’t see a label that shows how much a particular heater will cost to run.
As with all household appliances, it’s important to consider ongoing running costs, as well as the initial upfront cost. The problem for some consumers looking to buy a new portable heater is that not all types of heaters are regulated by the government’s energy ratings scheme (Energy Rating Label). Instead, natural gas appliances including space heaters, ducted heaters and water heaters come with an industry-led Gas Energy Rating Label.
We all want to stay warm during winter, but we don’t want to be left with energy bill shock. Here’s what our respondents said when asked what they thought about being efficient during the cooler months:
Even though most portable heaters don’t come with a star rating, you can still find out how much electricity a model will use by making an estimate based on factors like:
Consider the wattage of any heaters you’re comparing – the greater the wattage, the more power the appliance will need to use. A general rule of thumb is that the harder an appliance needs to work to reach the set temperature, the more energy (and money) it will subsequently use. Keep this in mind when choosing your temperature!
There are three main types of electric portable heaters:
Here’s an explanation of how each type of heater works.
Personal ceramic heaters are perhaps the most portable of the lot, with many being less than 60cm tall and providing handles to help you easily move them to wherever you need to go. These can come in the form of a radiant or convection heater:
Ceramic heaters come with self-regulating temperatures, meaning the power supply decreases when an electric voltage is applied to the PTC ceramic material. This is why some people find ceramic heaters to be potentially one of the more energy-efficient heaters out there.
Plus, their compact size makes them one of the cheapest types of portable electric heaters. The trade-off with this is that generally ceramic heaters are usually better suited towards heating a single bedroom or study room, rather than an entire living room or large space. Fan heaters also fall into this category.
Panel heaters (also called convection heaters) spread convection currents throughout the body of the appliance to heat up and circulate the air. The warm air then rises to fill any cold spots around the room. These are typically ideal for small or well-insulated spaces. Otherwise, there’s a good chance the warm air will just escape.
The two main perks of using a panel heater are that it has a compact size and can keep the temperature in the room consistent. A downside is that panel heaters can use quite a bit of electricity, although there are now more energy-efficient alternatives appearing on the market.
Column heaters use electricity to heat the oil inside the columns (or fins), which then warms the outside of the metal column casings. Once the fins get toasty, the heat is distributed around the room via air convection and thermal radiation.
Column heaters have been praised for their efficiency since most of the energy consumed is turned into heat. Meanwhile, other types of heaters typically use a large portion of their energy to power a fan or motor that circulates the air around the room. Column heaters instead direct any leftover electricity, which hasn’t converted into heat, to operate different functions like timers or different heating modes.
Oil column heaters are generally recommended for people who prefer to heat a space for longer periods. However, these can be a potential fire risk if any materials are placed over the heater.
Flued and unflued gas heaters essentially burn gas fuel to make heat. For safety, the law in most places across Australia requires gas heaters to use LPG. There are also other government regulations on how to use this type of portable heater.
But one major thing you should know is that burning gas also creates air pollutants and water vapour, in addition to heat. Flued gas heaters channel all the gas, air pollutants and water vapour from inside the room to outside via a flue (or sometimes a chimney for non-portable heaters). Meanwhile, unflued gas heaters circulate everything indoors.
Whichever type of heater you’re looking for, we hope you find this review helpful.
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This report was written by Canstar Blue’s home & lifestyle journalist, Tahnee-Jae Lopez-Vito. She’s an expert on household appliances, grooming products and all things grocery and shopping. In addition to translating our expert research into consumer-friendly ratings reports, Tahnee spends her time helping consumers make better-informed purchase decisions on all manner of consumer goods and services, while highlighting the best deals and anything you need to be aware of.
Picture credits: Dmitry Galaganov/Shutterstock.com, SamJonah/Shutterstock.com.
*Prices are taken from respective retailers, Appliances Online, Bing Lee and Harvey Norman, correct as of November 2021.
Canstar Blue surveyed more than 6,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have purchased and used a portable heater (i.e. a heater that can be picked up and moved, NOT one that is permanently installed) in the last three years – in this case, 1,279 people.
Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
Here are the past winning brands from Canstar Blue’s portable heater ratings:
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See our Ratings Methodology.
*Product availability and price range are current as of the stated date, may be subject to change.
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