Canstar Blue reviews and compares portable heaters from Dimplex, Dyson, DeLonghi, Kambrook, Kogan, Rinnai and Sunbeam. Brands are rated on their reliability, effectiveness, ease of use, noise, functionality, appearance, value for money, and overall customer satisfaction.
See our Ratings Methodology.
Australia may portray an image of sun-kissed beaches, barbecues and bikinis to the rest of the world, but we all know it can get very cold during winter! Building homes designed to keep cool in summer can quickly backfire when June arrives, leaving us searching for the best way to stay warm and cosy when the temperature plummets. If your place isn’t fit for a fireplace – and your air conditioner has been retired for a few months – a portable heater may be your only answer to beat the freeze.
There are a lot of factors to consider when buying a portable heater, most notably the ongoing running costs. However, the first thing you’ll see when you shop around online or head in-store will be the price and brand name. How do you know which to choose? Canstar Blue’s customer review and ratings can offer some guidance. We have surveyed hundreds of households across Australia – that have recently bought and used a new portable heater – to get their feedback on the heaters keeping them warm at night. Their feedback is reflected by the star ratings you see above, with brands rated on factors including effectiveness, functionality, reliability, ease of use and value for money.
In 2017, Rinnai has been rated the best of the bunch, scoring five stars from Aussie consumers across most categories. It leads the way from Dimplex and Dyson on four stars overall, followed by DeLonghi, Kambrook, Kogan and Sunbeam on three stars. With the exception of Rinnai, the only brands to earn five stars in any specific area were:
The survey found that Aussie households are spending an average of $147 on portable heaters, with price (44%) the biggest deciding factor for consumers when choosing which to buy, ahead of size and maneuvrability (25%), energy efficiency (22%) and appearance (6%).
So, what exactly do the seven brands in this year’s review have to offer? Let’s find out.
Rinnai produces a range of portable electric and gas heaters that seem pretty cost-effective and offer simple, powerful heating. A lot of its portable heaters come in a simple off-white colour and should be plenty powerful to keep you warm during those chilly winter mornings and evenings. The minimum you can expect is about 1000W, while others are over 2000W. Most Rinnai heaters are priced around the $800 mark and many come on basic caster wheels. Gas models can be moved around a room with the hose attached to the mains. Rinnai heaters come with pretty generous warranties of 3 or 5 years. The brand was rated five stars for overall customer satisfaction and in most categories. It rated four stars for functionality and appearance.
1 products available through Appliances Online
(as at 11:15 on 02.11.2018*)
Dimplex is known as a brand that produces cost-effective heaters, and it certainly has a large range of portable heaters. It has simple column heaters that cost as little as around $130, but also has some fancy ones as well. Take for example the ‘Rondo’ model – it’s an electric portable heater with a flame effect image. The ‘flame’ sits inside a circular shape, making it a funky way to heat a space. Be prepared to pay over $1,000 for it though. Dimplex was rated four stars for overall satisfaction in our 2017 review, and in most categories except for functionality where it was rated three. Most notably it was rated five stars for operating noise.
20 products available through Appliances Online
$133 - $1,544
(as at 11:16 on 02.11.2018*)
You might be more familiar with Dyson’s range of vacuum cleaners, but it also makes a concise range of portable electric heaters. All come in space-age bladeless designs and offer simple, yet effective functionality. One model even doubles up as a portable air conditioner, and most can be controlled through a remote. However, as with most Dyson products you can expect to pay a fair amount, in this case around $500 up to about $700. If you want a sleek-looking portable heater, Dyson likely has you covered. Dyson was rated four stars for overall satisfaction and in most categories in 2017. However, it was notably rated five stars in terms of both functionality and appearance.
4 products available through Appliances Online
$599 - $799
(as at 11:16 on 02.11.2018*)
DeLonghi is a small home appliance specialist and produces anything from coffee machines to toasters, and indeed portable heaters. DeLonghi produces a range of oil column heaters, as well as sleek panel heaters, and small ceramic personal heaters. A lot 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. Prices for the oil column heaters start at around $100, with a few costing near $300. For panel heaters, the most you can expect to pay is about $500, while for the small ceramic ones you can expect to pay anywhere from about $90 up to $200. DeLonghi was rated three stars for overall satisfaction in our 2017 review, and in most categories except operating noise where it was rated four stars.
11 products available through Appliances Online
$75 - $328
(as at 11:17 on 02.11.2018*)
Kambrook produces a large range of portable electric heaters to suit most needs, people and households. It offers a range of ceramic, fan, oil column, radiant and other alternative heating options. The funkiest in design are the small, personal ceramic heaters, with some models in a bulbous shape. Other ceramic heaters are in a slimline tower shape, perfect for a corner of the room. Other than that, most Kambrook heaters feature basic designs, and simple yet powerful heating capabilities. Prices start at just $40 for the smaller radiant varieties, while the personal heaters start at around $60, with prices going up to $130. Kambrook was rated three stars for overall satisfaction and in most other categories. It did rate four stars for value for money, and for ease of use, however.
Kogan is an online-only superstore, selling anything from clothes, to mobile phones, to mobile phone plans, cheap TVs and yes – cheap portable heaters. Aside from stocking a wide variety of other brands, Kogan also has its own-brand heaters. It generally produces three categories of personal heaters – column, panel and ceramic. Most come in an off-white design, while some are sleek black, and prices start at just $30, with most under $100. Kogan was rated three stars for overall satisfaction in our 2017 review. Notably it did rate four stars on value for money, as well as operating noise. 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.
13 products available through Kogan.com
$35 - $89
(as at 11:18 on 02.11.2018*)
Sunbeam is another small appliance specialist and has a strong presence in the kitchen, but also comes to play with a few portable heaters as well. It offers a range of small ceramic and electric panel heaters with basic designs and functionality. However, even the smallest models produce around 1800W of power. Most heaters feature adjustable thermostats, which is notable given their price. Prices start at about $60 and max out at close to $150. For the larger portable kinds, there are sturdy caster wheels to help you move the heater around with you. Sunbeam rated three stars in every research category.
Now you have a good idea about the brands, let’s review some of the things to consider before buying a new portable heater.
There are three main types of electric portable heaters – ceramic, panel and column heaters.
Personal ceramic heaters are perhaps the most portable of the lot, as a lot are less than 60cm tall and feature handles so you can simply pick them up and take them wherever you want to go. Personal ceramic heaters generate heat by using a heating element of what’s called Positive Temperature Coefficient (PTC) ceramic. They come with self-regulating temperatures, meaning the power supply decreases when electric voltage is applied to the PTC ceramic material. This in effect means they are potentially one of the more energy efficient heaters out there, and their rather compact nature means they are one of the cheapest types, too. The trade-off with this is that generally they are best for heating only a bedroom or study, rather than a whole lounge room or large area. Fan heaters also fall into this category.
Panel heaters may look more like an LCD TV than a heater, especially when finished in glossy black. Also called ‘convection’ heaters, panel heaters primarily use air convection currents that circulate through the body of the appliance. This heats up the air, causing it to expand, which makes the hot air rise. Most personal portable panel heaters use an electric heater element, which is good for cost-effectiveness, but not the greatest for electricity efficiency. Panel heaters are generally pretty quiet to run, yet their very method of operation means hot air is usually dispersed upwards. This makes it ideal for generally heating a lounge room or similar, but not so great if you want to heat a targeted area, such as where you are sitting or studying.
Oil column heaters are still popular and are often on caster wheels for easy maneuvrability. As the name might describe, oil heaters are a form of convection heater, yet do not use oil as fuel. Tower heaters are instead electrically heated, and the oil is used as a heat reservoir. Inside the metal columns, silicone oil flows freely around the heater. The electric heating element heats up the oil and the oil flows around the heating columns. Oil tower heaters generally have lower surface temperatures, making them suitable for kids’ rooms. However, they can be susceptible to being a potential fire risk if any materials are placed over the heater. Oil tower heaters are generally small in stature, probably best suited to bedrooms or studies.
Also available to buy are gas-powered portable heaters. Rinnai seems to be the leading brand when it comes to gas heaters, with most appliances costing upwards of $1,000. However, with gas the energy source, gas heaters should cost much less in the way of ongoing power bills.
Our survey found that upfront price tends to dictate portable heater purchase decisions rather than energy efficiency – but this could be a costly mistake. As with all household appliances, it’s important to consider ongoing running costs, as well as the initial upfront cost. The problem for consumers looking to buy a new portable heater, however, is that they are not regulated by the government’s energy ratings scheme, meaning you will not see the energy ratings label on most portable heaters, like you would with your refrigerator or washing machine, for example.
This presents a big problem for consumers looking to buy a portable heater. We all want to stay warm during winter, but we don’t want to be left with a shock energy bill. Our survey found:
So, what can you do to avoid an energy-sucking portable heater? Well, just like with your major appliances, you can generally expect the most efficient heaters to cost more upfront. If you buy a heater for under $50, you should expect it to cost you plenty of cash in the long run. Be sure to consider the wattage of any heaters you’re considering – the greater the wattage, the more power the appliance will need to use. A general rule of thumb is that, the harder an appliance is required to work to achieve its settings, the more energy it will subsequently use. Keep this in mind when choosing your temperate setting! It’s also worth reviewing specific models online to find sources of information relating to ongoing running costs.
Whichever type of heater you’re looking for, we hope you find this review helpful.
Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have bought and used a new portable heater in the last three years – in this case, 804 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 alphabetically. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.
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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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