A complete guide to energy efficient heating

Boiled down, energy efficiency means that an appliance runs without using as much power as another appliance, therefore saving on electricity. The benefits of an energy efficient appliance span from being more environmentally sustainable to being easier on the back pocket, with plenty of room in between. With the harsh snap of winter well on its way, it’s about time to bust the heaters out of storage and begin the months-long process of feeling guilty every time it’s switched on. Luckily for you, we’re here to help you wrap your head around more energy efficient heating, so you can save yourself the headache.

How does an energy efficiency rating work?

Australian heating and cooling energy efficiency star rating label

For most products an energy efficiency rating is pretty straight forward – the more stars, the more energy efficient, and the more energy efficient, the cheaper it will be to run – but for some heating and cooling units these ratings are a little different.

From March 2019, star ratings on heaters and coolers began showing climate ratings for energy efficiency as opposed to the simple six star method. The new methodology looks at the seasonal energy efficiency of the unit, in each of the three climate zones as determined by the Government. Created to help Aussies be even more energy efficient, the new system takes into account the different climates of each of the three zones and determines the impact this has on some heating and cooling options, allowing customers to pick an appliance best suited to where they live.

Gas energy ratings however, still follow the original star rating methodology – the more stars, the more energy efficient the appliance.

Not all heating products are required to display their energy efficiency on them, but air conditioners are generally required to display their ratings.

Australian gas energy efficiency star rating label

What are the different types of heaters?

When it comes to heating your home, there’s a couple different options to choose from. Picking the right type of unit can be based on variety of factors like area space and the number of people in the household. Here is a list of the most common heater types in Australia:

  • Fan Heaters
  • Radiant Heaters
  • Convector Heaters
  • Oil-filled Heaters
  • Gas Heaters
  • Reverse Cycle Conditioners
  • Ceramic Heaters
  • Electric Fire Heaters

To figure out which of these heater types might be best for you, check out our heating appliance guide here.

What are the different fuel types for heaters?

When it comes to powering heaters, there are few different fuel types available, some which are more energy efficient than others. Some of the fuel options for heaters include:

  • Electric
  • Solar
  • Gas – Natural or LPG
  • Solid fuel – wood, coal, etc.

As you can probably guess, the most energy efficient fuel type for a heater is solar, with natural or LPG gas coming in at a close second. Solid fuel options for the most part are quite energy efficient and affordable however some solid masses will produce more greenhouse gasses than others, so if you’re conscious of your carbon footprint, it’s best to research the fuel types first. Electric heaters are generally the biggest energy eaters in the winter time, due to their constant need for grid power.

Tips for more energy efficient heating

We’re not here to tell you to grab a blanket – we’re here to help you figure out how to heat your home in the most energy efficient way. Here are some tips you may find handy:

Choose the right heating system

In most cases, you’ll find a figure in watts (w) or kilowatts (kw) indicating how strong your machine is. Obviously, if you’re living somewhere particularly cold, a high-powered heater will be necessary, but for those in less harsh climates, a smaller, lower watt heater could be something to consider.

As a rule of thumb, gas heaters and reverse-cycle air conditioners will be generally cheaper to run and more energy efficient than portable electric heaters. We’ve used a scenario in which a household pays 30c/kWh for their power, and 2.4c/MJ for gas on a single-rate tariff to calculate the cost of running a range of appliances over winter (three hours a day for 90 days).

Heater type Gas convection heater (22MJ) Reverse-cycle air conditioner (5.0kW) Tower heaters (2.2kW) Radiant bar heaters (2.3kW)
Winter running cost $143.10 $124.20 $178.20 $186.30

General guide only

Keep in mind that it’s often the case that the cheaper appliances to run are the more costly ones upfront. That being said, a sturdy air conditioning system is probably going to outlive a cheap tower heater from a home goods store, so it’s a good idea to do your own calculations to work out what’s best for you.

For help picking out a new heating system this winter, check out one of our appliances guides below:

heater with timerUtilise the timer feature on your heater

Most standalone heaters and air cons will allow you to set periods of time in which your appliance will be operating without you having to turn it on. To avoid cranking your heater to full blast in the mornings, set your timer to 15 minutes before you wake up, turning off at about the time you’d be dressed. Same goes at night- set your timer to switch off the heating an hour or so before bed.

Get the most out of the sun

In the middle of the day, when it’s warmest, take a second to open up any blinds and allow the natural heat of the sun to warm up your space rather than immediately going for the heater. Keep the air warm by avoiding having too many windows or doors left open.

Make sure your appliances aren’t ancient

Old appliances rarely run as efficiently as new ones, so if you’ve had an oil column heater since before your kids were born, it may be time to switch it out for a less power-draining model.

What else can I do to save money on heating?

There are many cases to make against standard heaters, and if you’re fed up with large winter power bills, then we don’t blame you for looking elsewhere. If you’re looking to save even more money on your winter heating, try some alternative heating methods, like insulating your home, investing in an electric blanket or even stocking up on thick blankets and thermal clothing.

For more tips on how to save money on your heating bills this winter check out these seven easy tips to lower your electricity bill.

What is the best energy efficient heater?

Below is a list of some of the best heater brands as per the survey findings in our latest rating report. Our annual survey only ask customers who have bought a heater recently. These are some of the best/most energy efficient heaters from these brands:

Rinnai Titan Unflued Natural Gas Radiant Heater

  • Rinnai Titan Unflued Natural Gas Radiant Heater
  • Dimplex Electric Fire Heater
  • DeLonghi Tower Ceramic Heater
  • Dyson Hot+Cool Fan Heater

For a full list of the best rated heaters, check out our heater ratings report here.

Will switching to energy efficient heating help me save money?

Whilst all signs point to yes, whether or not you save money will come down to your personal situation. There’s no point dropping cash on a new, more efficient heater if you’re going to use that as justification to crank it at all hours of the day. On that same note, even the most energy savvy household will have a hard time seeing savings if they’re on a power plan with high rates.

The size of your power bill is not as simple as what heater you own, it comes down to a combination of the factors mentioned above. It’s not as intimidating as it sounds, and we’re here to help, so follow the banner below to compare energy deals, and visit our heater ratings to see what other people recommend.


Image source: Mariia Boiko/shutterstock.com, Tom Gowanlock/shutterstock.com, energyrating.gov.au, elgas.com.au
Original Author: Monika Gudova

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