Everything you need to know about energy-efficient heaters

Central heating is a comfort to most of us and an absolutely lifeline to many of us, too – especially in the colder months. But as energy prices continue to increase, many of us are having to carefully manage how we use our central heating system, even down to the minute. This current energy crisis has led to many people researching different heating systems and ways to save money – particularly with heaters.

In this article by Repair Aid, we’ll talk you through some of the different heaters used and what may be the best route for you to take when it comes to using heaters with central heating, or just using heaters.

The different types of heaters

There are a number of different types of heaters but they can generally be split into two wider categories of fixed and portable (or non-fixed) heaters. The former is the likes of wood-burning stoves, fireplaces and even wall fans; the latter are heaters that can be moved around from location to location like halogen or fan heaters.

Fixed is often powered by anything from mains gas or electricity, to LPG and solid fuels (such as coal and biomasses like wood), and portable is mostly powered by electricity but can also be powered by bottled gases.

Fixed heaters

Fixed heaters are generally more costly than central heating systems (although this is an ever-changing landscape) but they need not be tied to the costs of mains power. However, with electric heaters, you are going to be tied to the costs of electricity. These types of heaters usually come in the form of wall fan heaters and panel heaters. The latter works by convection and goes well with storage heaters, while the former blow heat down and work well in bathrooms or at an outside area like decking or a balcony.

Fixed gas heaters, however, can be more efficient – especially if they use a balanced flue as no ventilation is needed. This makes them just as efficient as boilers and they work well in kitchens and halls – somewhere where there is connection to an outside wall for that ventilation. They can be radiant, glass-fronted, open flame or flueless.

Portable non-fixed heaters

There are a number of portable electric heaters available, such as convector, fan and halogen heaters. Additionally, there are also oil-filled radiators, too. They are not much more efficient than others but these portable halogen and fan heaters benefit from quick heating/cooling, being small and can be easily directed to certain positions.

With that said, they can be unsafe with children and/or pets around and particularly so if they are oil-filled. Portable heaters with more advanced controls can be far more efficient. Standard portable heaters do not switch off when the prerequisite temperature is reached, but portable heaters with a thermostatic control can automatically switch off once the temperature has been achieved. However, you can buy a thermostat if your portable heater doesn’t have this feature.

While certain electrical heaters can be very cheap to buy compared to central heating systems – with it possible to get some for well under £50 – you do need to think about the long-term costs as they are not very cost effective in the long-run.

Heaters that use bottled gases aren’t much better. They are clunky, heavy bottles need to be replaced, they aren’t environmentally-friendly or efficient, they can be expensive and the fumes from them means you have to have ventilation in place or a window open so the fumes don’t build up.

Can a standalone heater save me money?

The answer really is ‘it depends’. There are certainly standalone heaters that can increase your home’s energy efficiency and save you money as long as it is well suited to your property and your lifestyle.

On the flip side, running both heaters and a central heating system is almost assuredly going to lead to a bigger bill that will add to the strain on our shared environment. However, there are conditions that may be ideal for a standalone heater.

This could be to heat a space where you do not currently have central heating (such as a shed or a garage), you are in need of more warmth as your current central heating system is not suited to the situation (such as if you are, or a family member, are bed bound), you’d like to keep the central heating off and only keep one room heated at a time, or if you are in need of back-up heating (ideal for those in rural areas or those with temperamental heating systems).

When it comes to the heaters being supplied by mains energy, gas has the advantage of being cheaper, while electric heaters are more expensive but are far more environmentally-friendly. It’s also far more energy efficient as gas leaks heat (which is why you need to keep them ventilated or have a window open) whereas electricity does not and, therefore, no energy is wasted.

These are some of the situations where a standalone heater may be effective for you but, in terms of running both a central heating system and a heater, it’s unlikely to be effective. If you would like to just heat one room at a time, it’s possible for you to get a heater and use that instead of your central heating system and this may well save you money on your bills.

However, as energy prices always fluctuate, and everybody’s living situation is different, this is something you are going to have to decide for yourself.

Alternatives

One alternative is the wood-burning stove which has grown in popularity in recent years. These uses solid fuels such as coal which can produce more heat than wood and are quite energy efficient. However, these appliances may not be possible to use in certain areas (known as smokeless zones). While most solid fuel fires don’t have this problem, it’s worth knowing so you can research any exemptions in your area before purchasing one.

Another way to try and be effective with your heating is by making sure your property is well insulated. This will help you retain heat and ensure you are not wasting as much money on your energy bills. This can be in the form of loft insulation or wall installation. This is certainly a consideration if you are in an older home that may have either old loft insulation or no wall insulation at all.

And then you could, of course, upgrade your current system. Heating makes up nearly two-thirds of the average household’s energy bills so it can be important to examine things such as insulation and upgrading what you have. An eco boiler could save you over £300 years in bills, making it a wise investment if you have the cash spare now, or you can upgrade to an energy-efficient storage heater.

Finally, storage heaters work by storing energy at times when the prices are at low, off-peak rates, and allows this harvested energy to be used during peak times. While very effective and one of the most environmentally-friendly options when it comes to heaters, as well as fairly easy to install, they are still less-efficient than a central heating system. However, in the right situation, they could be very cost efficient.

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Author: Repair Aid®

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