Keep yourself warm as the cold creeps in with the best electric heaters and radiators
We all know that keeping warm is becoming trickier thanks to rising energy costs. Despite rising gas and electricity prices, central heating is still the most cost-effective way to warm your home, but an electric heater still makes sense if you need some fill-in heat or want to keep one specific room feeling cosy.
Of course, not all electric heaters are the same. Some work better in small rooms, large rooms or when heating just one or two people, while some types and models are significantly more effective or economical than others. We’ve picked out the best electric heaters of every shape, size and type, to help you make the right choice for you.
How to choose the best electric heater for you
Heaters come in different types and with a range of power ratings, some suiting different scenarios and coming with different short- and long-term costs. Before you buy, think about what you want from your heater. Are you looking to keep a room warm throughout the day or evening, or do you just need a quick blast of heat here and there? Are you looking for something that can warm up a whole room or something to keep you warm while you’re sitting on the sofa? What kind of running costs are you willing to put up with? All of these things will help determine the kind of heater you need to buy.
Should I go for a fan heater, convector heater, radiator or halogen heater?
There are four main types of electric heater, and each has its pros and cons:
- Fan heaters: These blow air across a heated element, which means they can fill up a small room really quickly. However, they tend to be noisy and aren’t always great for keeping a room warm over longer periods as the heater needs to keep kicking in every time the temperature drops. In many modern fan heaters, a positive temperature coefficient (PTC) ceramic element is used rather than the old-style heated metal element, which is why you’ll often see these listed as ceramic heaters.
- Convection (or convector) heaters: These designs channel air currents through the body of the heater and out into the room. They may take longer to warm the space, but they’re not as noisy and often provide a more even heat around the room.
- Radiators: An electric element heats up oil or another substance inside the body of the heater. They have similar pros and cons to convection heaters, but tend to hold the heat for longer, making them great for constant background warmth.
- Halogen heaters: These are the descendants of the old two-bar electrics, radiating heat directly on the objects in front of the glowing element. They’re good for warming one or two people at fairly close proximity, but not so ideal for heating the whole room with an even heat. Some people may also find the amount of light given off annoying. Halogen heaters seem to be falling out of favour, with good models from major brands increasingly hard to come by.
How powerful a heater do I need?
Heaters have an output measured in watts (W) or kilowatts (kW) and generally you get out in terms of heat what you put in in terms of energy. In a smaller room, or one requiring fill-in heat on top of central heating, you may be happy with something as low as 600W, but larger or colder rooms may need a 1.2kW to 3kW model.
How much should I spend?
You can spend as little as £10 on a heater or over £400, although most come in at between £50 and £100. You’ll pay extra for stylish designs, new technology, smart controls and advanced features, but not necessarily more for actual heating power. 2kW of heat from a £20 heater won’t feel much different to 2kW of heat from a £200 heater, although its efficiency and how that heat is directed around the room can make a difference.
The bigger issue is running costs. A 2kW heater uses 2kW of electricity running at full pelt. This means that, if you’re paying the average 34p per kilowatt/hour for electricity, it could be costing you nearly 70p an hour to run. That’s at full blast, of course, and with the heat settings dialled down and an effective thermostat running it shouldn’t be so expensive, as the heater will only kick in when the temperature drops below your setting.
To put that in perspective, with current energy prices, the average gas-fired boiler costs around £2.40 to £3.40 an hour to heat a whole house. However, with the thermostat at sensible levels and decent insulation, it shouldn’t be doing so continuously. An efficient electric heater makes sense when it comes to keeping one room warm, but once you’re running multiple heaters or warming a larger space, you need to make sure that your heaters aren’t costing more than it would to run your boiler.
What are the most efficient heaters?
If you’re looking for a heater that won’t use much power and helps cut costs on energy bills, your best bet is a halogen heater, a convection heater or an oil-filled radiator, particularly if they have effective thermostat controls. The ideal is to find a heater that maintains a constant temperature without running at full tilt at all times. Fan heaters are more expensive to run but can heat up a room faster. However, if that room is poorly insulated or draughty you’ll find you’re turning on for another blast more often, driving up the running costs.
Are there any other features I should look out for?
The thermostat is the key one, as it’s crucial for keeping the room at a decent heat – not too hot, not too cold – and saving energy (and money) by turning the heater off when that level’s reached. Frost protection can be a useful feature for conservatories or utility rooms, as it means you can use the heater there and it will run at a minimal level, dishing out just enough heat to keep the temperature north of zero.
Some heaters come with a timer to switch them on just for the evening, say, while others have a temperature display or a remote control. A few heaters are even introducing Wi-Fi connectivity and smart controls, so you can activate and control your heater using an app – or even Alexa voice commands.
With a cold-air setting, the heater can act like a fan in hot weather, although the usefulness of such a feature varies. Finally, watch out for safety features such as tilt protection or a safety cut-out, which could prevent the heater overheating or causing a fire if it’s knocked over.
How we test electric heaters
We test electric heaters during the late autumn and winter in a test room roughly 3m by 6m in size. We first minimise the ambient temperature of the room, then we plug in the heater and turn it up to its maximum setting. We take temperature readings before testing and at 15-minute intervals, for an hour, to check how quickly and effectively the heater warms the test room. During our testing, we make a note of the power consumption at the minimum, medium, and maximum power settings using a passthrough power meter. If the heater produces any kind of noise during its operation, we take readings using a smartphone sound meter app.
Finally, we use the heaters in real-world conditions for a period of up to one week, to check how effectively the onboard thermostat maintains a constant, comfortable temperature, and how well any additional features or settings work.
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The best electric heaters you can buy in 2023
1. Russell Hobbs RHFH1008: Best budget small heater
Price when reviewed: £40 | Check price at AmazonIt might be tiny, but this compact ceramic heater can’t be beaten for warming up a small room fast. Even on its lowest 1kW power setting, it dishes out unexpected quantities of heat. Whack it up to the full 2kW and you’re looking at a good, almost scorching, blast. What’s more, the built-in 60-degree oscillation does a fine job of spreading that heat around. It’s not going to cope with heating larger spaces, but in small bedrooms and an outside office, this little beauty worked a treat.
It has two downsides. It’s pretty noisy, putting out over 50dB while it’s running, and as it can use over 2.3kW when running at full power it’s not the cheapest option for running over longer periods. However, the thermostat does a decent job of powering down once the room has warmed up and it’s very portable at under 1.5kg. It also has safety features, including a tip-over switch.
Key specs – Heat output: 2kW; Controls: Heat setting and thermostat dials; Extra features: Overheat safety cut-out, tip-over protection, fan mode; Dimensions: 187 x 248 x 160mm; Weight: 1.35kg
2. De’Longhi Capsule HFX30C18: The most stylish small ceramic heater
Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at De’Longhi There’s a touch of retro cool in the De’Longhi Capsule’s styling, but its ceramic heating elements can still pump out plenty of heat. The handle at the top makes it easy to move around the house, while the foot folds away for storage. There’s a choice of two power settings and an adjustable thermostat, along with anti-frost and cooling fan functions. Despite a low-ish 1.8W rating, it will turn even large rooms toasty within half an hour and it’s less noisy than your average fan heater. This little heater isn’t just cute, but versatile and handy.
Key specs – Heat output: 1.8kW; Controls: Heat setting and thermostat dials; Extra features: Anti-frost, cool fan mode; Dimensions: 192 x 137 x 270mm; Weight: 1.3kg
3. Russell Hobbs RHRETFH1002B: A great retro heater for small and medium-sized rooms
Price when reviewed: £50 | Check price at B&Q True, it looks like a prop from a 1960s spy movie, but this is a great little heater even if you ignore the vintage style. Although it’s only just over half a metre high and 16.4cm in depth, it heats up within seconds and starts blasting out warm air just a few seconds later. Give it a small space to heat and it gets things cosy within a few minutes, but it will also handle larger rooms given a bit more time.
While there aren’t any timers, displays or fancy features, the two rotary controls are nice and intuitive. The chrome-effect plastic dial switches between off, fan mode and the two power settings, while the black ring behind it handles the thermostat. As a bonus, it’s also surprisingly quiet, even running at full blast, and the casing doesn’t get too hot to handle while in use.
Key specs – Heat output: 2kW; Controls: On/off/heat setting dial, thermostat dial; Extra features: Cool air blow, safety cut-out; Dimensions: 184 x 164 x 522mm; Weight: 2.5kg
4. De’Longhi Bend Line HFX65V20: The super-convenient ceramic heater for cold rooms
Price when reviewed: £92 | Check price at Amazon Do you have a room you need to warm up fast while keeping it free of clutter? This ceramic tower heater takes up barely any floor space and only stands 61cm high, yet it will put out 2,000W of heat with the aid of its fans. It will even oscillate on its stand to spread the warmth about. We found it effortlessly turned a cold kitchen/dining room into a warm and welcoming spot – and all with the minimum of noise or fuss.
It’s easy to use: just set the required temperature with the digital controls, then leave it to work. However, it still crams in some useful features, including a timer and an eco mode, weighs less than 1.4kg and, with a carrying handle built into the top of the tower, is particularly portable. What’s more, De’Longhi throws in a compact remote control. Unobtrusive and effective, this is one of the best compact heaters around.
Key specs – Heat output: 2kW; Controls: 24-hour timer, temperature up and down, eco mode selector, mode selector, oscillation toggle, power; Extra features: Anti-frost, fan mode, safety cut-out, remote control; Dimensions: 182 x 226 x 61mm, Weight: 1.4kg
5. Stadler Form Anna: Best designer small heater
Price when reviewed: £89 | Check price at AmazonYou can have hours of fun confusing friends with the Stadler Form Anna. What is this pint-sized device – a stylish Bluetooth speaker from some obscure Danish design house? Well, it’s actually a slim ceramic heater with two power levels and a thermostat, much quieter than the average fan heater and a lot less visually obtrusive. It’s also coated in a white paint that should stay white over years of use and has an automatic shut-off that kicks in should it accidentally tip over.
You might not expect much warmth from such a slimline unit, but it’s perfectly capable of keeping a medium-sized living room cosy.
Key specs – Heat output: 2kW; Controls: On/off button, heat setting button, thermostat dial; Extra features: Anti-frost; Dimensions: 367 x 183 x 150mm; Weight: 2.1kg
6. Dimplex ECR20 Tie: Best electric heater for economical background warmth
Price: £105 | Check price at AmazonNothing beats an electric radiator for reliable, consistent background heat. Our usual pick, De’Longhi’s Dragon 4, is hard to find right now, but this Dimplex oil-free model is a great alternative. For a start, it’s nearly 4kg lighter, and so a lot easier to store or move around the house. It also heats up very quickly and stays at the same level of warmth once it hits your current thermostat setting. You can just set it and forget it while you’re in the room.
This model also has a built-in timer, so you can set it to pre-heat a space and, provided the battery in the timer unit has charged up, it won’t lose your settings if you unplug and move it. It’s also quiet, without too much of the clicking or gurgling noise you hear from oil-filled radiators, and doesn’t emit any weird smells.
All in all, the ECR20 Tie makes a great option for an outside home office, or for filling in heat anywhere you need some extra warmth for extended periods without a nasty shock when the bills come through.
Key specs – Heat output: 2kW; Controls: On/off/heat setting dial, thermostat dial, timer programmer with LCD display; Extra features: Timer, tilt protection, overheat protection; Dimensions: 479 x 281 x 630mm; Weight: 10.9kg
7. Dimplex MaxAir Hot and Cold: A high-tech, versatile fan heater for bigger rooms
Price when reviewed: £200 | Check price at Air Con Centre The Dimplex MaxAir Hot and Cold keeps you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, thanks to its clever dual-purpose design. It’s basically a tower fan with a built-in ceramic heating element, with three fan settings, low and high heat settings, a thermostat and an Intelligent Eco mode. Turn the heating on and it will do its best to reach and maintain the temperature you set (up to 30°C) and you can turn on oscillation to cover wider areas, with the tower rotating back and forth across 90 degrees. With an output of 2.5kW, it’s perfectly capable of heating up larger rooms.
Switch to Intelligent Eco mode and it lowers power consumption by calculating the most efficient way to reach the desired temperature and reducing the output as it nears that point. Meanwhile, the MaxAir backs up its touch controls with a small remote, and you can also control it over Bluetooth using Dimplex’s Remo iOS or Android app. And don’t worry if you find the bright lights disturbing, with big blue (cooling) or red (heating) bars on either side. You can turn these off with a click on either the remote or app. The only drawback is the noise levels. Even at low, it’s pretty loud when it kicks into action.
Key specs – Heat output: 2.5kW; Controls: Touch controls for three fan settings, two heat settings, Intelligent Eco mode, oscillation; Extra features: 90-degree oscillation, safety tilt switch, key lock, remote control, Bluetooth connectivity to smartphone app, shutdown timer; Dimensions: 690 x 270 x 270mm; Weight: 5.7kg
8. Princess Glass Smart Panel Heater 1.5kW: The most stylish smart electric heater
Price when reviewed: £119 | Check price at B&Q Princess’s glass-fronted panel heater is an exercise in minimalist design, with subtle touch-sensitive controls built into the surface and a temperature display that fades to near-invisible when you’re not actively adjusting the settings or the thermostat. It’s an effective room warmer as well, emitting cosy levels of background heat from the convection ports at the rear. It won’t give you quick results, but it does a great job of getting even larger rooms cosy with no noise and precious little fuss.
The other big plus with this one is that it works with the same HomeWizard Climate app as Princess’s air purifiers, dehumidifiers and fans. The Smart features are basic – you can only control the thermostat and set a timer for your heating to turn on – but still handy if you don’t want to get up and make your own adjustments. We also like the fact that you can stand the panel up on the included feet or mount it to a wall.
Key specs – Heat output: 1.5kW; Controls: Thermostat plus and minus, power, heat level, timer, child safety locks; Extra features: Overheat protection, smart app support, timer; Dimensions: 760 x 430 x 92mm; Weight: 7.4kg