Looking for a little extra warmth? The best electric radiators give you affordable, consistent heating
When you want to keep a room comfortably cosy for hours at a time, one of the best electric radiators is what you need. Central heating is the most cost-effective way to heat your home, but nothing heats a room better or quicker than an electric radiator.
Electric radiators can warm up fast and maintain that heat at a consistent temperature, without making a racket or breaking the bank. This makes them ideal when you want some extra heat in a cold living room or bedroom, or you simply need to warm an area where you don’t have any central heating, such as an outside office or conservatory. They can even be useful if you just want to keep one room warm after the central heating system turns off for the night.
There are a lot of electric radiators to choose from, and since most designs are relatively simple, it’s hard to get a really bad one. All the same, some are more efficient or reliable than others, while different designs are a better fit for permanent use in one room or moving around the house. We’ve got all the advice you need to buy the best electric radiator for you.
How to choose the best electric radiator for you
Before you think about anything else, you need to think about size and output. Like all electric heaters, electric radiators are rated by their output in watts. The higher the output, the more heat the radiator can dish out and – generally speaking – the larger it will be. What’s more, the higher the output, the more expensive the radiator will be to run. This isn’t a massive issue, as all electric radiators have controls that enable you to run them at a lower level, but it obviously makes sense to match your radiator to the size of the room it’s trying to heat.
For a small room or outside office, you can probably get away with a 600W to 800W radiator. For an average-sized room or conservatory, you might want to look at 1,500W to 2,000W. If you’re heating larger rooms or a chilly conservatory, you should go to 2,000W and above.
The wattage isn’t the be-all and end-all, though, as different designs will be more or less efficient at distributing heat through the room. While radiators do radiate heat, a lot of it is spread through convection and manufacturers have found a range of different approaches to improve how well this works.
Oil-filled or oil-free?
While the radiators in a central heating system contain water heated by your boiler, electric radiators combine an electric element with a fluid that stores and spreads the heat. This is usually oil. However, some of the leading manufacturers now make oil-free radiators, which combine the electric element with other structures that hold and distribute warmth and aid convection.
The advantage of the oil-filled models is that it’s a tried and tested technology that’s proven to build up and maintain a consistent temperature – and one that’s relatively cheap to run. However, oil-free radiators are often faster to warm up and lighter and easier to carry around while still being very cost-effective. What’s more, you don’t need to worry about oil leaking from the radiator, which is still occasionally a problem with cheaper and less reliable options.
What else should you watch out for?
All electric radiators will have a thermostat and controls to set the output level and temperature. On some models, these will be simple analogue dials and switches, while others have digital controls. It’s also worth looking for some kind of timer with which you can set the radiator to turn on and off automatically.
Running costs will depend on the size of the radiator and your hourly electricity rate, and could be anywhere from 8.6p to 36p per hour based on the average UK rate of 14.4p per kWh. However, this doesn’t take into account reductions in power use from the thermostat and more efficient designs, which could cut running costs by up to 30%.
How we test electric radiators
We test electric radiators in the late autumn and winter in real-world circumstances within the home, testing over a period of at least three days. During this time, we’ll judge how easy the controls are to use, and test the ability of the thermostat to maintain a consistent level of heat. We also time how long it takes the radiator to warm one test room from cold to a comfortable 20°C, and use a passthrough power meter to check the energy consumption at full power, half power and anti-frost power settings.
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De’Longhi’s Dragon series radiators have an enviable reputation and this 2kW Dragon 4 feels like a radiator to rely on. It’s got more than enough output to cover most average-sized rooms and, with five heat settings, it’s versatile enough to handle low-level heating of larger spaces or scale down to heat smaller rooms as well. It also has an old-fashioned click in, click out analogue timer so you can get it running on a schedule. What’s really important, though, is that it delivers good, consistent heat at speed, partly thanks to an ingenious “chimney effect” design that pushes warm air through the vents at the top. Meanwhile, the large heating surfaces radiate plenty of heat from the sides. So what if it’s a bit noisy as it warms up and cools down? If you want to stay warm, it’s not much to put up with.
Key specs – Heat output: 2,000W; Controls: Five heat settings, power level, analogue timer; Extra features: Anti-frost, overheat cut-out; Dimensions: 440 x 640 x 160mm; Weight: 15.1kg
2. Dimplex Eco Chico: Best compact electric radiator
Price when reviewed: £86 | Check price at AmazonThe Dimplex Eco Chico has more charm than your average oil-filled radiator, thanks to some cool retro styling and simple controls. With just 700W of output, it’s best suited to smaller rooms, but that and an effective thermostat make it nice and cheap to run. It’s also small and light enough for portability and easy storage; it won’t get in your way in the winter and you can stow it once the spring arrives. There’s no timer, but it warms up very quickly and delivers quite consistent heat – and it also cools down fast once you turn it off. It also has a great reputation for reliability. It’s a good bet for heating outside offices or background heat in a smaller bedroom.
Key specs – Heat output: 700W; Controls: Adjustable thermostat; Extra features: Frost protection, safety cut-out; Dimensions: 290 x 446 x 194mm; Weight: 5.4kg
3. De’Longhi Radia-S TRRS 0920: Best electric radiator for value
Price when reviewed: £110 | Check price at Amazon There’s something appealingly retro about the design of De’Longhi’s Radia-S series, but there’s nothing old-fashioned about the radiator’s performance; this 2kW model warms up fairly quickly and retains a consistent heat for hours, with a thermostat you can set and then forget. Even on its low settings it delivers a nice background heat, while on its highest settings it can warm a good-sized conservatory or living room without any issues. What’s more, it’s pretty quiet about doing so, with only the odd clicking noise as it heats up. Like many oil-filled models it creates a strong smell on higher settings, but this fades off over time, and the only minor issue otherwise is that there’s no built-in timer. Beyond that, it’s easy to use and cheap to run, and you won’t find anything much better for under £100.
Key specs – Heat output: 2kW; Controls: 2x heat level switches, adjustable thermostat; Extra features: Safety thermostat; Dimensions: 472 x 160 x 650mm; Weight: 12.2kg
4. Fine Elements Oil Filled Radiator: Best budget electric radiator
Price when reviewed: £47 | Check price at WickesThere’s nothing stylish or fancy about this basic oil-filled radiator, but it’s cheap, well built and does the job. With a nine-fin design and 2kW of power it’s equipped to handle spaces of up to 18m², and with three heat settings and a thermostat dial, you can tune it for background heat or a proper winter warm-up. It also has an old-school manual timer. Most importantly, where other budget heaters have either a tendency to leak or a lack of safety features, this model has overheat protection and a cut-out if it tips over, while it feels solid and robust. It’s a little slower to warm up than more expensive radiators, but if you’re looking for something for occasional or emergency use, the Final Elements is a brilliant budget option.
Key specs – Heat output: 2kW; Controls: Adjustable thermostat; Extra features: Overheat protection, tip-over switch; Dimensions: 435 x 135 x 665mm; Weight: 9.5kg