From ceramic fan heaters to economical storage heaters, we tested the best ways to warm small rooms, large rooms and conservatories in 2022.
When the price of gas soars, a portable electric heater (sometimes known as a space heater) is worth considering. Used properly, with judicious use of the thermostat, they can be economical – particularly for heating bedrooms and for occasional use in the coldest parts of the house. “When gas prices are unaffordable they may help cut bills,” says Rob Bennett, technical service manager at Pimlico Plumbers. “But electricity is not exactly cheap at the moment either. So you’re looking for the most heating output from the lowest electricity usage.”
In the home, you might consider using an electric heater if only requiring short, targeted warmth but Bennett warns that these devices are “not so great for a constant heating source in a large area where heat disperses quickly,” because they struggle to fill the space. So which is the one to buy? If you’re pressed for time, here’s a quick look at our top five. Read on for the reviews in full, including running costs, and for more detail on how to choose the right electric heater for you.
Which are the best electric heaters to buy in 2022? At a glance
- Best overall — VonHaus 2000W closed-fin oil filled radiator
- Best oil-free convection heater — Dimplex ECR 15
- Best ceramic fan heater — DeLonghi HFX65
- Best budget heater — John Lewis & Partners square fan heater
- Best heater for a large room — Duronic HV220
How much does it cost to run an electric heater?
According to Bennett, these are the most efficient on the whole. They use an electrical current within thermal oil, heating the oil and circulating it around the heater, a bit like water in a radiator. They are convection heaters, meaning that as the heat rises it draws in cooler air in underneath to be heated in turn – an effect that works best in well-sealed rooms.
Oil-filled heaters tend to be more cumbersome, as the oil adds weight, and can take a long time to warm up – upwards of 20 minutes – but they stay warm for a long time once they’re turned off. Oil-filled radiators are relatively cheap to run, costing as little as 26p per hour at today’s prices, and there is no need to replace the oil. Prices for a good model start roughly at the £50 mark.
Often used outdoors as patio heaters, these radiate heat directly onto objects, rather than relying on convection to circulate the warmth. They’re light and portable and cost around 50p per hour to run (based on a 1500W heater on maximum setting). However, they struggle in large spaces. Like most portable heaters, you can pick one up for under £20, but can easily spend over £100, too.
These use an electric coil to create heat and then blow the warmth across the room. They are cheap and light, but noisy and the warmth can be quickly lost if you let in a draught. Modern models use ceramic elements, which get more resistant as they get hotter (they have a “positive thermal coefficient”). This means they produce heat more quickly and retain it better, making them cheaper to run than fan heaters used to be — as long as you use the thermostat wisely. Otherwise you could easily wind up spending over £1 an hour.
Scroll to the bottom of this feature for more on the running costs of electric heaters and safety advice. You may also be interested in our reviews of the best dehumidifiers and the best heated clothes airers, the latter being extremely popular this year as a way of cutting energy bills.
Portable electric heaters are proving exceptionally popular this year. We have chosen heaters from well-known retailers with large stocks, but our top picks may temporarily sell out. We will suggest good alternatives until stocks are replenished.
How I tested the best electric heaters
I used an electronic temperature gauge and timer to see how long it took each heater to warm a room by five degrees. I took my readings from 10 feet away to make sure the warmth spread. The performance of any electric heater will depend hugely on room size and insulation, so I tried them all in both small, well-insulated rooms and larger, draughtier rooms. I also took into account weight, portability, ease of use and how good they looked.
Best electric heaters
1. VonHaus 2000W closed-fin oil filled radiator
Best buy, 9/10
We liked: powerful ability to warm a whole medium-sized room, as long as it’s well insulated
- Running cost 25p/43p/68p per hour while heating, depending on power setting*
- Heavy (12.8kg)
- Large (67cm tall x 48cm wide x 26cm deep)
- Tip-over/overheat kill switch
- Carry handles
- Mechanical timer
If you’re sitting a few feet away from this not particularly handsome oil-filled radiator, initially it’s underwhelming. The oil takes a while to warm up, plinking and plonking as it goes, and the heat that slowly emerges from the top in a “chimney” effect goes up, not out. Over time, as cool air is drawn in from beneath due to convection, the whole room heats up, but in my test it took half an hour for the temperature monitor set ten feet away to register any rise at all.
Over time, however, it’s a different matter. I left the VonHaus to do its thing and returned to the medium-sized room an hour later to find it uniformly toasty and comfortable. At 2kW it uses a lot of energy to do that. The key to keeping running costs low is judicious use of the thermostat. As soon as the room is at the right temperature, turn the dial down until you hear the radiator click off. It will then only click on again to maintain that temperature — which was very seldom with the VonHaus.
Apart from the thermostat the only controls here are a three-step power dial and an old-fashioned 24-hour timer divided into 15-minute segments that you pull out for ‘on’ and push in for ‘off’.
It’s heavier than most and there are cheaper oil-filled radiators available (the comparable B&Q heater is £68) but this wins out for its solid design, easy controls, silent running and a good constant temperature. Despite its size it’s more manoeuvrable than other oil-filled heaters, with two handholds, big casters and an extendable wheelbase.
One thing to note is that in a poorly insulated room with a high ceiling, the chimney effect didn’t work – the heat escaped rather than circulating. You’d be better off with a fan or halogen heater in those circumstances.
2. Dimplex ECR 15 dry column heater
Best oil-free convection heater, 8/10
We liked: a classic finned radiator that’s light and portable, best suited to smallish rooms
- Running cost 17p/34p/51p per hour while heating, depending on power setting*
- Light (8.4kg)
- Small (63cm tall x 39cm wide x 28cm deep)
- No carry handles
- Anti-frost setting
- Tip-over kill switch and overheat protection
The seven-fin design means the ECR15 radiates some heat sideways but chiefly, as with the VonHaus above, this is designed to heat a column of air, using convection to heat the whole room over time. I found it heated up much more quickly than an oil-filled radiator and, in a small room, reached a nice stable temperature after about 30 minutes.
It’s light enough to pick up with one hand and simple to set up, needing no tools to attach the feet. The only controls are a large thermostat dial and large power dial for choosing between 500, 1000 and 1500 Watts. Keep it set to 500W and use the thermostat wisely and it should be cheap to run (slightly cheaper than an equivalent oil-filled radiator).
Digital timer versions are available, as are more powerful nine-fin versions, but for a small, light, portable space heater this is just right. Cheaper competitors I tested tended to be less robust and lacked safety features like the tip-over switch. The anti-frost setting, keeping the temperature in cold rooms from dipping beneath five degrees, is a useful bonus.
3. DeLonghi HFX65 tower ceramic fan heater
Best ceramic fan heater, 8/10
We liked: the low weight, good looks and quick heat-up, although it’s not for all-day use
- Running cost 41p/68p per hour while heating, depending on power setting*
- Very light (1.3kg)
- Very small footprint (18cm wide x 61cm tall)
- Eco, anti-frost and summer ventilation modes
- Tip-over kill switch and overheat protection
- Carry handle, washable dust filter
A good fan heater should warm a large area quickly. They can use more energy than the convection heaters above, but the heat can be directed where you want it and, as long as you use the thermostat wisely, they don’t have to be too expensive to run.
DeLonghi’s HFX65 is the best fan heater I found at this price point (the John Lewis Tall Tower Heater is similar, but dearer at £105). It’s extremely light and portable and stands two feet high but only seven inches across, so it can be set unobtrusively in a corner, looking pretty good with its simple black-and-white design. It’s not silent, but with the TV on I couldn’t hear it.
In a draughty room, with the power set to maximum, my temperature reading from ten feet away started rising immediately and took only half an hour to increase by five degrees, which is much quicker than the non-fan heaters above. It’s clearly doing quite a lot of work as it oscillates back and forth, but there’s an Eco Plus mode which can switch between 1.2kW/h and the 2kW/h power settings automatically, to maintain your set temperature without wasting too much electricity.
There’s also a timer function but that’s pretty much it, making the DeLonghi admirably simple. It’s a good choice to keep one or two people warm in a large room. You just wouldn’t keep it blowing for long periods of time.
4. Duronic HV220 radiant convector heater
Best heater for a large room, 8/10
Why we like it: A solid, dependable appliance that heats up super quickly
- Running cost 34p/68p per hour while heating, depending on power setting*
- Medium weight (4.6kg)
- Small (65cm tall x 50cm wide x 12cm deep)
- Anti-frost setting
- Protective grilles and cool-to-touch carry handles
- Tip-over kill switch and overheat prtection
It’s not exactly a looker, but this very reasonably priced 2kW convector heater works a charm. Its core boast is that it heats up in a minute, thanks to special mica panels Duronic has developed. The panels also radiate heat sideways, not just upwards, making it a good choice to place by a favourite seat in a large room. (It should not be placed against a wall.)
It’s remarkably light and, once hot, can be set to a lower (1kW) output, which can help save on bills. Unlike fan heaters, it’s practically silent, too. A solid, dependable convection heater that, if you can get past the pedestrian looks, is well worth considering.
5. Princess smart glass panel heater
£119, Amazon Best looking heater, 7/10
We liked: an undeniably stylish unit, but definitely not one for grandma
- Running costs 26pp/51p per hour while heating, depending on power setting*
- Medium heavy (6kg)
- Medium size (47cm tall x 80cm wide x 13cm deep)
- Control by smartphone app, Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant
- Child lock and tip-over kill switch
Best to be brutally honest: this one is not suitable for old people. The legs are impossibly fiddly to put on (you need tiny nimble fingers) and it pretty much insists you download the app – and wants to join your wifi network too. I’m only in my 40s but if it had been much more complicated to configure, I would have given up.
Once set up though, the app is actually simple: just a temperature dial, a high/low power switch and a 24-hour timer. These functions are also available using touch-sensitive controls on the heater’s ‘screen’ which go invisible when you’re not using them. So it’s not as complicated as it looks, just more complicated than it needs to be.
The high tech approach leaves the device looking impressively minimal: just a sleek black (or white) rectangle that wouldn’t look out of place in a tech billionaire’s bedroom. It can be hung on the wall or moved around: it’s very light and the ends don’t get hot, so you can pick it up.
I had been expecting it to radiate heat from its panel, but it rises from the grille behind it just like any other space heater. It took 20 minutes to notice any warmth from the other side of the room, but after that it rose steadily. Smaller 1000W and larger 2000W versions are available but the 1500W one I tried was just right for warming up a bedroom, office or kitchen where it would look – I can’t believe I’m saying this about a heater – highly desirable.
6. John Lewis & Partners square fan heater
Best budget heater, 7/10
We liked: the retro-futuristic design and small footprint give this the edge over mechanically identical rivals
- Running cost 51p per hour while heating*
- Light (2.1kg)
- Small (29cm tall x 26cm wide x 10cm deep)
- Tip-over kill switch
There are hundreds of heaters to choose from at this price point, most of them made in China to keep costs low, all perfectly good for occasional use. But this one, looking like something Stanley Kubrick would have commissioned for a space cruiser, stands out.
It’s a 1500W two-speed oscillating fan with a tip-over safety switch, which not all heaters at this price have, it runs quietly and because it’s only 10cm thick it takes up very little space when not in use. You can slot it on a bookshelf, making it a good choice for bedrooms or studies – although, if looks aren’t important,there are more energy-efficient options.
7. Russell Hobbs Plug Heater
Out of stock everywhere – but the Morease 500W mini electric heater (Amazon, £17.99) is identical
Best small heater, 7/10
We liked: surprisingly powerful for something the size of a coffee cup
- Running cost 17p per hour while heating*
- Very light (840g)
- Very small (18cm tall x 11cm wide x 11 cm deep)
- Thermostat, timer, two-speed fan
- Overheat safety switch
Tiny heaters like this, which plug directly into the power socket with no cables, are a relatively new invention. They all look pretty much the same, in fact many are the same product with different branding, but the Russell Hobbs version seems to be the one people want. It is sold out everywhere.
At 500W, it offers the same power at maximum setting as some of the full-sized heaters above do on minimum. It makes some noise, but not much more than an old disc-driven computer. Apart from the temperature setting, the only other control is a timer to switch it off after up to 12 hours.
I doubt you’d leave it on that long. This is best suited to warming up a small room like a kid’s bedroom just before putting them to bed, or in a small study while working. I tried it plugged in at desk level but it was much more effective at knee-height: the plume of warm air extends outwards and upwards for about six feet.
A larger 700W version is available, but isn’t as portable. I’ll be keeping the 500W one in my suitcase for cold days on holiday.
8. Dyson Pure Hot + Cool
Best Dyson heater, 8/10
We liked: the quiet power, although the price and scarcity put it largely out of reach
- Running cost 71p per hour*
- Medium weight (3.9kg)
- Medium size (62cm tall x 22cm wide x 11cm deep)
- Quiet (63dB)
- Night light
- Frost protection
Stocks of many Dyson products, including the Hot+Cool, are running low and may run out before the next cold snap. So, if the high price doesn’t put you off, it may be best to buy this oowerful 2100W room heater sooner rather than later. This is the Pure version, with a HEPA filter to remove 99.95 percent of microscopic allergens and pollutants. It’s slightly easier to come by than the cheaper base model.
There are certainly cheaper equivalents (the Philips 3-in-1 is £250), but the quick room-heating power of Dyson’s famous air-multiplier tehcnology makes this a justifiable high-end choice. At low speed it’s quiet enough to use in a bedroom and in a hot summer, the cooler function is very welcome at night.
9. Everhot electric stove
Best heater for a conservatory, 7/10
We liked: the country home aesthetic, but you certainly pay for it
- Running costs 26p/51p per hour, depending on power setting*
- Very heavy (50kg)
- Large (51cm tall x 49cm wide x 41cm deep)
- 20-litre oven compartment (max temp 200C)
- Not to be placed under counters or tables or on thick carpets
Talking of high-end choices… Cotswolds-based Everhot, chief rival to Aga, have just launched a miniature stove that we must include given that it’s the most Telegraph electric heater imaginable.
Standing knee-high, it can be plugged in anywhere, but you won’t be moving it around much: at 50kg, it takes two people to lift and does get very hot. The heat escapes from the vent at the top, making this a convection heater like many others, but after about half an hour the rest of the cast iron body heats up too, radiating warmth outwards for quite a while after it’s turned off.
Inside the 20-litre oven compartment it reaches up to 200C, hot enough to bake a potato or slow-cook a casserole. It’s no replacement for an actual oven but makes a good focal point for a conservatory or, as Everhot say: “annexes, holiday cottages, narrow boats, shepherds huts and glamping pods” — which gives you an idea of the target market. It comes in 20 Farrow & Ball-type colours and generates a steady, toasty warmth. But you certainly pay for it.
What extra features should I look out for?
The most useful addition is a timer, allowing you to set the heating for the moment you wake up or arrive home. Upmarket models use an app for this, although you’d get much the same functionality with a smart plug.
Frost protection is a common extra and sees the heater automatically switch on when the room goes below 5C.
Many fan heaters also have a cold air setting – they essentially double up as fans in the summer. While not as potent as air conditioners, it could save you having to fit both appliances into your house.
How safe are portable electric heaters?
The most important thing is to never place anything combustible on or too close to the appliance. If using a fan heater, consider whether anything nearby can be blown over (it’s also worth noting that fan heaters should be placed in sufficient space to facilitate an airflow from behind).
Many heaters will come with tilt protection: should something knock it over, like a pet or a small child, it will switch off. Most also have overheat protection, switching the appliance off before it can reach flammable temperatures if, for example, a coat is accidentally placed on top of the heater.
According to Electrical Safety First, there are several other safety measures to implement: Never leave portable heaters unattended. Never leave them on while asleep. Position them away from anything which can knock them over. Keep at least a metre away from combustible materials. Never buy second-hand halogen heaters. Never power a halogen heater from an extension lead. Regularly inspect your heater and don’t use if it is damaged.
Which electric heater is the cheapest to run?
All portable heaters cost more to run than gas central heating. As Vicky Dunn, energy manager at Smart Energy Greater Lincolnshire, explains: “The cheapest heating is the one you don’t use. Make sure heaters are only on when required, and set as low as comfortable. Stop draughts so warm air isn’t lost.”
Electric heaters may be essential if you live in one of the four million or so households in the UK that don’t use mains gas heating and are a good solution if you’re just looking to heat one room, or only need to heat in short, sharp bursts.
Your heater’s power will be measured in kilowatts (kW). For most small- and medium-sized rooms, a 2kW device will suffice. All of the heaters in our review are 2kW or under. Running costs are usually calculated by the hour (kWh).
* This article was updated in October 2022, when the cost of one kiloWatt-hour was capped at 34p under the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee. Although prices do vary by region and contract (economy 7 tariffs are more expensive by day and cheaper by night, for example), we use the capped price to estimate running costs. If the average variable unit price for energy changes, it will be updated again.
Source: The Telegraph