Electric room heaters – fans, bar fires, oil-filled electric radiators and storage heaters – are often considered to be ‘expensive’ to run. One unit of electricity – a kilowatt hour or kWh – is the amount used by a 1000W piece of equipment, such as a single electric bar fire, in one hour. A 2kW electric fire will use the same amount of energy in half an hour.
Look at your electrical ‘gadgets’: you will find their power usage in watts marked on them. On average a 2kW heater on full heat will use 2 units per hour. But heaters such as these should not be banished merely for the sake of economy. If you need to heat a room quickly, it is cheaper to switch on an instant electric heater for a few minutes than to turn on your central heating system and heat the whole house.
There are numerous fan-assisted heaters on the market. These contain a fan inside the housing, which helps to circulate the heat throughout the room. Some models have speed controls to vary the fan. To save energy – and money – choose a fan heater that has a thermostat: when the room reaches the optimum set temperature, the thermostat will make sure that it is maintained by switching the heater off or on as required.
Convector heaters can be used in wet central heating systems in place of conventional panel radiators. Unlike these, convectors don’t give off heat in the form of direct ‘radiation’; instead, hot water from the boiler passes through a finned pipe inside the heater, which absorbs the heat and transfers it to the surrounding air. There is an opening at the top of the convector through which the warm air escapes while, at the same time, cool air is drawn in through an opening in the bottom of the heater to be warmed and emitted in turn. Some convectors also incorporate a fan to speed up the circulation of warm air.
In many ways, the two-bar electric radiator with its curved reflective back plate remains the favourite instant room heater. Over the years there have been many attempts to make these functional devices more attractive – including making their housing look like a sailing boat.
Bar heaters heat up quickly, you can have one or two bars on, and there is something psychologically ‘warming’ about seeing the red glow of the elements. For efficiency, make sure the reflective back is kept clean of dust – and never make toast on them.
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the positioning and use of all electrical heaters.
Do not cover electric heaters and never place them near any flammable materials.
Don’t over-extend the flex to a socket, as this could damage the heater and cause a trip hazard.
Don’t try to patch up frayed flex; replace it instead.
Make sure you use the correct rating of fuse in the plug.