All Electric space heaters use electricity to warm up an element (a resistive wire) which then transfers heat either by warming air directly or by radiating it as infra-red radiation (heat radiation).
» Read More of this intro' here
Electric heaters are the most efficient of all space heaters because they use convert nearly 100% of the energy they use to heat (compared with 80% or less for fuel burning space heaters), with the exception of oil filled radiators heating is virtually instantaneous and they cool very quickly, so when they are turned of they are safe to leave unattended.
All electric heaters rated the same will use the same amount of heat when switched on, a 2 Kilowatt (KW) fan heater will use exactly the same amount of energy as a 2 KW oil filled radiator or a 2 KW radiant heater so buying a more expensive electric heater with the same KW rating will not save you any money on your fuel bill, what will is the way you use your electric heater.
Choosing an electric heater depends on your requirements, a fan heater will blow hot air into the room heating it up quickly, an oil filled radiator will use a convection current slowly warming up the room and keeping it warm, we've given brief outlines on each type of electric heater, how they work at delivering heat and where best to use them.
If you want a more detailed explanation of how an electric heater works then have a look at the bottom of this page.
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This video gives a brief introduction to the different types of electric heater, each is explained in more detail below.
Fan and Ceramic Heaters
Fan heaters use a fan to draw air across heated elements and then blow the warmed air into the room, because they force warm air to circulate very quickly as soon they are turned off, the room will cool almost immediately.
» Read More here about Fan Heaters
This is because unlike a convection heater (which heats up the room slowly and allows the slowly circulating warmed air to transfer some heat into the stuff in the room, which then holds onto the heat and then slowly lets it back out) the fan heater just quickly warms up the air, and air by itself, doesn't have much ability to store heat. This type of electric heater is great if you need to warm up quickly but as the room cools quickly the fan heaters thermostat will keep switching on and off much more than a convection heater or oil filled radiator.
There are thousands of different styles of fan heaters, from the standard flat basic flat types, to oscillating tower heaters and models built to resemble wood burning stoves.
- Ceramic heaters :-
Many fan heaters now use ceramic elements instead of heated coiled wire elements, if your budget allows it we would always recommend buying a ceramic fan heater as they don't glow red-hot and are safer than the wire wound type
Fan heaters are usually portable, but fixed wall models are available. For bathrooms wall mounted ones are the preferred choice, usually mounted over the door, appropriate ones will come with an IP (waterproof) rating and be marked 'suitable for bathroom use'. Only ever use an electric heater Ip rated as waterproof in a bathroom!
The fault all fan heaters have is that as they suck air though them they blow dust around the room, some of the dust will build up inside settling on the fan & slowing it down (most ceramic fan heaters have micro filters to prevent this), for a quality heater it's worth paying an electrician every 3 years to open it up and clean the dust out, it will take him about 10 minutes and the heater will run like new again, with the cheaper ones just buy a new one.
Prices vary from the cheap sub £10 basic ones up to £700 + for top of the range models designed to resemble wood burning stoves with real flame effects and sophisticated controls.
Warning :- A fan heaters element gets very hot very quickly, if the fan stops working the heater WILL catch fire, never switch on a fan heater if the fan stops working.
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Convection space heaters warm the air by heating up an element which the air flows over. As the air is warmed it rises drawing fresh cold air up over the element which in turn warms up drawing up more air.
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Micathermic heaters are new generation heating appliances, they use mica heating plates instead of traditional wire elements, these radiate heat as well as use a convection current so heat objects in front of them as well as the air in the room. They are one of the many examples of electric heater that uses multiple ways to deliver heat.
Open wire heaters with vents above the heating elements are the most common type of convection heater, if you leave one in the same place long enough, you will see a dark patch form on the ceiling above it, this is the smoke residue from dust drawn into the elements and burnt, with the exception of burning this tiny amount of dust these convection heaters do not burn oxygen or give off toxic or harmful fumes.
Because wire-element convection heaters have the heating elements exposed directly to the air, and these glow red-hot, they heat up quite quickly and can pose a fire or burn risk if anything comes in contact with the elements, so this type of electric heater must not be left on unattended around vulnerable people. Also because of this exposed element they are not recommended for bathroom use.
Both open element and micathermic convection heaters should have thermostats which are necessary to keep the room temperature constant and to prevent overheating, we advise never buying one without a thermostat as if the element is continuously on there is a high risk of overheating.
Electric convector heaters can be just a metal box open at the top and bottom with wire heating elements strung across the inside (open element, a basic model like that can cost under £10. Or they can be sturdy framed micathermic multi element ducted chambers, with sophisticated programmers, thermostatic controllers and fan assistance, these top models can cost £200 or more. Most of the better models use a combination of radiated heat and / or fan assistance to aid heat distribution.
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Bar Heaters :-
Radiant bar heaters and are the best choice if you are only going to be using a room for a short period and will not be moving around.
» Read More here about Radiant Heaters
They are great if your sitting watching TV or on a computer, working at a bench or desk, or eating a meal. This is because they work by directly heating just whats in front of them (you & your surroundings) instead of the whole room (think of them working like a torch, only heating what they shine on). If you do want to heat up the whole room then radiant bar heaters are not a good choice as they can take a very long time to heat up a space, you will find whatever is in front of them will get very hot, yet things a few feet away will still be cold.
Halogen Radiant heaters have now taken over from the old bar type, the big problem with cheap halogen heaters is because the quartz tubes are filled with pressurized gas, they are fragile and break easily. Touching or getting dirt on the tubes creates a hot spot which causes the element to burn out. Due to these faults cheap halogen heaters do not last very long. Other more robust alternatives are ruby sleeved tubes, Infra red tubes, and ceramic elements which are all much more expensive.
If you want a really good, high-powered radiant bar heater then the best ones are tungsten halogen lamps, with ruby-red quartz outer sleeves. These are durable, long-lasting and because of the high price are usually reserved for commercial use. Typically wall or ceiling mounted a 1.5 Kilowatt heater mounted on a wall at the recommended 2.5 meters high and angled down at 45 degrees will directly heat a floor area of 3.4 x 3.7 meters, that's 12.58 square meters or 999 square feet, that's the size of an average room! Because the lamps have a temperature approaching 2200 ºC, walking underneath them can be uncomfortably hot. A radiant heater such as the Dimplex QXD1500 1.5kW Ruby Lamp Quartz Heater costs £210.71, any heater of this type with a greater rating than 1.5 Kilowatts would be unsuitable for domestic use, unless you live in a property with a very high ceiling.
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Infrared Heating Panels
These panel heaters work by the heater elements transferring their heat to a large flat (or slightly ribbed surface) which radiates heat into the room warming any objects or people in front of it,
» Read More about Panel Heaters
These panels are the most versatile of all electric heaters as they can be placed in any room; bedrooms, children rooms, rooms with elderly or ill occupants and splashproof models are available for bathrooms. Infrared electric panels can be freestanding or mounted on walls or ceilings. The range of these panels is astounding, with new technology such as engineered plastics with metallic filaments, carbon nano fibers (microscopic heating elements) and carbon crystal panels (agitating carbon molecules suspended in the panel to generate heat), allowing a degree of design flexibility not seen in other forms of heating. Some are designed to be painted to blend into a rooms decor, there are thermo-glass panels which can be completely transparent or colored, some have screens which can be printed with any picture or scene you like, including family pictures and company logos, animated scenes such as flickering fires and electric panels can even be formed into blinds and screens.
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Oil Filled Radiators
Oil filled electric radiators, are sealed units with an internal heating element submerged in a liquid such as oil, water or other heat transfer liquid,
» Read More here about Oil Filled Radiators
the element heats the liquid which heats the case. Depending on the design of the radiator, the heat generated can be radiant or a combination of both radiant and convected heat.
Traditionally oil was used to fill this type of electric heater, some modern designs now use water or thermo gels, this is becoming more common as in case of leaks oil is messy and difficult to clean up. Recently liquid free designs have been produced, unlike wall mounted electric radiators which have a solid filling, these heat up an airspace within the casing.
Oil filled radiators are great keeping a single room warm when the central heating is turned off. They have no exposed elements, but they can get very hot if used at full heat, so are not suitable for bathrooms or for children or elderly peoples bed rooms unless fixed on a low setting, cool touch infra red panel heaters are best used in these locations.
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Most free-standing and wall hung electric fires are easy to install and do not need an electrician or any special knowledge, the floor mounted types come as simple plug-in and stand up models which do not require any special installation, just place them where you want and plug them into a normal socket. With the wall mounted type you may have to fit a simple wall mounting bracket.
As The Home Heating Shop is about portable space heaters these are the ones we review and recommend from our partners and trusted suppliers. There are many types of electric fire available to suit all tastes, you can browse a selection of electric fires here.
If you are interested in fitted electric fires which are permanently installed in existing fireplaces or inserted in walls please note that some of these, depending on the energy usage, may require a new circuit from the consumer unit (fusebox). If you are thinking of getting one of these then please visit The Home Fire Shop which advises on permanently fixed electric, as well as gas fires as well as wood burning stoves.
We strongly recommend consulting a competent registered electrician if you are uncertain about buying a wall mounted or free-standing electric fire.
To be sure of using a competent registered electrician use the The Registered Competent Person Electrical search facility at this website, just type in your postcode and it will give you a list of registered electricians near you.
All Electric heaters work by getting an element (wire or other material) hot, then using that hot element to heat either the air (convection and fan heaters) fluid (oil filled radiators, water heaters, kettles) or the objects (radiant & infra-red heaters) in your room. But how do they use electricity to get that heating element hot in the first place?
The math behind why this works may be a little complicated but we don't need to discuss that here because how it actually works is very simple. Think of electric current as tiny particles (called electrons) made to flow through a wire, the wire is full of other tiny particles which the electrons bang into and have to squeeze pass (the obstruction by these other particles is called resistance), this rubbing of the electrons against the obstacles (resistance) in the wire is called friction and creates heat, the more electrons forced through the wire the more resistance, the more friction so more heat, this is called resistive heating!
In any heating appliance (Kettles Toasters, and your Electric Heater) the wires, (or other types of heating elements) are deliberately made of materials which have a high resistance and are robust enough to stand repeated heating and cooling without breaking down (usually a nickel based alloy called nichrome). A high current passes through the element so the amount of friction is massive and gets the element very, very hot, so hot that the wire elements can glow red and (in the case of fan heaters) can melt if air isn't blown over them to cool them down.
Try the old winter trick of warming your hands up, put your hands with your palms pressing against each other now rub them back and forth quickly, after a few seconds they get warm, a few seconds more and they get uncomfortably hot so you have to stop. That heat is caused by the pressure needed to move one piece of skin over another, friction! That's the same rubbing happening between electrons and other particles in the wire but millions of times faster.