How to choose the right portable heater for your home.
Reading this page before buying WILL save you money!
Portable Heaters, why do you need one?
- If you want to save money on heating costs. See this post
- If you only need to heat one room at a time.
- If you have a 'cold spot' in your home.
- If you need to heat an 'add-on space', such as a workroom, office or studio.
- If you need to boost the temperature of a room used by someone who is sensitive to cold, an elderly person or someone recovering from illness, without overheating your entire home.
- If you need an emergency heater in case your central heating breaks down, or there is a power cut.
Even if you have central heating, Portable Heaters are necessary and will save you money
Our guide will help you choose the right type of portable heater for your space, and save hours of searching through the confusing variety available by showing you how to pick the right one for your needs.
Types of Portable Heaters
There are two fuel types; Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) commonly known in the UK as Calor Gas, or Electricity (portable paraffin heaters are no longer considered suitable for UK homes).
Each type of heater comes in a range of power ratings, designs, materials and features, but which is the ideal one for your needs?
These use electricity to heat wires (called the heating element/s) which deliver heat in three ways:
- Warming air travelling over the heating elements (convector & fan heaters)
- Radiating heat, like the way the sun transmits heat (radiant heaters, radiators and panel heaters).
- Heating up a container of liquid or gel which then radiates heat (oil-filled radiators)
Electric heaters use one, or a combination of, these three methods to heat our homes.
Portable Electric Heaters, are divided into seven types:
- Fan Heaters
- Convector Heaters
- Electric Radiators
- Oil filled radiators
- Panel Heaters
- Electric Fires
- Combination Heaters, made up of two or more of the above.
They come in hundreds of designs and are sometimes wrongly advertised, many convector heaters are advertised as panel heaters even though they deliver heat in different ways. Most electric fires are not radiant heaters but fan heaters in large elaborate housings, this can make choosing the right electric heater confusing.
Most are light so are easy to carry, especially useful if you have stairs to deal with. In most cases, you only need one electric portable heater as you can easily move it around with you from room to room.
- Please Visit our Electric Heater Guide to see the differences in how each heater delivers heat and when and where to use them. This will help you to identify exactly which kind of heater meets your needs.
Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG)
Works by burning Butane or Propane gas and giving off heat (combustion).
Commonly called Calor Gas Heaters, pound-for-pound these heaters are more expensive to run than electric ones, but they are the most versatile as they are entirely self-contained.
Calor Gas Heaters need no external fuel source, no electric connection and most don't even use batteries, they can be used anywhere, the garden shed, garage or caravan, even remote off-the-grid spaces.
Most are on wheels so they can be easily moved around, however, to carry them up and down stairs you have to remove the gas bottle which is heavy when full.
Calor gas heaters are essential in areas prone to power cuts or as an emergency heat source, if your central heating system breaks down, they are the UK consumer's first choice for emergency or backup heating.
- To find out how they work and how to choose the right one for your needs please visit our Calor gas information page.
What About Paraffin Heaters?
Kerosene is the heating oil used in oil-fired central heating systems. Paraffin is kerosene that has been treated to reduce the odour and amount of soot it produces when burning, making it suitable for indoor use.
They used to be the most popular type of portable in the UK but from the 1970s Calor Gas Heaters began replacing them today paraffin heaters, while not illegal, are no longer considered suitable for use in UK homes.
There are a few things to think over before committing yourself to buy a portable heater such as: Which fuel type you need and If you need an electric space heater which type is the right one?
This list of FAQs should help.
What power heater do I need?
The general rule of thumb is that is 1 kilowatt (kW) of Heat output will heat up to, and maintain room average temperature, (23 °C / 73 °F) in :
- A 10 Cubic Meter (353 Cubic feet) poorly insulated room.
- A 15 Cubic Meter (530 cubic feet) partly insulated room.
- A 20 Cubic Meter (706 cubic feet) well-insulated room.
What type of Heater for my space?
The size and type of the space you are heating are crucial to your choice of space heater:
Any heater which relies on combustion (using oxygen to burn fuel) is very dangerous in a confined space, as well as using up the oxygen you need to breathe combustion produces deadly gases including nitrogen oxide & carbon monoxide. For small or poorly ventilated spaces use an electric space heater.
Under no circumstances must you ever use a portable gas (Calor gas) Space Heater in a confined or unventilated space
For small to medium-sized ventilated spaces where you often move the space heater around a portable gas or electric convection heater would be the choice.
For a well-ventilated garage or workshop, there are larger, fan assisted portable gas or high power electric fan heaters available, for a smaller workshop where a freestanding portable gas heater would be unsafe, a wall mounted infra-red heater is ideal.
For a home office, design or art studio consider a freestanding or wall/ceiling mounted electric panel, as they produce minimal air currents and do not dry out the air or create humidity.
Before you choose your type of heater consider the following points:
What is the space being used for?
Are those using the space going to be sitting or standing, in one place for short periods? Then an electric radiant heater may be suitable as these just warm what is in front of them such as people or furniture.
For a space occupied for a longer time, or with people moving around a portable gas or electric convection space heater would be more suitable as these will warm up the air and circulate it around the room.
The length of time it's being used for:
For short periods of quick heat a halogen or bar radiant heater if your stationery or an electric fan heater if you're moving around the room.
For longer periods where you wish to raise the room temperature and keep it steady then a portable gas or electric convection heater may be suitable.
To keep the room warm all day, a convector or oil filled radiator with a thermostat to provide ambient heat.
Your Fuel Supply:
Electric heaters can be the cheapest to buy, but just like a central heating system, they need electricity to work, so if possible you should always have a backup Calor gas heater in case of power cuts.
For caravans and mobile homes, only use small portable Calor gas heaters if you have adequate ventilation, there are a range of electric heaters designed to work off the 12-volt sockets in motor vehicles in our Tent & Caravan Heaters section.
Please look at our Electric Heaters info page to see when & where to use the different types of electric space heaters.
Is a cheap big heater better than a small expensive one?
It's not about the cost of buying the heater, you need to think about the cost of using it!
That 2 Kilowatt electric fan heater for under £10 may be a bargain, but if you're using it for 10 hours a day to keep a large room warm, the costs will be astronomical.
Because of how fan heaters work once switched off the room cools very quickly, and the thermostat switches it on again quickly. You won't save money by paying £50 for a better quality 2kW fan heater as the running costs will be the same.
We would never recommend using a fan heater this way as they are not designed to be left running for long periods.
A 2Kw Convector heater is the same power rating as the fan heater and when on at full blast costs the same to run, but it is designed as a room heater to be left on for long periods, not a spot heater.
Once the room is at the required temperature the thermostat switches it off, only turning it on again for short periods. Running this 8 hours a day for a week will cost less than half the price of the fan heater and it is safe to leave on for long periods.
Think about the energy usage for the space you are heating and the length of time you will be heating it for. An undersized heater will not do the job, an oversized heater is just a waste of money as its thermostat will just keep switching on and off and you will either be too hot or too cold.
When buying a portable heater, following these simple guidelines will save you money :
- Only purchase newer model heaters that have all of the latest energy-saving features.
- Buy a thermostatically controlled heater, this will cut down on waste.
- Do not purchase oversized or undersized heaters. Use the handy calculators on our Heating Costs Page to see what size you need.
- Be wary of paying a premium for fancy add-ons that you really don't need, if you have a 10ft x 10ft bedroom do you really need a remote control heater?
Sometimes spending a little more on the type of space heater you buy will work out cheaper over time, you only pay for the heater once, but you pay for fuel every time you use it!
Under £10 is OK if you are only thinking of one season, but if you want something more durable you will pay a little more, our budget buy Dimplex 2 kilowatt fan heater costs under £20 with free delivery and is guaranteed for 3 years.
If you want to have total control over heating costs then buy a portable gas heater, you pay for your fuel in advance allowing more control of your budget and no unexpected energy bills.
Do tenants need permission to get a heater?
Your property status can make a difference to what kind of heating you can use.
Homeowner: If you are the freeholder, unless you are in a listed property, or planning on doing something that can cause a danger or nuisance to your neighbours (such as installing that old submarine nuclear reactor you bought at the navy surplus sale, or fracking for gas in your garden) when it comes to portable space heaters you can pretty much do as you please.
(For information on regulation governing the installation of fixed electric, flued gas fires and wood/ multi-fuel burning fires please visit The Home Fire Shop )
As you do not own the freehold, you have to abide by the terms of the lease granted by the freeholder, many have clauses concerning the use of portable gas heaters and the storage of pressurized gas cylinders on the property (especially in apartment blocks). It is advisable to check the terms of the lease before purchasing a Calor gas heater.
Many tenancy agreements prohibit the usage of Calor gas heaters and the storage of pressurized gas cylinders on the property. You may need permission to fix a wall mounted panel or convector heater and may be required to remove it and fill the screw holes that held the bracket at the end of your tenancy.
Does Gas give off the same heat as Electric?
Yes, but for practical uses, the thing to remember is that the greater the efficiency of the heater the more heat energy you get for your money.
- Electric heaters are 100% efficient (turns all the electricity used to heat)
- Traditional Calor gas heaters are less efficient and the best will only convert 80% of the energy used to heat (the rest produces waste gases and water),
- Catalytic Calor gas heaters are 100% efficient (turns all the gas burnt to heat)
When you are looking for the size of the heater you need, make sure you check the heat output energy in kW, not the energy in kW used.
Do I need a fixed heater :
A portable space heater is handy as they can be moved from room to room, but as they are movable they can be bumped into or knocked over, also some can be hot and touching them can cause burns.
If there are children playing, pets running about, elderly people or those with conditions causing erratic movement we advise a heater with an anti-tilt mechanism and a fireguard to keep people/animals at a safe distance.
There are some 'cool wall ' space heaters available. But if you need one that cannot be moved or knocked over (maybe for a sick room or a children's room) some portable heaters have the option of wall mounting and fixing brackets are supplied along with the heater.
In a lounge, family room or larger frequently used room as long as you do not need to move the space heater around, a mains or LPG flueless gas fire would be the preferable option. If you are thinking of a fully fixed mains gas / LPG fire or a wood or multi fuel burning stove then please visit The Home Fire Shop
Used properly a wood burning stove can reduce your heating fuel bill by up to 90% visit The Home Fire Shop for details
When buying and installing a portable space heater, follow these simple safety guidelines :
- Only purchase newer model heaters that have all of the current safety features. If buying second-hand, do so from a reputable supplier and make sure it is CE certified and has been PAT tested.
- Always Locate your portable space heater on a level surface away from foot traffic.
- Be especially careful to keep children and pets away from the heater:
- Do not trail leads for electric heaters across doorways
- Never dry laundry on a gas heater or convector heater or cover any electrical appliance with wet laundry.
- Never try to use a fan heater if the fan is broken, it will catch fire.
- Any heater used in a bathroom must have a minimum IP24 rating (proof against finger insertion and water splashing) or above marked on it.
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