All of them. All electric heaters are energy efficient.
But that’s probably not the answer you were looking for if you’re trying to narrow down your search for the most efficient electric heater, right?
So what do I mean by all of them?
The biggest reason is that any electric heater is 100% efficient because they all convert all the electricity they use into heat. You cannot get more efficient than that.
If efficiency is all you’re concerned with, buy whichever electric heater you like the most and call it done.
But what if you’re really interested in more than efficiency? Because efficient and cheap are not synonymous, and these days, many people are looking for ways to reduce their heating costs.
Keeping in mind that every single electric heater is efficient, this article will discuss the types of electric heaters and the heaters that will cost you less to run.
They are two very different things, because — as mentioned above — efficiency simply refers to the amount of energy being used to do the job. And electric heaters use all the electricity to do one thing. Produce heat.
Types of Electric Heaters
First up, unless you’re looking at an electric furnace or built-in baseboard heaters, many electric heaters are to be used as supplemental heating, not as primary heat sources.
The following is overview the types of electric heaters found in homes. It won’t include industrial-type heating methods.
Regardless of the type of electric heater, to some extent, they all work the same way — by resistance.
Resistance is achieved when electrical line voltage passes over a heating element and heats it.
Wall heaters must be on dedicated circuits, but this may not be necessary for portable space heaters that draw fewer amps.
From the top, electric heaters are broken into two main categories. They either work by radiant or convection heat.
Convection heat warms the air, while radiant heat warms objects, including people.
Electric Wall Heaters
Wall heaters are typically built into a recessed wall cavity that sits between a pair of studs.
They usually offer convection-style heating and use a fan to move warm air.
However, if you’re looking for silent operation, you can find models that produce radiant heat by means of electric coils and reflective panels.
You should only install these on interior walls, as exterior walls will have insulation, and the heat produced could lead to fires if any combustible materials ignite.
Additionally, the combination of hot metal in a cold exterior wall can lead to condensation problems.
Electric Baseboard Heaters
Electric baseboards are similar in looks — but not function — two hydronic baseboard heaters.
However, thanks to electric heating coils, these offer non-motorized convection heating. Without motorized fans, they can’t push warmed air through the room, so this is left to natural air currents.
With the process of convection, cool air from the room is sucked into the bottom slots of the heater.
It then passes over heating coils and fins, where it is warmed. From there, it’s pulled to the top of the unit where it exits through a series of slots.
Depending on the heater, it may have its own integrated thermostat, or you may need to use a remote line voltage thermostat with it.
As far as placement goes, since heat loss through glass is often an issue, baseboard heaters are often installed beneath windows.
It’s also important to make sure sufficient space is maintained between the heater and any drapery or furniture.
Now let’s discuss the different types of portable electric heaters.
Ceramic Space Heaters
As the name suggests, these space heaters have integrated ceramic plates attached to metal coils.
The plates are heated as electricity passes over the coils, and since ceramic absorbs heat, it begins to build up until it’s eventually released into the air.
Additionally, there are two types of ceramic space heaters, one that has a fan and one that does not.
One thing that makes this type of heater more efficient — at least in the sense that you feel the benefit of the warmth quicker — is that they heat up instantly. Specifically, the models that have a fan since the process of heating air happens faster.
The fan helps first to blow air over the plates and then distribute that air into your environment. However, models without a fan take longer since the process is only aided by natural air movements.
Fan Space Heaters
This type of heater is very similar to the ceramic heater mentioned above, except it does not have a ceramic plate.
A fan space heater uses metal coils to create and absorb heat and a fan to distribute or transfer it around your room. And also like the ceramic heater, they provide instant heat.
Infrared Space Heaters
Also known as radiant space heaters, this type of heater works entirely differently from the convection type heaters mentioned above. Instead of warming the air, they warm objects, like furniture and people, by emitting electromagnetic waves into the air. We are all familiar with this process since it’s the same way the sun heats the earth and you and I.
However, in one way, they are just like convection heaters, in that they are available with or without a fan, although the fan is not necessary. It’s just that some people prefer having one.
One advantage of this type of heater is they are good at adding warmth to larger areas, but at the same time, they have a disadvantage in that they only heat in one direction. They also tend to have higher upfront costs than ceramic heaters or fan heaters.
Oil Filled Space Heaters
These heaters look like old-style radiators, and as the name suggests, they’re filled with oil. The oil takes a while to heat up, but once it does, hot oil circulates through the columns or fins of the unit, releasing heat into the air.
One of the biggest advantages of this type of heater is that even after it’s turned off, the oil retains its heat for an extended period of time. Meaning the unit continues to release heat even though it’s no longer using electricity. Money saver!
So What’s the Most Efficient Electric Heater?
All electric heaters are 100% efficient, but what you pay in the end depends on your local electricity costs, what you pay for your heater, and how many hours a day you use it.
Now that you’re ahead of the curve—at least when it comes to what most people are thinking when they ask about electric space heater efficiency—let’s talk about some options. Because even though they all operate at 100%, there are still some ways to save money.
Smart Options When Buying an Electric Space Heater
And no, I don’t mean smart as in “smart technology.” I simply mean making wise choices.
Oil Filled Space Heaters
If your only option is to use an electric heater, your best bet is likely an oil-filled heater. They cover more area, and they still provide heat, even after they’ve been turned off.
That means you’re making the most of the electricity you do use. Even though they take a bit of time to reach your set temperature, they produce consistent, silent heat—well after they’ve stopped costing you electricity.
One tip—and this will cost you a bit more upfront—is to choose a model that offers a digital timer. This is especially helpful if you follow a set schedule. Have it start before you need it so when you get home or walk into a room, it’s already warm.
Here are a few energy-saving features of our oil filled heater choice:
- The ECO Plus sensor selects the best power setting base on the current room temps, potentially saving you 20 – 40% in electricity charges.
- Increased fin size adds up to 35% more radiant heat—for the same amount of energy used.
This type of heater is another heater that offers some savings. Why? They are one of the cheapest types to run—and they come in a huge variety of styles, options, and sizes.
Infrared heaters operate on a lower wattage than many other types of space heaters, meaning you could save up to 65% on your heating bill.
The best thing about these heaters is that they provide radiant heat—the same kind you get when you stand in direct sunlight. Radiant heat warms your body, not the air around you. So the quicker you get warm, the quicker you can turn down or turn off your heater.
Here are a few features of our infrared heater choice:
- Option to wall or surface mount
- Heat quickly and quietly
- Tip over protection
- Timer function
Best Energy Efficient Space Heaters: Conclusion
In many places, until recently, using electricity to heat your home was far more expensive than gas—and frankly, that still may be the case in some places. Of course, not everyone can install a gas furnace or heater.
In the end, all electric heaters are created equal regarding efficiency. Just choose a model that best suits your needs.
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