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Electric Heating: Types, Pros & Cons


Electric heating is a great option when considering how best to heat a space. Whether that’s a room in your home, a cold workshop or even a motorhome. Unlike many other forms of heating, there is a lot less to think about when it comes to the installation of electric heating and in some cases, you can evencomplete the installation yourself.

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Types of electric heating

The most common types of electric heating are:

  • Electric radiators
  • Night storage heaters
  • Convection heaters
  • Infrared heating panels

There are also fan heaters, another form of electric heating, but they’re better suited to temporary installations.

Electric radiators

Electric radiators operate in a similar way that standard radiators do in central heating systems. Multiple heating elements within the radiator are heated quickly by electric and provide even heat distribution, resulting in an often more comfortable heat.

Electric radiators have all of the advantages of a convection heater over a night storage heater but with some differences.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Electric radiators radiate and convect providing more comfortable heatElectricity can be an expensive fuel
Installation is easier and cheaper than new central heating systemsIf there’s a power cut you’ll be left without heating
Low or no maintenance required
No pipework or boiler required
No heat leakage
No scorching effects
Temperature controlled heating 24/7

Electric radiators are becoming a much favoured option for homes looking to update their old gas central heating system and make the switch to a surprisingly cost effective alternative.

Night storage heaters

Night storage heaters are a common electric heating appliance found in homes across the country. They are typically quite large, bracketed against the wall in each room of the house and work independently from each other.

They use night time electricity (such as Economy 7 tariffs) to heat bricks within each heater and then release that heat into the room throughout the day.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
They keep the home warm during the night and early morningHeat is lost while charging overnight
Where mainline gas isn’t available, night storage heaters provide the heatingThe night time electric tariff is often only as good as a normal tariff and does not necessarily result in cheaper heating costs
Installation is easier and cheaper than new central heating systemsHeat is released during the day regardless of whether it is needed or not
Low or no maintenance requiredControls can be complicated to use, resulting in incorrect operation and loss of heat at the wrong times of the day and night
No pipework or boiler requiredThey are very heavy and bulky, typically taking up more floor space than radiators used in other heating systems

Convection heaters

Convection heaters operate by air convection currents circulating through the body of the appliance and across it’s heating element.

The main advantages of convection heaters are that you can turn them on and off independently from each other, allowing you to heat the spaces you need, when you need to. They are also typically smaller than night storage heaters.

There are a couple of key disadvantages with convection heaters. The first is the way the heat is created. Convection makes the heated air increase in volume, making it more buoyant and rise. The result of this is that the warm air may accumulate at the ceiling of the room. Therefore, ceiling fans are commonly paired with convection heaters to help circulate the warm air, making the room feel warmer and allowing you to turn down the thermostat.

The second main disadvantage is that convection heaters can cost more to run as they are pretty heavy on electric due to the technology inside the heater.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Where mainline gas isn’t available, convection heaters provide the heatingTemperature controlled heating 24/7 not available
Installation is easier and cheaper than new central heating systemsPoor heat circulation
Low or no maintenance requiredCeiling fan maybe required
Space savingScorching effect in some cases
No heat leakageDraws electric non-stop when being used thus increasing costs

Infrared heating panels

Rather than heating the space in a room, like the other electric heating systems we’ve mentioned, infrared heating panels directly heat people and objects. So you will feel warm in a room that is cold.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Can reach the desired temperature within 30 secondsOften more expensive than other electric heating systems
Heating objects and people directly rather than the space is far more efficientPanels need to plenty of space around them to be efficient (true of other heating systems too)
No moving parts so they’re silent in operation

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How much do electric heating system cost?

Electric heating system costs vary depending on the type of heating system, model and manufacturer.

Electric heating systemPotential cost
Electric radiators£200+
Convection radiators£50+ (per heater)
Night storage heater£150 to £200+ (per heater)
Infrared heating panels£150 to £500+ (per panel)

How much do electric heating systems cost to run?

Electricity is typically a more expensive fuel than both gas and oil. This is mainly because electricity generation is considered carbon intensive as, traditionally, fossil fuels are burned to produce it. And this releases carbon into the atmosphere. However, the use of renewable energy for electricity production is growing rapidly and this could see electricity prices begin to fall.

On the other hand, gas and oil are comparatively cheap but these aren’t sustainable fuel sources and the supply is beginning to run low. This is causing prices to creep up. So, electricity prices could be closer to gas and oil sooner than you might think.

FuelPrice per kilowatt-hour (kWh)
Electricity (off-peak economy 7)9.76
Electricity (on-peak economy 7)20.03
Electricity (standard rate)16.36
Gas4.17
Oil4.81

Source: The Energy Saving Trust

What to consider when having electric heating installed

Before you purchase an electric heating system, make sure you assess which option is best for you. You’ll need to have a think about:

  • Where the heater will be sited: The position is important in order to heat the room most efficiently. Try not to block the heater with furniture or clothes.
  • Your living habits: For example, do you only use one room in your home. Do you have empty rooms that do not need heating?
  • Your budget: Calculate your budget and stick to it. Electric heaters can be added at any time to get the most ideal heater for each room to help heat it most efficiently.

It’s also important to assess the energy efficiency of your home alongside the electric heating. Adding loft, floor and wall insulation can be a way of further reducing your energy bills and keeping your space warmer for longer.

More central heating systems

If you’re not convinced that an electric heating system is right for your home then you have no shortage of options. And many of these are worth considering too.

Let’s start with the most popular: boilers. Gas boilers are installed in around 80% of UK homes with oil boilers being the popular choice for properties that aren’t connected to the gas network. You can find out more about these boiler types in our Boiler Buying Guide.

While gas and oil boilers are effective heating systems, they do emit carbon into the atmosphere – a leading cause of climate change. As a result, alternative heating systems are being explored and renewables are growing in popularity.

Renewable heating systems take heat from sustainable sources such as the air, ground or solar. These systems include:

Turning to a renewable heating system is a highly efficient option for your home and, like electric heating systems, heat pumps also need electricity to operate. As a reward for generating your own renewable heat, you could also receive payments through the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Get free quotes for heating installation

No matter what your plans are for your new central heating system, you can connect with qualified local installers using Boiler Guide. With Boiler Guide, you’ll get free quotes for the installation of central heating from up to 3 installers based in your area. By comparing quotes in this way, you can be confident that your new heating system is being installed at the fairest price by the best company for the job.

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