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Electric Heaters

Consistent efficiency, varied heat distribution

How they work

An electric heater simply converts electrical energy into heat energy using the principle that an electric current passing through a resistor will change that energy into heat energy.

All electric heaters are very efficient, but they all have different ways of distributing heat to a room. For this reason, the type of space you want to heat is the deciding factor when figuring out which kind of heater you should use.

Types of electric heaters

Examples of Portable Electric Heaters

  • Oil-filled- electricity heats oil contained in the columns or fins of these heaters and convection is used to distribute heat. This type of electric heater is good in a place where it will be left on either unattended or for long periods of time; its surfaces do not get as hot as other types of electric heaters. Because it relies on convection, an oil-filled heater may not distribute heat as evenly as one that uses a fan. You could end up with a lot of cold air concentrated close to the floor. Using a ceiling fan on a low setting, however, can help combat this problem.
  • Convection- this type of heater is similar to an oil-filled type except that it draws air over electrically heated elements. There is often a fan to help blow hot air out from the heater, helping to minimize a horizontal layering of air. However, you probably want a heater for which you can switch off the fan as it tends to be loud. Another good piece of advice is to listen to the heater run before you buy it.
  • Fan- this type of electric heater is like a convection heater except it uses a fan to speed up the flow or air. It can very quickly heat up a space, but only if it is a small space. Unfortunately, the fan can't be switched off. There are both upright and horizontal models. If getting an upright, it's a good idea to get one with a tilt switch so that the heater will automatically switch off if it falls over. Another point to consider is that this type of heater can have either a metal or plastic grill which can reach 100 degrees. Because metal will burn much more quickly than plastic, a plastic grill is a better choice for those with small children. Unlike convection heaters, which are good for providing background warmth, a fan heater will blow the heat directly at your person.
  • Radiant- these personal heaters use an exposed heating element from which heat radiates directly to the room. This type can only heat a small space and is not good for people with small children, as there is great risk of burning. Fire is also a concern with this type of electric heater since anything coming into contact with the heating element is likely to catch fire. Furniture, clothing, curtains, and paper can easily combust, so check items around the heater often to make sure they aren't getting too hot.
  • Underfloor heating- this type of heater uses radiant heat, which flows through a conductor to different parts of the house and heats the flooring. The heat from the flooring then heats the air next to it, which heats other objects and people in the room. The heat will circulate from floor to ceiling. This provides more even heating than any of the other electrical heating methods.


  • The fuel, electricity, is available everywhere and on a need basis, so you don't have to store it.
  • Some companies will offer you electricity produced by renewable sources such as wind, solar, hydro, or biomass for a slightly higher fee.
  • Electric heaters are 100 % efficient with energy and don't pollute.


  • Heating with a portable electric heater could be expensive and maybe not even a viable option for large spaces, since they have a low capacity of 2.4 kW.
  • Although the actual heaters don't give off pollutants, the factories that process the fuel to produce electricity do produce significant pollutants.
  • Although the actual heaters are energy efficient, as much as 70% of the original fuel energy is lost during production and transportation of the electricity.

Available features

  • Tilt switch- automatically switches the heater off if it tips over
  • Thermostat- switches the heater on and off as needed to maintain a desired temperature Power levels- there are usually two or three
  • Timer- allows you to set the heater to automatically switch on and off at certain times. You could set it to switch off at night, for example, if you'd rather sleep in a cooler environment.
  • Cut-out switch- automatically shuts the heater off if it is in danger of overheating.

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