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Guide to Buying a Heater

Winter has come, and even well-insulated homes with central heating sometimes need a boost in chilly rooms. Whether it’s a long unused spare room, a conservatory, or just because the temperatures have dropped, there are a few different space heaters out there, all with their own pros and cons.


Fan heater

The concept of a fan heater is based on how people used to keep cool in the days before air conditioners: blow air over a block of ice. But as we want heat right now, this fan blows air over a hot element thus warming the room. Wood burner-effect fan heaters look great if you have a feature fireplace or not – some are wall-mounted – and the “flame” feature works independently of heat to give a cosy look any evening. Fan heaters require good ventilation around them as they need to suck air in. They can be noisy but they do produce immediate heat although the flip side of that is the room begins to cool as soon as it’s switched off. Traditional fan heaters are often found mounted on bathroom walls. Most now have thermostats, which you want so they will cut off when a desired temperature is hit. Some people, especially contact lens wearers, have commented that they can dry the air out.

Pros Compact; portable; can be wall mounted; immediate, directional warmth

Cons Dries out air; little residual heat; noisy


Convection Heater

A convection heater is like a fan heater in that it has a hot element that warms air, but it doesn’t have the fan. Convection heaters build up warmth inside them until the heat is forced out via natural ventilation (called convection). As they have no fan, convection heaters are bigger and quieter than fan heaters. The metal exterior can become very hot to the touch but because of their size, they have fewer safety concerns as the element is deep within the frame.

Pros No drafts; quiet

Cons Heat rises straight up; hot to touch


Oil-Filled Radiators

Oil-filled radiators run on convection – they don’t have a fan – but because the oil inside is heated, they hold their heat. So if you want a room kept warm for longer periods of time, oil-filled radiators are your best bet. They don’t have the immediate or directional heat of a fan heater, but once hot, keep the room warm with far less electrical usage. Once the room has reached your optimal temperature, set the thermostat and the heat simply kicks in every now and then to maintain it. It might take longer to heat, but it’s more efficient in the long run. And you can keep a cup of tea warm on it!

Pros Cost efficient

Cons Heavy; hot to touch


Halogen Heaters

A halogen heater uses halogen-filled tubes to produce heat and a bright light. As light is produced, this means that the electricity taken is not 100% converted to heat. That said, they do cost the lowest to run (with oil-filled radiators). Some people find the light too bright and the heat too focussed, but then again, this makes them good for small, dark rooms. Halogen heaters often have an oscillating function, variable heat outputs and feature an auto cut-out if knocked over.

Pros Light; portable; oscillating; immediate, directional warmth

Cons Bright glare; little residual heat


Portable space heaters often come with the strict instruction only to plug directly into a wall socket – not an extension lead – so check where you want the heater and the closest wall socket.

The wattage of the heater you want will depend on the size of room you want to heat, but most nowadays have thermostats to regulate heat output. Space heaters will up your electricity bill, so be aware that costs will rise with the temperature. If your heater doesn’t have a timer, you will need to remember to turn it off.

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