I live on my own in two-bedroom house and don’t like it to be overheated.
I prefer to sleep in a cold room and am only really bothered about heating on cold days in the living room.
As the weather gets colder, I am thinking about how I can save money on my energy bills.
Am I better off just buying an electric heater and using it as and when I need it and turning off the central heating altogether?
Is it cheaper to turn down the central heating in your house and use electric heaters instead?
Grace Gausden, This is Money, replies: As the weather begins to get colder and temperatures start to slip beneath freezing, it is understandable that many of us will be worried about how much we will be spending on our energy bills.
Electric radiators are a popular solution to keeping the central heating on as many people believe that it will save them money.
There are a number of different types of electric heaters than you can purchase, including halogen heaters, fan heaters, oil-filled heaters and convector heaters.
Fan heaters are a popular choice but may be noisy and are often not as powerful as other types of heater. The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) said a fan heater would be the preferable radiator when looking to heat a room for a short amount of time.
However, it said convector heaters will heat a room more thoroughly and these will be the best option if you are looking to heat a room for a couple of hours or more.
Oil-filled heaters are one of the more reliable of the varieties. Even though they tend to take slightly longer to heat up than other models, they will stay warmer for longer – even after they have been turned off.
Halogen heaters are another option, likely to be most well known for keeping punters warm in pub gardens, but they work quickly and are relatively cheap to run.
The different forms of portable heater also come with different heat outputs, for example, the most common outputs are 1.2 kilowatt (kW), 2 kW and 3kW. The higher the kilowatt, the more powerful the radiator is but it will also be more expensive.
|Typical heat output||Running cost
per hour (standard meter)
per hour (Economy 7, night)
per hour (Economy 7, day)
|Radiant bar fire||2 kW||28p||13p||36p|
|Halogen heater||1.2 kW||17p||8p||22p|
|Convector heater||2 kW||28p||13p||36p|
|Fan heater||2 kW||28p||13p||36p|
|Oil-filled radiator||1.5 kW||21p||10p||27p|
|Source: Centre for Sustainable Energy|
Information from the CSE shows the cost of running a 1.2kW halogen heater, on average, is 17p on a standard meter, which is generally cheaper compared to other models.
However, this has less heat output than a 2kW fan heater that costs 28p per hour – a massive 11p more to run per hour.
Whilst convector heaters may be a more expensive radiator to run, they will keep the room warmer for longer – and are a better option in the long term than a fan radiator.
However, to accurately determine whether an electric radiator would save you more money than central heating, a number of factors would need to analysed.
This includes how many windows the room you are looking to heat has, what size they are, how well your house is insulated and the style of house i.e. is it old, new, leaky or modern.
There are also two different types of central heating – gas and electric – which come with pros and cons.
Energy bills: An electric heater could be cheaper to use but it depends on various factors
Which? figures show that the average cost of central heating in 2017 was £548, when the person consumed around 12,000 kWh a year.
This equates to spending £1.50 a day on central heating but there will be plenty of times – mainly in the summer – where the heating won’t be on at all, so it will depend on each individual person’s heating usage as to which would save them more money.
A spokesperson for the Energy Helpline replies: Overall, for heating the same space, using an electric heater is more than twice as expensive as using central heating.
However, from the multiple sources I’ve checked, it seems as though there’s agreement that electric radiators can be more cost effective if you’re heating a small area of your house i.e. one or two rooms.
In the case you describe, it sounds as though it’s likely that it would be cheaper to use an electric heater. However, I can’t say how much cheaper.
A 1.2kW halogen heater would be the most efficient in terms of heating your home but a 3kW electric convector heater would be the most effective at heating it faster.
You provided the dimensions of the room but the amount you would save would depend on many variables: ceiling height, insulation, the external temperature, windows, the efficiency of the heater and the central heating system, the unit rate of the reader’s electricity and gas.
Rik Smith, energy expert at uSwitch, replies: The average price for a unit of gas is about three times less than the average price of a unit of electricity, so in those terms, gas central heating is cheaper.
However, homes come in all shapes and sizes, and different people prefer different temperatures. There are a couple of ways you can use your heating more efficiently to minimise the amount you spend.
If you live in a large property but don’t need to keep every room the same temperature you could use room or radiator thermostats target the heat towards rooms you use the most.
This also helps you to avoid over-heating individual rooms or having the heating on for too long when you don’t need it.
As the weather gets colder, UK households will be paying more money towards energy bills
Likewise, timers on your boiler or individual electric radiators mean you can heat your home when you need to rather than wasting money by having the heating on when you’re not there.
But try to avoid going from one extreme to the other. If you are spending most of your time in one room, then spending a prolonged time in another very cold room could pose a health risk – especially for the elderly, very young children, or if you have a specific health condition.
A spokesperson for the Energy Saving Trust replies: By using a standard electric heater this will cost considerably more than using gas central heating in most circumstances, potentially three times as much depending on your tariffs.
However if you’re only heating one room and only for a short time, firing up the boiler and heating system may be a little over the top, and you could end up using considerably more gas than the theory suggests.
Therefore, it may be better to use to heat the room all day (however make sure all the other radiators are turned right down) and only use the electric radiator if you just want a short blast of heat at certain times of the day.
Grace Gausden, This is Money, adds: If you are thinking of using an electric heater as opposed to your central heating, it will be worth measuring the size of the room and taking into account all of the variables before making a decision.
You will then need to decide what type of electric heater would be the most suitable for you as each of them have different benefits.
Whether it is cheaper to use a heater could also depend on the length of winter as that will determine how long you will need to be using it for. There are energy calculators you can use online that will help you work out how much money you will be spending on your energy bill.
Either way, it is always worth keeping an eye on your energy bills to see if, and when, you are spending more money and whether that could be a result of using electric heaters or having the central heating turned up.
Tips on how to keep your home warm and energy efficient
Mark Ronald, lead engineer at Hometree, has given his top tips on how to keep your house warm in the winter months.
1) Turn down the thermostat. During colder weather, it’s easy to turn up the heat in your home to help take the chill off and warm your home faster. But in fact, keeping your heating at a more ambient temperature of 18°C or 19°C can keep your home just as warm, but will also save you money on heating bills.
2) Replace your boiler with an energy efficient one. Half of what you spend on energy every year is down to your boiler, so it’s more important than ever to make sure you think about the efficiency of your boiler to make sure you’re not paying any more than you should, particularly as energy prices remain high.
3) Switch your heating on only when it’s needed. The best way to save energy, and therefore how much your bills are, is to schedule your central heating to come on at specific times during the day or to put it on as and when you need it.
4) Dodge the draught. Draughts in a house can make it exceptionally hard to keep it warm, especially in winter months. Sealing any unwanted gaps and keeping a well-insulated home is an easy and affordable way to cut down on energy use and could help you save hundreds on your bills.
5) Do a maintenance check on your appliances. When it comes to your boiler, an annual service by a Gas Safe registered engineer will ensure your heating and hot water system is running efficiently and, most importantly, there are no faults or leaks that could cause serious risk.
6) Maximise your heat. Think about where your heat sources are and if anything is blocking the warmth from circulating in your home. Having curtains or a sofa in front of a radiator will absorb the heat that could be helping to warm the rest of the room, therefore wasting energy and making the house feel colder than it is.