With rising fuel bills from all suppliers and future predictions that fuel will become even more expensive in the near future, we all have to think more carefully about how we heat a home. Gas prices particularly have shot up in price and the average home is now paying a significant proportion of its monthly budget just to keep the central heating running.
As a result, many people are looking at ways to save. No one wants to go back to the days before central heating that some of us can still remember. The thought of getting out of bed on a freezing morning to find ice inside the windows is not pleasant but it was a reality for most people in the UK as recently as the 1960s.
Having the central heating on at a lower setting on the thermostat can make quite a big difference to quarterly bills but, for some people in some rooms of the house, this might not be enough to keep them comfortable. Working at home is a particular problem – home offices are usually in a back bedroom, a converted loft space or in a building not attached to the main house. All of these locations can be cold in winter and difficult to heat. There is not point having the central heating on at a high level throughout the house, just to keep one room warm enough to work.
Choosing the Right Heater
A good solution is to focus on keeping the central heating as background heating, putting in place as much insulation as possible to keep the heat in the house. Drawing curtains at night, for example, will help reduce heat loss through large windows. Then, for rooms that need extra heat, some sort of low-cost efficient heater is ideal.
The size of the room will dictate what type of heater you choose to some extent but you also need to consider other things. Having a low level halogen heater may not be ideal if you have small children or boisterous pets. A very small oil filled radiator won’t make much impact on a large, open converted loft space or a very cold conservatory.
The cost of the heater is also important. You might want to pay a little bit more for a nice looking heater if you have to spend a lot of time with it, but buying something that is very expensive and looks great but that is not very good at heating the room is a waste of money.
What Does an Electric Heater Cost to Run?
Working out the potential running costs of an electric heater is actually quite easy. You pay for electricity by the kilowatt hour. This figure is usually mentioned on your electricity bills. There is usually a higher rate until a cut-off usage point. After you have used that amount of electricity, the cost drops. At the end of 2009, the average cost of electricity per kilowatt hour was around 20 pence.
It is easy to be misled by claims that manufacturers make in their advertising but remember that all electric heaters are 100% efficient. Just because they claim that, doesn’t mean they are any better than any other heater. Most electrical appliances are not 100% efficient because quite a lot of the electricity is converted to waste heat. But, in the case of a heater, generating heat is the point, so there is no waste.
The instructions, usually also the box, tells you how many kilowatts of heat the heater can deliver. A small, three bar halogen heater is usually 0.4 kilowatts per bar. So, if you ran a heater like this with all three bars for one hour, you would use 1.2 kilowatts of power – which would cost you 24 pence.
Daily, Weekly, Monthly and Annual Costs
Most teenagers might see this and think this was a very cheap deal but it is important to remember that these costs add up. If you use a 1000 watt heater for 6 hours every day – the heating cost per day is £1.20, and per week (assuming 5 days if it’s used in a home office) would be £6. That would be £24 per month or £72 per quarter.
To estimate how much you are saving on your central heating bills by setting the thermostat lower is more difficult. You really need to take weekly readings on your meters (gas or electricity) and try to do a comparison. It takes quite a bit of commitment but if you can save even £50 per quarter by running your heating systems more efficiently, that is a worthwhile goal.