Home Heating Guide: Stay Warm In Winter Without Breaking The Bank

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By Dan Stewart

Winter’s coming: you feel a chill in the air and decide that it’s time to replace your old, inefficient heater with a newer model. You want a safe and energy efficient heater, but are not sure what to buy. Will a cheap space heater do the trick or should you opt for a central heating or air conditioning system? What about the energy star labels you’ve seen? Should you base your decision solely on the energy rating of a heater?

These are all good questions and are actually more easily answered than you might imagine. A quick look at the types of heaters that are available and how they match up to your heating needs will help narrow down your options.

Radiant Heaters versus Convection Heaters

— A Radiant Heater is any heater that passively radiates heat. Radiant heaters are only designed to heat small areas, so are also generally classified as space heaters. Because the heat only radiates a short distance from the heat source, radiant heaters are very energy inefficient unless used only occasionally.

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— Convection Heaters draw cooler air in and expel warm air after it passes through their heating elements. Even though electricity is needed to operate a convection heater’s fan, the extra energy required is minimal compared to their greater heating capacity. If you are looking for room heating, then a convection heater is what you should be looking for.

Portable Heaters versus Central Heaters

— Portable Heaters are any heaters that can be moved easily from room to room. They can be gas or electric, radiant or convection. Their portability is their greatest danger, so only buy a portable radiant heater that automatically shuts off if it overheats or tips over.

— Central Heating Systems operate from an external heating unit and distribute warm air via air ducts throughout the home. In general, they are only needed in colder climates. In Australia, reverse cycle air conditioners that provide heat or cooling as necessary are more commonly used. When choosing a reverse cycle system, you need to consider the unit’s heating and cooling energy efficiency ratings separately and make a balanced judgement based on your primary needs.

Choosing an Energy Efficient Heater

Energy Star gives you a quick way to calculate how energy efficient your heater will be: more stars equals better efficiency. The heater’s efficiency is calculated using a Coefficient of Performance (COP) formula that weighs its output of heat in relation to the energy input required to produce heat.

For greatest energy efficiency, get a heater that uses the right amount of energy for your room size. If you buy a heater whose energy output is smaller than your room requires, it will have to work harder and longer to keep the room at the required temperature and ends up being more expensive over time than a larger capacity heater that may cost a little more initially.

The best way to save money on your heater is to first visit a good online appliances comparison website. This way, you can quickly compare all major brands and models by price, features and energy efficiency. The best of these sites also provide valuable tips and advice, enabling you to make an informed decision.

About the Author: Dan Stewart is a writer and researcher for Comparison.com.au, Australia’s largest product comparison website. Find all your home appliances online at

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