It’s the age-old question surrounding electric radiators and one that never really seems to go away: “how much do electric radiators cost to run?” Though it would be lovely to be able to offer exact figures for the running cost of a heating system, you’d need nothing short of clairvoyance in order to do so. Asking “what’s the running cost of an electric radiator?” is almost akin to asking “what will my utility bill be this month?” – an answer that varies so much from household to household, it would be impossible to offer a set figure applicable to every single residence in the UK. The lack of concrete answers can be discouraging but this is simply because any cost analysis needs to be tailored toward your own usage habits. Making your own basic estimates for potential running costs couldn’t be simpler, but there are specific details you will need to be aware of before you start.
Why is it hard to calculate the running cost for electric radiators?
It’s easy to lump electric radiators together with any other electrical appliance but you need to approach heating with a slightly different mindset. While an electric radiator and a television both use electricity, they use energy in fundamentally different ways. The television, for instance, will be using electricity continuously whilst in use and only stop using energy once switched off. This isn’t the case for electric radiators – they instead use internal thermostats to switch off and on depending on the ideal temperature set for the room, and will only use energy when it needs to top up heat levels. So, while a 450W plasma TV and a 450W electric radiator might sound like they’ll use the same amount of energy over the course of a few hours, it’s highly likely that the radiator will only be using energy periodically during this timeframe.
What else can affect the running costs of electric radiators?
Pinning down an exact figure for electric radiator running costs is also difficult due to the fact they’re required to heat such a broad spectrum of house types and room spaces. Rather than asking “what are the running costs of electric radiators?”, it’s perhaps more appropriate to say “what will be the approximate running cost for an electric radiator in this room of my house?” Every space in the home is different, with its own set of requirements and variables that can affect how efficient your heating system will be. Below are some of the larger factors which can impact the running costs of your electric radiators.
Home and Room Insulation
If you live in an older property, chances are it will cost more to run your heating compared to a new build of a similar size because of the differences in how each home was made. Newer properties are designed to be much more air-tight, and have higher levels of insulation due to current building regulations which aim to make homes more energy efficient. This stricter standard of insulation means that electric radiators cost less to run in newer properties due to reduced levels of heat loss. Period properties with single glazing and poor insulation will lose heat much faster and find that they have to run their radiators more frequently and at a higher temperature to compensate.
No two homes are exactly alike and the same can be said of each individual room that comprises a property. Not only do you have to contend with the area of the room when taking into account potential running costs, you also have to factor in ceiling height. Rooms with high ceilings or open plan areas will always take more energy to keep warm due to how radiators heat the space around them. Hot air rises, and as the radiator warms the air around it, any heat created will travel upwards first before reaching any other areas in the room. Larger spaces will take much longer to feel the effects of the convected heat circling around the room and will also mean you have to choose a higher wattage radiator to ensure the space is comfortably heated.
Individual comfort levels can make a substantial difference when it comes to the running cost of any heating system. If you prefer it a cool 16 °C, your heating bill will likely be much lower than that of a household that operates at a balmy 23 °C! Radiators set to a lower heat level will get to temperature quicker and will draw energy much less often, but that being said, it’s important not to sacrifice your comfort levels just to save a bit of money. How often you use your heating throughout the course of the day will also vary due to different work patterns, lifestyle habits and, of course, changes in the weather and season.
Property location and exposure levels
We like to think of our home as an impenetrable castle guarding us against the elements, but how exposed your property is can have an impact on how hard your electric radiators will have to work to maintain comfort temperatures. For example, a terraced house attached to other properties on both sides will always be able to benefit from the residual heat of the homes surrounding it and will only have two exterior facing sides exposed to the elements. A fully detached house, however, will be exposed on all sides and have many more exterior walls to contend with, making it more difficult to keep warm. North facing rooms and homes that are exposed to harsh winds are especially prone to the cold and mean you may have to use more energy to keep your rooms well heated.
So, how do you calculate the running cost of an electric radiator?
You can estimate potential running costs for an electric radiator with a simple calculation, although it’s important to note that this is just a base approximation which doesn’t take into account all of the possible variables that come into play. This basic formula is as follows:
(Radiator output (kW) x hours in use) x pence per kW hour = daily cost of radiator (p)
For example, if your room requires a 900W electric radiator and will be used for 5 hours a day, you would multiply 0.9kW by 5 to give you 4.5 kW/h. If your electrical tariff was priced at 14p per kilowatt hour, you would multiply 4.5 by 14 which gives you a cost of 63p to run your electric radiator per day. However, this calculation does not take into account the thermostatic control built into the electric radiator and the fact that it would most likely be turning on and off according to the air temperature. Without a doubt, the biggest variable in this equation is the ‘hours in use’ because it’s subject to your own lifestyle habits, as well as the quality of your home’s insulation. Good quality insulation means that your home retains more warmth and your radiator will only need to come on occasionally to top up heat. If your radiator was only on for a third of the time used in the above example, you’d be looking at a daily running cost of just 21p – a significant reduction on your initial predicted outgoings. However, if your home is poorly insulated, your radiator is more likely to be on more frequently and may only be off for a quarter of the time. Using the above example, this would reduce the daily running cost to 47.25p, a smaller reduction but still more representative than a figure for non-stop energy use over the whole 5-hour period. In short, poorer insulation equates to more time in use, so to combat this, it’s always worth exploring ways you can improve your home’s thermal retention.
When making estimates over weeks and months, you need to keep in mind how your routine might change over the weekend, or throughout the warmer months, as these will give a more accurate prediction of how you might use your energy. Estimates can give you an excellent idea of potential running costs for an electric radiator but if you’re really serious about getting precise calculations, you will need to have your home analysed for heat loss and energy efficiency by an expert. Most of us won’t need to go this far when choosing an electric heating appliance, but doing a quick cost analysis can help you make a more informed purchase for your home. It's also worth looking for an electric radiator with the most amount of energy saving features to make sure you'll be keeping your running costs low, so if you need any help choosing the perfect product, you can read more about our most efficient electric radiators here.