We resign ourselves to a certain inevitability when purchasing cheap electric heaters. Even though we know they don’t last, and even though we know they’ll quickly need replacing, it’s hard to resist the attraction of their low initial purchase price. That might be fine for those who rarely use them, but if you use your portable electric heaters fairly regularly, you’re much better off investing in a higher quality model with as many features as possible. Purchasing a high-end heater can help to keep long-term running costs low and also means you’ll be replacing your heaters less often, but what features should you look for before placing your order?
If you know where and how frequently you intend to use your electric heater, you may already have a good idea of which products will be best for your room space. However, if you’re still unsure, here are some key qualities you should look for:
Accurate Digital Thermostats
The cheapest electric heater to run is always going to be the one with the most energy-saving features, so a basic heater with turn-dial temperature control won’t be doing you many favours in terms of keeping running costs low. Their vague sliding scales of blue to red are indicative of how inaccurate they are when maintaining heat levels, so if you want the freedom to select a specific comfort temperature in degrees Celsius, budget heaters are unlikely to be the best fit for you. It’s better to look for an electric heater with a digital thermostat, as not only do they provide you with the convenience of precision temperature control, they also minimise energy usage by ensuring your room is not overheated.
Always look for extra modes which give you more control over your heater’s output. Anti-frost modes can be useful if you want your heater to switch on only when temperature levels drop below a certain point, and Comfort and Economy modes allow you to switch between heating that prioritises wellbeing or reduced energy usage. The best feature to look for with any electric heating system is a digital programmer because they will always make sure your heating comes on at the right time and to the right temperature. More importantly, they also make sure your heating switches off at the right time too so you don’t need to worry about wasting energy heating an empty room. Programmers on electric heaters can be particularly useful for secondary rooms you use routinely. So, if you work from home once a week and only need your office heated on Fridays, you can program your heater to heat between 9am – 5pm when you know you’ll need the warmth, then set it to anti-frost for the remaining 6 days.
Lightweight Housings & Quiet Operation
Consider where you’ll want to use your heater, as budget appliances aren’t the best choice if you need to maintain a quiet, relaxing atmosphere. A cheap heater might be fine for most home applications but probably not as a supplementary heater for a yoga class. After all, nobody wants to listen to the incessant whirr of a fan though their guided meditation! Panel heaters are the best choice if you want a quiet heater because they don’t contain any moving parts. Rather than using a fan, they distribute warmth by creating a convection cycle. Heating elements near the base of the panel warm the surrounding air which then rises up into the room and begins to circulate. The simple design of panel heaters makes them very lightweight and also means they don’t sacrifice any of their portability, even with their larger size.
Quality & Style
Portable heaters are rarely the most stylish appliances and those at the cheaper end of the scale are usually encased within a low-grade white plastic, which will yellow over time. Though yellowing can occur with any plastic enclosed appliance, it’s a significant and common problem for small fan heaters. This is because the extreme heat of the air blown out by the fan degrades the polymers in the plastic more quickly, causing the material to become brittle and discoloured. You can avoid this problem by investing in a premium panel heater with better build quality. Most high-end panel heaters use a mixture of durable plastic and aluminium in their housings and are far more resistant to wear and tear. As they also come with longer warranty periods compared to cheaper products, you’ll find that the more sophisticated models last for years. If your budget allows, premium electric heaters are also worth investing in if you want a more aesthetically pleasing solution. Many have slimline and contemporary designs to complement any room interior.
The Changing Face of Electric Heating
EU energy-efficiency rules that came into force at the beginning of the month have meant that many electric heating systems have had to make changes in order to conform to new standards. This has particularly effected fixed heating systems – such as storage heaters and electric radiators – as these products are designed to act as a whole home heating system. However, the landscape of portable heaters has largely remained unchanged because they’re judged against less stringent criteria to reflect their sporadic use.
Portable electric heaters have never been designed as a primary heat source and are generally used for supplementary warmth as and when the occasion calls. Where a fixed electric heater would need features such as a weekly programmer, digital thermostat and open window detection in order to meet its new efficiency target, all a portable heater needs is a basic mechanical thermostat with temperature control to hit its minimum 36% efficiency rating. Not all supplementary heaters have the same target, however. A wall panel heater counts as a fixed system because must be permanently installed in the home, so although it may still only be used occasionally, it will need to meet the same standards laid out for other fixed heaters. Though the bar may be lower for portable models, regular users of these products may find they’re better served by heaters that offer more convenient energy-saving features to keep long-term running costs as low as possible.
If you’re looking for a portable electric heater that ticks all the boxes, our Ecostrad Eco is the perfect product for you. Combining style, precision heat management and convenient programming capabilities, it’s the ideal heater for home offices, guest bedrooms and conservatories. While the new EU directive stipulates that portable heaters must achieve at least a 36% efficiency rating, the Eco’s digital thermostat and weekly programmer elevates it to an outstanding 39% rating – almost the maximum percentage achievable by any electric portable heater. Take a look at the Eco’s product page for more detailed information on its functions or browse our range of portable electric heaters for more inspiration.