What is the Most Efficient Form of Electric Heating?

Last updated: February 2024

The most efficient and cost-effective heating system is always going to be the one that offers some degree of radiant heat. Compared to convection, radiant heat lasts longer and isn’t affected by air movement, and yet does a similarly stellar job at keeping us cosy. But how does it actually work, and what makes it so efficient?

What is ‘radiant heat’?

Radiant heat is one of the main ways we regulate our body temperature, so in fact, we’d struggle without it!

We have to go back to school a little for this one. Radiant heat is just another way to refer to infrared radiation, which is part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Though it’s a form of radiation, it’s not anything to be afraid of – all solid objects in the world, and that includes us, absorb and emit infrared constantly. It’s one of the main ways we regulate our body temperature, so in fact, we’d struggle without it! A lot of heating systems use radiation, like radiators and infrared panels, so you’re probably much more familiar with this type of heat than you might expect.

Why is radiant heat so energy-efficient?

Radiant heat is absorbed easily by solid objects. This includes human beings, pets, furniture, walls, and ceilings. This type of warmth sinks deep below surfaces, locking into the very fabric of your home, creating comfort that lasts all day. Here’s some more reasons it excels on the efficiency front:

Radiant heat travels directly to objects, without needing the air to transfer warmth. It isn’t affected by draughts, which effortlessly keeps a lid on heat loss.

When the surfaces of your property warm up, they then re-radiate heat back out to other areas of the room, creating a bubble of long-lasting comfort.

With a radiant heating system, you can turn down the thermostat and still feel comfortable from the residual heat.

Is radiation more efficient than convection?

Some products, like panel heaters and storage heaters, use convection to supply warmth. This means instead of heating you directly, they heat the surrounding air. When compared to radiant warmth, convection is less efficient, but let’s take a closer look at their differences.

Radiation Convection
Travels in an even wave to people and objects, warming them directly - no middleman involved!  Makes use of the air's natural rise and fall to transfer heat, when is then transferred to surrounding people - it's a two-step process
Sinks below surfaces for comfortable, long-lasting warmth Quick and responsive, but when the unit turns off, the heat soon follows suit
Remains stable in objects despite the ambient room temperature - unaffected by air movement (even those draughts from open doors!) Is very susceptible to heat loss. If there's a cold spot in a room, the heat will naturally go to that area, bringing overall temperature down
Healthy, safe, and works to prevent mould and condensation Can aggravate dust and allergies due to air manipulation

Check out our video exploring the three methods of heat transfer – conduction, convection and radiation – looking at how they work and why they matter when deciding which electric heater is best for your home. 

Electric heaters that deliver radiant warmth are considered the most efficient. This is because infrared radiation heats objects directly, sinking deeply beneath the surface. It’s a natural, soothing form of warmth that lasts longer than convection, which relies on heating the air.

Which electric heating systems are the most efficient?

Electric radiators

Most electric radiators will produce two-thirds of their warmth as convection, but also offer one-third as radiation. This provides a lasting background warmth, so even if you do keep moving from room to room, you won’t lose as much heat from air movement.

For maximum efficiency, look out for ceramic radiators which are able to produce much more radiant heat. As ceramic has excellent thermal properties, these radiators offer up to 50% of their warmth as infrared heat. If you need fast-acting warmth, its convection abilities are still there to deliver, but with a much slower cooldown time to keep running costs low.

We recommend:

Ecostrad iQ Ceramic

  • Energy-efficient ceramic core
  • WiFi app & voice control
  • Motion Detection Mode

Price: From £259.99

Ecostrad Adesso iQ

  • Heat-retentive thermal fluid
  • Intelligent heating element
  • Energy-saving features

Price: From £289.99

Haverland RC Wave

  • Fast-acting dry thermal elements
  • Bluetooth app control
  • 24/7 programming

Price: From £249.99

Infrared panels

These heaters provide all of their heat output through infrared warmth, making them super-efficient for homes and businesses. None of their heat is lost to air movement, allowing them to boast a very impressive 100% efficiency, as they convert every watt of energy taken from the wall into usable heat.

Slim and lightweight, infrared panels offer much freedom of placement in a room. They can be mounted on a wall or ceiling and some models can even be freestanding, so heat is directed towards specific areas.

We recommend:

Ecostrad Opus iQ

  • Comfortable far infrared
  • Innovative WiFi control
  • DIY-friendly installation

Price: From £209.99

Herschel Select XLS Mirror

  • Combats damp & mould
  • Overheat protection
  • Thermostat & voice control compatible

Price: From £389.99

Ecostrad Accent IR

  • 24/7 programming
  • Precision digital thermostat
  • Convenient remote control

Price: From £199.99

Electric radiators and infrared panels are among the most efficient forms of electric heating. Ceramic electric radiators deliver an even split of convection and radiation, and infrared panels use radiation as their sole method of heat transfer. Since they both convert every watt of energy into useable heat, absolutely nothing is wasted.

Does heating control have an impact on efficiency?

It certainly does – the number of energy-saving measures an electric heating system has to offer definitely impacts how efficient they are to run.

Our energy-efficient electric radiators come with their control systems and digital thermostats built in. No other accessories are needed to set these products up, making them highly convenient if you need to get your heating system up and running quickly. Infrared panels, on the other hand, usually require you to purchase a separate external thermostat, which gives you the option of upgrading or changing your control system later down the line.

Did you know?

You can enhance the efficiency of your electric heaters by pairing them to a renewable energy source or switching to a green tariff!

What control features offer the most efficiency?

To keep running costs low, we recommend considering products with the following features:

Precision digital thermostats

A precision digital thermostat keeps running costs low by automatically adjusting your heating in line with your temperature settings. With some as accurate as ± 0.1◦C, it helps to prevent under or overheating, ultimately helping to increase efficiency.

24/7 programming

24/7 programming is essential for optimal efficiency, as it allows you to tailor your heaters to suit your needs without heating at unnecessary times and wasting energy.

WiFi distance control

An electric heater with WiFi control puts the inner workings of your unit right in the palm of your hand. Access a wealth of energy-saving functions and manage your heating from a compatible app on your smart device, from anywhere in the world.

Open window detection

This handy feature detects when there’s a notable change in a room’s temperature, like from a window being left open, and temporarily switches the unit off. This saves energy, as it prevents heat being generated when it’s likely to be lost to airflow.

Energy usage statistics

Get up-to-date records of how your energy is being used and when, so any necessary changes can be implemented quickly - optimising efficiency and keeping bills down.

Motion detection

This function automatically switches your heating on when movement is detected, negating the need for manual adjustment. This means warmth is only supplied when needed, without wasting energy heating a room that isn’t in use.

Ecostrad iQ Ceramic – our most efficient heater yet

Top features:

Large touchscreen display panel
 In-built WiFi control
 Amazon Alexa & Google Home voice control
 Motion Sensor Mode
 24/7 programming
 Silent precision thermostat accurate to ±0.5 °C

Out of all the electric heating systems on our website, the Ecostrad iQ Ceramic comes closest to packing all of these features into one body. With a heat-retentive ceramic core, the iQ Ceramic is primed for residual heating long after switch-off, delivering an ideal combination of convected and radiant warmth. So, if you're looking for extra-efficient heating, it’s certainly one of our strongest contenders.

For everything you need to know about the iQ Ceramic, check out our dedicated review.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“Bought this as my main heating for my living room. It heats quickly and stays warm so I'm very pleased with it, plus it looks very stylish on the wall and has saved space in the room. It’s easy to program and the app is fantastic. I can turn it on when I leave work and its warm when I'm home.”

Customer bought: Ecostrad iQ Ceramic WiFi Controlled Electric Radiator - Black 1800w

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“We were really amazed how easy they were to install as we are not the best at DIY! They look so neat and heat up the rooms quickly and efficiently. Love the fact that you can program them as well. Very impressed and will be looking to purchase additional ones for the rest of the house.”

Customer bought: Haverland Designer RC Wave RC11W Electric Radiator - 1700w

Finding the heating system that’s right for you

To keep your rooms warm and your running costs low, we offer a vast collection of energy-efficient heaters to suit every space. This includes WiFi controlled electric radiators and infrared panels that are smart speaker compatible. Browse today and find everything you need for efficient heating right here.

Key learnings

✓ When it comes to efficiency, radiant heat performs better than convection.

✓ An electric heater with a range of control features, like weekly programming, will provide optimal efficiency and help trim running costs.

✓ Both infrared panels and electric radiators use radiant heat, representing modern heating solutions that are perfect for any home.

✓ The Ecostrad iQ Ceramic electric radiator is one of our strongest contenders if you're looking for ultimate efficiency.

Related articles: