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DIY Guides / Heat, Light & Electric

How to Save Money by Selecting the Right Heater

Why is it important to select the right heater?

Energy prices are at an all-time high, as is fuel poverty. The decision of which heater to buy has therefore become more important than ever before.

When considering this decision, one might reasonably assume that the most important factor is efficiency – specifically, how efficiently the heater converts electrical energy to heat. This would be a mistake, albeit a common one; all direct-acting heaters are actually 100% efficient, be they radiators, kettles or hairdryers.

Heaters do, however vary in other ways. A number of factors must be considered. The power of the heater will depend on the amount of space it is required to heat. Larger rooms will require a more powerful heater to heat quickly.

We can still, to be sure, take steps to minimise our energy consumption through a prudent choice of heater. This choice will largely be dictated by the needs to the occupant. Savings can be made by consuming energy at the time when it is least expensive, or by adjusting – or automating the output, so that the room maintains the desired level of heat at the desired time, thus minimising unnecessary waste.

Direct-action versus Storage

Heaters come in two varieties, each designed with a specific application in mind. During the night time energy is cheaper, as these are ‘off-peak’ hours where no-one uses much of it. Storage heaters take advantage of this by consuming energy only during the night time and storing it within a high-density material that will slowly radiate heat over the course of the following day.

If you were to directly compare the two, one would be clearly more efficient: over a sixteen-hour day, a storage heater will cost a great deal less to run than a direct-action heater.  However, not all rooms require heating for sixteen hours a day; some, such as bedrooms, only require heating for short periods of time.

Perhaps, however, your energy needs are less consistent. Perhaps you want heat at non-specific times and you need a heater that can respond very quickly on demand. In this instance, a direct-acting heater would be more appropriate.

Convection, Radiation and conduction.

While in the UK the term ‘radiator’ has become a euphemism for every sort of heater, different sorts of heaters output heat in different ways. Heat transfer comes in three varieties: it can be convected, it can be radiated and it can be conducted.

Conduction is of little practical use in this instance, as it is the air in the room that we need to heat rather than any solid object, but the first two do concern us. For those that don’t recall this particular day of high-school science, it is worth reacquainting ourselves with the key concepts.

Radiation is where heat travels in rays, only converting to heat when they strike the receiving body.  This is the heat which feels best; it is like the glow of a fire, or the heat of the sun. Convection is where the air particles surrounding the heater are heated, and are forced upward by the surrounding cold air. Heat thusly spreads throughout the room. The stronger the initial source of heat, the further the particles of air will travel and the larger the space which can be heated. Most heaters use a combination of convection and radiation and it is widely agreed that the most comfortable source of heat is one composed of around 20% radiation.

What different sorts of Direct-Action Heaters are available?

Oil based heaters

Oil-based heaters are the radiators we all know and love. They consist of a metal shell filled with a special fluid and will put out a higher proportion of radiant heat than their panel-based counterparts.

Panel heaters

While panel heaters might seem a more expensive, in certain applications they can be cheaper to run than any others. As I have already mentioned, the key to saving energy with your heater is to look for a heater with a thermostat or a timer. Of course, it is no good having a timer to turn the heat up when required if the heater takes a long time to heat up. This is why the time taken for the heater to arrive at the desired temperature is an important consideration in saving energy. This is where electric panel heaters come into their own; they can heat up and cool down more quickly.

Make sure to research to find exactly what would suit you best from one of a huge range of panel heaters UK residents have available to them. Remember it is vital to choose the right heater for your room in order to save the most money.

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