Let’s talk about portable heaters

Portable Electric Heaters - Morrison Sustainable Energy

Are portable heaters eco-friendly?

Portable heaters are great for delivering a quick wave of heat during the coldest months of the year, but exactly how eco-friendly are they? Will they lead to high energy bills? Discover how to run your sustainable while still keeping warm.

Portable heaters are not designed to, and therefore, don’t keep the entire house warm. They are certainly not a substitution for central heating but they do provide you with a rapid burst of heat when and where you need it most. They are a welcomed appliance on a frosty or freezing evening.

The portable heater converts electricity into heat. Occasionally you will hear of electricity being described as ‘clean’ as no carbon emissions are present at the point of use.

The conversion of electricity into heat doesn’t produce harmful by-products such as carbon emissions at the point of use. This is why you sometimes hear electricity being described as ‘clean’. However, the electricity you consume from a power outlet can be generated by renewable sources, and generating electricity can still significantly pollute the air with C02.

Where you live also has an impact on these percentages but the electricity you use in your home is comprised from a variety of sources, including renewables (approx. avg. 41%), gas (approx. avg. 38%) and nuclear (approx. avg. 21%). You can not be certain that you are using renewable power when you turn on your portable heater as the electricity from all these sources is mixed up in the grid.

However, if you are looking to make savings there are a variety of ways you can use your heater more economically:-

  • Find a setting on your thermostat that works for your household. It doesn’t necessarily have to be top-whack! This ensures that your heater steadily reaches a consistent temperature and will only generate what is required to maintain this constant.
  • You can use your portable heater in conjunction with your central heating if you can find the right ratio. Keep your home warm at a baseline level using your central heating and use your electric heater just to ‘top-up’ (a little extra warmth) during the coldest times of the day – and only in the room you are occupying.
  • Your heater may go up to 3kW but you might not need that level of output for the desired temp to keep you comfortably warm. To run it efficiently you should keep the setting low and notch it up when you need a little boost.
  • Think about how well your home is insulated. How efficient is your property at retaining heat? You could be doing a conservative job of managing your heat output but if the air is leaking and only warming your garden then this will soon leave you out of pocket. There are many great ways to insulate your home.

Electric heaters have a rating for maximum output, 2-3kW usually but you have a fair amount of control over the controls. The more settings you have available on your appliance the more reliable you can be with achieving the correct temperature whilst avoiding unnecessary energy consumption.

You can approximately work out your costs. Multiply the hours you are using the heater by the energy output you are using in kW to get the kilowatt hours used (kWh). This is how your utility company calculate your bill. From your tariff, you will be able to determine the charge per kWh. Multiply these together to give you the figure for running your heater.

These days, electric heaters are regulated closely and have to have temperature sensors. This is to ensure a minimum standard for energy efficiency is achieved across all ranges and models. All heaters are capable of detecting room temperature and will increment up or down so that the target temperature of the room if maintained.

Reliably thermostats are not easy to manufacture because thermostats are typically located near the heat source. Therefore, they have to compensate for this and adjust accordingly when reading the ambient temperature of the room. There is plenty of scope for inaccuracy among ranges and models of heaters. A sub-standard thermostat will inevitably lead to higher energy consumption and costlier bills. The efficacy of the thermostat dial itself is often cumbersome and the nuances (specific temp in degrees) going between cold and hot are often overlooked. Remember, efficiency is what you want and an effective thermostat will give you fine control of heat, in the correct proportions, reducing waste and maximising efficiency.

There are largely four types of electric heaters and they each behave differently:-

  1. For rapid heating then a fan-based heater will be best. A quick boost of heat after coming in from the cold will never go a miss! Turning on a heater that takes 30/40 mins to warm a room up, in this instance, would be wasteful.
  2. For sustained periods of heating the convectors, oil and oil-free radiators are better suited as they warm the room evenly. Oil radiators have the added benefit of still providing warmth when they are turned off; their oil functions like a reservoir and retains heat.
  3. For heating that makes you feel cosy then you’ll want a fan that blows hot air or an oil or oil-free radiator that provides thermal radiation; heating objects directly, including your body.
  4. For heating that works silently, you will require a traditional radiator or convector. Fans are notorious for noise and this could deter you from using it.

So how do you go about buying an eco-friendly heater?

Be mindful of purchasing a second-hand one. They may fall short of regulation, could be faulty or broken, wasteful or simply, plain hazardous. Heaters can be recalled if components fail or become faulty – they are a fire risk!

  • You could look at Which’s electric heater reviews Their test programme values heaters that heat quickly and thoroughly with minimal energy consumption. This means they only recommended heaters most likely to be the least wasteful and the lowest will be those that are inefficient – consuming the most electricity.
  • Purchase a heater with outputs you can toggle manually, including a timed switch-off function. The more control you have the more optimal you can be, saving you money in the long run.
  • Be sure to look past the marketing phenomenon of ‘eco’ this and that. Whilst this is a buzzword to investigate it sometimes means that you will have just two modes for example, rather than four which would provide you with greater versatility for output.

Can I and should I repair my heater?

There is a marketplace for spares and repairs but only for some types of electric heaters. Some components are more readily available than others. These include, bezels, heating elements, thermostats, castor wheels and more may be available. But diagnosing why your heater is no longer working efficiently or even at all can be tricky. Taking your heater apart could be opening a can of worms and you may wish you hadn’t. Remember your warranty may be invalid the minute you unscrew or tamper with your heater. Your best bet is to take it to a qualified repair shop or have a qualified electrician look at it and access it for repair options. Right-to-repair laws don’t cover electric heaters at the moment, so spare parts and access to components aren’t guaranteed by law.

How can I dispose of my heater responsibly?

Electric heaters are eligible for recycling. You can take your old heater to a local recycling centre, just double check the width and weight meet the qualifications for disposal. If your heater is an oil radiator it is especially important to dispose of this in the correct way. Oil pollution is ecologically destructive and oil that leaks onto the ground will have a suffocating effect on plants and creatures. Therefore it is deemed as hazardous waste and needs to be disposed of locally at your nearest recycling centre that accepts it. Your council should offer advice online about where you can take it safely.

Have a look at alternative ways of heating your home or workplace. Morrison Sustainable Energy have a range of heating products with minimal or no carbon emissions as well as consuming far less energy, saving you money on your utility bills! Check out our Infrared Heating panels for example…


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