Australia is so well-known for its beautiful, sometimes scorching summers, that it’s easy to forget just how chilly the winters here can be. Constantly heating your home over the cooler months can stack up on your electricity bill, so it only makes sense homeowners are keen to seek out energy-efficient heating. Let’s take a look at the most popular home heating options, weigh up the pros and cons, and determine what’s the best way to keep your home nice and toasty this winter.
How to find an energy-efficient heater?
The best heating and cooling options for any home are systems that best suit the size of the house, the climate of the area, and the lifestyles of the inhabitants. This means there isn’t a universal and definitive answer for the best energy-efficient system. However, some factors can help you choose the best heater for your situation.
Choose a heater with a good energy rating
One of the easiest steps you can take is to look at the energy rating given to your potential energy-efficient heater. The star system is pretty simple to interpret and understand. The most stars in the rating, the more energy efficient the heater. This means less greenhouse gas emissions and cheaper running costs.
Choose a heater that’s the right size for the space
You must take the size of your home into consideration when buying a heater. This will help ensure you’re adequately warming your house without spending too much. A heater that is too small will either fail to warm your house or cost a fortune to achieve this goal. On the other side of the coin, if you buy a heater too big for your space, you’ll be paying for unnecessary running costs.
Compare energy-saving features on different heaters
With reducing energy costs and carbon footprints, companies are including more features to help make their products more eco-friendly. Some of the most common energy-saving features include:
- Automatic timers: Set your heater to run for a certain time. Great for when you’re going to sleep.
- 24-hour timers: Program when your heater will turn on and off.
- Thermal Cut-Out: The heater turns off when it reaches a certain temperature.
Consider the fuel type of the heater
The different types of fuel heaters use is one of the most immediate differences you notice in different heaters. Each has its pros and cons, but there are certain fuels that are more energy efficient than others. Occasionally, this can depend on your home setup, for example, electric heaters are suddenly a lot more eco-friendly if you have solar panels.
Know what the ideal temperatures are
A common mistake people make is overcompensating for the cold by setting their heater to warm, or vice versa. It’s recommended you set your heater to 18 to 20 degrees in winter, and your air conditioning to around 24 to 27 in summer. This will ensure a comfortable temperature while also being as energy efficient as possible.
What are the different types of energy-efficient heaters?
There are a lot of different heating options on the market, each with its pros and cons. Let’s take a look at the most popular choices and see how they stack up.
Though usually some of the cheapest options on the market, these systems are usually better for small spaces, and will likely struggle in large rooms.
- Quick to heat up
- Can be very energy efficient
- Cool to the touch, so you won’t risk burns.
- Affordable with prices as low as $30.
- As soon as you turn off the fan, the heat stops.
- Won’t work well in larger areas.
- You’ll need good insulation
Radiant heaters don’t just heat the air in your home, but instead heat elements of the house itself, like the walls and floors. The most common way of doing this is radiant slab heating on the floor of your house. Warm air rises, so having the heat come from the floor can be a great way to consistently, yet efficiently warm your home. Radiant heat can be an efficient way to warm your home and cut down on energy bills.
- Comfortable and energy efficient
- As the elements are built into your home, radiant heaters don’t take up living space.
- Because of the above, you’re provided more design freedom.
- Are easy to install and require little maintenance.
- Though they may save money in the long run, Radiant floor heaters are expensive upfront.
- Can be inconvenient to install as you may have to wait for the underflooring to dry.
Convection heaters operate by warming the air from the top down. The heat is generated by a heating cool, with some models using a fan to help draw out cool air.
- The system evenly warms the room.
- Convection panel heaters can be mounted high, making them versatile.
- Very quiet while operating.
- As convection heaters rely on moving air around the room, this can disturb the dust in the room which can trigger allergies.
The name might be a little confusing as you don’t put oil into the heater. Rather oil-filled column heaters are powered by electricity, which heats oil already within the columns.
- Good for rooms where they’ll need to be turned on for a long time.
- The surface doesn’t get as hot as other heaters
- Can work well in conjunction
- Tend to take more time to heat a room
- Lack of air development means heat may not be uniform. In other words, without outside assistance from a fan, some parts of the room may not receive heat.
Ideal for homes with available natural gas, gas heaters come in a variety of options from portable to fixed, convection heaters or radiant heaters. From a safety perspective, we’d recommend flued gas heaters (fixed) over portable ones, as the emissions are vented outside. Cost-wise, you can expect to pay between $1,000 to $4,000.
- Heats up quickly.
- Very efficient and can easily heat a whole household.
- More eco-friendly than other heating options.
- Long-lasting: A well-maintained gas heater can last for 20 years or more.
- The most expensive option on the market
- Need to be professionally installed.
- Poor installation could lead to gas heaters being dangerous.
- Can produce moisture which may cause condensation and eventually, mould.
Reverse-cycle air conditioners
A reverse cycle air conditioner has the big plus of providing both heating and cooling benefits to your home. With large parts of Australia known to experience extreme temperatures in both winter and summer, it’s easy to see why this is a popular option.
- Versatility: Reverse cycle air conditioners are powered by an external compressor and can be installed in many more places than a traditional air conditioning system.
- Sleek appearance: Compared to the bulky and cumbersome nature of other heating appliances
- Quiet during operation: Older-style air conditioning could be noisy while running, while modern models are very quiet, meaning they can be
- Strong energy efficiency: When used properly, a split-system air conditioner can be an energy-efficient heater
- Price: Split-cycle air conditioners will cost 30-40% more than a traditional air conditioning system.
- Need to be professionally installed: You’ll need your system professionally installed which may delay when you can use it.
- Noisy on the outside: This may seem to contradict one of our pros, but while quiet inside, outside air conditioning can be noisy.
Portable air conditioners are available on the market, but these tend to be nowhere near as effective, so if possible, we’d recommend getting the real thing.
Ceramic heaters are becoming one of the most popular portable heating options. For their size, they are ideal for heating systems for smaller rooms.
- Quick at heating a room
- Affordable and long-lasting
- Non-toxic components
- Sometimes take a long time to get started.
- Can be blocked by physical objects.
Portable electric heaters are a popular heating system. Depending on the size of the heater, they’re usually best suited to heating a smaller room and may struggle with an open plan area or large rooms.
- Cheaper to buy: When it comes to initial costs, electric heaters are usually always the cheapest option.
- Can become cheaper if you have Solar power: If your home has solar panels, it will reduce the running costs of your electric heater significantly
- More expensive: Though initially cheaper, running costs are more expensive.
- Affordable, but at what cost: The especially cheap electric heaters are often pretty rubbish, break easily and won’t heat the room well.
- Can get hot to the touch: This is especially an issue for anyone with children or pets.
A heat-shifting system moves the warm air from one part of the house to a cooler section. This is achieved through ducted systems and fans.
- Can heat two rooms for the price of one.
- When well implemented, can be a very efficient heating method.
- The necessary ducting and renovations make installation quite expensive. Also means it is right out as an option if you’re renting.
Which type of heater is the cheapest to run?
A reverse-cycle air conditioner is the cheapest option overall based purely on running costs. However, this does come with it being the most expensive upfront.
Of the other options on this list, oil-filled heaters are marginally cheaper to run than your other choices and have a more affordable purchase price.
What are the most energy-efficient heaters for larger rooms and spaces?
Both gas heating and reverse cycle air conditioners (heat pumps) are your best bets for heating larger rooms or an entire house. Other heaters may be a better choice for smaller areas, but large rooms will require them to work overtime, making them less effective and efficient.
Additional tips to save on heating running costs
- Consider both the short-term and long-term costs of each option: While certain heaters have a higher initial cost, they may make up for that in the money they save on energy bills.
- Take your climate into account: Depending on where you live, how you combat the climate will vary. For example, fighting the cold is a bigger issue in Canberra than it will be in Cairns.
- Think of ways to warm your home through passive design: The more your house design keeps your house warm, the less you’ll need to rely on artificial heating. Steps you can take include making the most of natural light, good house orientation, and quality insulation.