Which Type Of Heater Is The Cheapest To Run?

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For much of the United States, winter is in full swing. Gone are the mild fall temperatures, as winter’s blustery, icy temperatures replaced them. With the cool temperatures here to stay for a few months and the cost of electricity and gas approximately 17.2% higher than last year, many homeowners are seeking a cheaper alternative heating source to keep their homes cozy.

In general, infrared heaters are the cheapest to run because they directly heat your body instead of all the air in your home. However, gas heaters are more efficient at heating larger rooms or homes.

This article breaks down heaters with lower running costs, including natural gas, halogen, and infrared heaters. If you’re looking for a wallet-friendly heating solution, continue reading to learn more!

Heater TypeApprox Cost Per Hour
Infrared Heaters$0.05 – $0.27
Natural Gas Heaters$0.22 – $0.33
Halogen Heaters$0.14
Ceramic Heaters$0.27
Oil-Filled Heaters$0.27

Infrared Heaters

Running costs: $0.05 – $0.27/hr  

hand over an infrared heater

These heaters are another popular pick for their notable energy efficiency, as they usually have the lowest wattages of the bunch. Since they don’t require much wattage, they can save impressive amounts on your heating bills, especially if you’re switching from another type of space heater.

Infrared heaters heat objects instead of the air, so you don’t need to worry about closing all of the doors in your home and cool drafts as people come and go. Cool air wafts won’t whisk out heated air, as the heater heats objects in front of it. These objects can be furniture, decor, and even you!

Many folks appreciate infrared heaters not only for their energy efficiency but also for their attractive design. You can find wall-mounted, panel, freestanding, and ceiling infrared heaters. They even come as art pieces and mirrors, so you don’t have to sacrifice the aesthetics in the space for heat!

See our guide on infrared heaters for some recommendations.

Running Costs

The exact running costs of an infrared heater depend on a few things, primarily the electricity cost and the heater’s energy consumption. Some infrared heaters may be as small as 300 watts, so they would cost approximately $0.05 per hour to run (based on $0.18/kWh).

Or, if you choose a larger infrared heater, such as a 1,500-watt model, you can expect to pay approximately $0.27 per hour in electricity.

How They Work

Infrared heaters work similarly to a coal fireplace or the sun. They emit infrared light, which is absorbed by various objects in the room, including people. So, they serve as a radiant heat source instead of heating the air via convection.

The system converts electricity into radiant heat, warming the objects throughout the room. The heat from these systems feels similar to the sun on your skin or the heat emanating from a fireplace.

Natural Gas Heaters

Running costs:  $0.22 – $0.33/hr

Unlike other heaters on this list, natural gas heaters use gas to produce heat. Generally, they use propane or natural gas, although the exact type depends on the model. These heaters are efficient for heating larger spaces in cooler temperatures, as they utilize a gas flame to produce heat.

Compared to electric heaters, natural gas heaters are usually the better option for cooler climates. They heat up quickly, so there’s no need to wait excessive amounts of time to feel the effects of the heater. In addition, they’re often more cost-effective in cooler climates than electric heaters. But, like electric heaters, operating costs are trending up.

Running Costs

The cost of operating a gas heater varies drastically based on the size of the heater, the price of gas in your area, and how long you run the system. On average, homeowners pay approximately $5.50 to $8.00 daily in running costs. On a per-hour basis, these costs come out to between $0.22 and $0.33.

How They Work

Natural gas heat systems vary slightly in operation from one model to the next. For example, a gas furnace functions by igniting the burner using the fuel source. As the flame heats the metal heat exchanger in the system, it sends exhaust out the flue.

The heat exchanger transfers warmth to cool air inside your home, and then the blower pushes the warm air through your home. The cycle continues as needed, warming air and pushing it into the space until it heats to the set temperature.

While the general function is the same for most gas heaters, the exact steps in the heat production process might vary slightly.

Halogen Heaters

Running costs: $0.14/hr

halogen heater on the floor

Halogen heaters are a small, lightweight, and portable heaters that plug into an electrical source. These heaters are popular for people with children and pets, as they’re comparably safer than other heaters. Plus, they don’t produce smoke or emissions, so they’re a more eco-friendly choice than alternative heat sources.

Note: Given their small footprint and portable nature, they work best for heating smaller spaces as opposed to massive rooms.

These heaters are one of the most inexpensive options for electric heat, as they produce heat rapidly. Since they can heat a space much faster than other types of heaters, homeowners don’t need to leave them on as long, which translates to lower heating costs.

Running Costs

Running these heaters is relatively inexpensive, especially compared to other heat sources. On average, it costs approximately $0.14 per hour to run an 800W halogen heater. This estimate is based on the average cost of electricity in the United States, which comes out to roughly $0.18 per kilowatt hour (kWh).

How They Work

Unlike other heaters, which warm the room by heating the air inside, halogen heaters work similarly to infrared heating. Instead of heating the air, halogen heaters heat objects in the space, including yourself.

Note: For best results, position the heater near you with the face pointing toward you. Since they aren’t ideal for larger spaces, you’ll likely need to keep the heater close by to feel the effects in a large room.

However, unlike convection heaters, the heat produced by a halogen heater doesn’t leave the room due to drafty windows and open doors. So, it doesn’t matter if the air constantly flows through the room via an open door, as the heater warms objects in the space.

Ceramic Heaters

Running costs: $0.27/hr

ceramic heater on the floor

These heaters generally function utilizing convection heat, although some feature radiant heating. Ceramic heaters feature a ceramic plate inside the system that serves as the heating element. The plate conducts heat well and aids in warming the space via radiant or convection heating.

Convection ceramic heaters heat the space rapidly as the fan pushes the warmed air into the space. While they heat up quickly, heat loss is inevitable if you open doors in the area or have a drafty window.

On the other hand, radiant ceramic heaters take a bit longer to heat up but offer more even heating. Like other forms of radiant heating, the effects of these heaters aren’t impacted by cool drafts and air movement.

Running Costs

Many ceramic heaters are designed with a 1,500-watt maximum. So, for a 1,500-watt ceramic heater, you can expect to pay approximately $0.27 per hour in heating costs. Of course, the number will fluctuate based on electricity costs, the size of the heater, and how many heaters you use to heat the space.

How They Work

The workings of a ceramic heater depend on the type you choose. Radiant ceramic heaters use electricity to warm the plate inside the system, then radiate the heat into the surrounding area. On the other hand, convection ceramic heaters use a fan to pull air through the system. The fan moves air across the ceramic parts to heat it, then pushes the heated air into the room.

Oil-Filled Heaters

Running costs: $0.27/hr

hand turning on the oil-filled heater

Oil-filled heaters are a type of radiant heater that offers energy-efficient heating. These heaters are an excellent source of longer-lasting warmth, although they can take a few hours to heat an entire room. They work well as a source of lasting warmth since the oil remains hot for a while after you turn off the heating element.

Although space heaters aren’t ideal for heating large spaces, oil-filled heaters are a solid choice for heating these spaces efficiently. They usually do a better job heating bigger spaces than other heaters, so if you need a space heater for heating an entire room, these heaters are a strong choice.

Running Costs

The running costs for an oil-filled heater stem from electricity prices in your area. Since a correctly functioning oil-filled heater shouldn’t consume oil, as it serves as a heat reservoir instead of a fuel source, you don’t need to worry about oil costs.

To run a 1500-watt oil-filled heater, you can expect to pay approximately $0.27 per hour. This is based on the average electricity cost in the United States ($0.18 per kWh) but can vary from state to state.

How They Work

As mentioned, oil-filled heaters produce radiant heat. To function, they heat thermodynamic oil within the radiator body. Once you switch them on, the heating element immersed in the oil heats up. As it heats, the oil warms, transferring the warmth to the body of the radiator. This produces warming effects throughout the room via convection and heat radiation. 

Many oil-filled heaters feature thermostatic controls for easy regulation of the power and heat output from the radiator. With this addition, these heaters are surprisingly energy efficient, even though the average wattage on these heaters is usually relatively high. 

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Jonathon is a mechanical engineer with over ten years of experience in the HVAC industry. He has hands-on experience with all types of HVAC systems.

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