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Electric Heating Costs Explained

Electric Heating Costs Explained

How Do Electric Heaters Work?

There are a few different types of electric heaters, from storage heaters to fan-assisted hot air heaters. What we are focusing on here are fluid electric radiators and towel rails. These have an electric element, which will use electricity to raise the temperature of the fluid and radiator material, which in turn heats the room. Electric heating is a popular choice for many homeowners, but the cost of running them can vary depending on the type of heater and the technology it uses. One key aspect to consider is whether the heater has ambient temperature control, sometimes referred to as Room Temperature Control. Not all electric heaters have these controls, which means they aren’t designed for heating rooms. Some bathrooms have small electric fan heaters and electric towel heaters without ambient temperature controls as their sole purpose is to heat towels and not the actual room. However, newer models of electric heaters address heat loss with ambient temperature controls. They’re able to heat rooms efficiently to the desired room temperature of your choice. When reached, the element will turn off meaning it will stop using electricity (and your money) until the room temperature drops below your desired setting, where it will start to heat the room again - simple! Newer models of electric heaters should also have a programmable control for the time of day/day of the week. So instead of turning it on at the wall and forgetting about it until you wake up to a roasting hot room, you can program them to stay on for a specific time during the day for when you require heat. When we combine the programmable setting with the ambient temperature control, what this means to us in the real world (and our bank accounts) is that while we may have say a 600 Watt element, that is no longer the energy that we use. Instead, we only use what is required to heat our room to the required temperature at certain times. This is because of the functionality of the element. It will turn off when the room reaches temperature, then there will be a gap where it's not drawing energy from the grid, making our average energy consumption over a set time lower than the element Watts (we explain, with examples, how this works later in the blog). Another way of looking at this is - your expected energy usage from these more modern heating elements is your room energy heat loss, and not the element output - much like a central heating radiator. That’s why, when looking for a heater, you’ll want to find out your room's energy requirement. Your room energy requirement takes into account the construction materials used on your home, insulation, window types, how old your property is and the room size. To help you find out your room energy requirement we recommend using a trusty and reliable BTU calculator. For instance, if you wish to maintain a room temperature of X when it is Y degrees outside, it will calculate the amount of energy you need to warm your room.

How Much Electricity Is Used To Power An Electric Heater?

People may have bought electric heaters without ambient temperature control in the past. The size you need depends on your room's energy heat loss, but if we say an old-style electric element was 600 watts. When switched on, it would always consume 0.6 KWh (what you get charged by your energy provider) while it was on and until we switched it off - meaning it’s still consuming a fair amount of energy. Now, when we purchase a radiator with the same 600 Watt element, but with ambient temperature control, it will automatically turn off when the room temperature is reached. This impacts the costs of running an electric heater in two ways.

The Amount Of Time To Heat A Room

For our example of a 600 Watt element, it will use 0.6KWh until the room has heated up. How long this part takes depends on the volume of air in the room and the rate of heat loss (your insulation, construction materials etc). That is the same on any type of electric heater regardless of the functionality.

Maintaining Room Temperature

Once your room has reached the required temperature, the modern electric heater with ambient temperature control will only consume the amount of energy needed to maintain it. With ambient temperature controls, we now consider 600 watts (0.6 kWh) the maximum energy usage amount. How much we use now depends on the heat loss of the room, or the heat energy requirement of the room, which will vary depending on the outside temperature. For example: Our room's heat energy requirement (based on building materials/insulation etc.) is 500 watts when it is -1°C outside and we want to heat the room to 20 degrees. Another way of looking at this is, there is a 500 Watts room energy requirement where there is a temperature difference of 21 degrees between the inside (our ideal room temperature) and the outside world (outside temperature). For example each degree, I want my room above the temperature outside, my energy requirement is 23.8 Watts (500/21). Let us say for the same room, when it is 8°C outside and you want to maintain an internal room temperature of 20°C, 286 watts are required. That is a temperature difference of 12 degrees, or 12 x 23.8 = 285.6 Watts. So how much energy and money do the new functionalities available with modern electric heaters save us? To summarise our research, here's a comparison table showing the heating cost for maintaining temperatures for 4 hours for both old electric and new ambient temperature control heaters. *Prices in the below table are based on the average price of energy providers as of October 2022, 1KWh = £0.34 per hour.
Outside Temperature Inside Temperature Required Room Energy Requirement Old Electric Heater Cost (using 600 watts) Ambient Temperature Control Heater (using 600 watts)
-1° 20° 500 Watts £0.816 (20.40 pence per hour) £0.68 (17 pence per hour)
8 ° 20° 285 Watts £0.816 (20.40 pence per hour) £0.388 (9.69 pence per hour)
17° 357 Watts £0.816 (20.40 pence per hour) £0.486 (12.14 pence per hour)
As you can see here, the old 600-watt electric heater costs more than a newer heater. In reality, if you were to have an older heater, your room would probably be overheated as your heater is being constantly switched on, costing you more money in the long run - not ideal! This shows that ambient temperature control is a huge leap forward in savings for electric heating by reducing the amount of energy used with electric heaters by only using what is needed to maintain the desired room temperature. While with ambient temperature control, the amount you will pay will change day to day, however you will still be saving money in the long run. This can further be controlled by lowering the temperature you want the room to be heated to on any given day.

Energy Tariff Rates

Another important aspect to consider when thinking of buying an electric heater is the variance in energy tariff rates. Although ambient temperature control heaters are brilliant, it’s important to take our advice with a pinch of salt. Electric heaters will help you save money in certain instances, however, due to the current cost of living crisis and its effect on energy tariff rates, we can’t say for sure that these heaters will help you save money during certain hours of the day. Depending on whether you already pay economy 7 or 10 rates, you can take advantage of cheaper off-peak tariffs to make your money stretch further. With an economy 10 meters, you can use 10 hours of cheaper, off-peak electricity split across one day into three periods: night, afternoon and evening. In contrast, for economy 7 meters, your electricity will be charged at two rates: day rates and night rates. Though you will typically pay a cheaper rate for electricity for seven hours of use at night and a higher rate during the day. However, where there are programmable 24/7 settings available on more modern heating elements, you can take advantage of this.

How to Buy an Electric Radiator and Save Money on Your Heating Bills

If you want to take advantage of these potential savings, you should ensure that your new electric radiator has settings like the ones we have highlighted below. So there you have it! Hopefully, this article has given you further insight into where your money is going when using an electric heater. Eager to get some extra warmth into your home this winter? At UK Radiators, we stock an exceptional range of advanced and energy-efficient electric heaters for your heating needs. So there you have it! Hopefully, this article has given you further insight into where your money is going when using an electric heater. Eager to get some extra warmth into your home this winter? At UK Radiators, we stock an exceptional range of advanced and energy-efficient electric heaters for your heating needs.

An image of a brass electric towel rail An image of a mocha coloured horizontal electric radiator

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