Energy Efficiency of Electric Heaters: Breaking Down the Numbers

Electric heaters are nothing new, however, their technology has evolved over the recent years, and by a lot. Now if you try to purchase an electric heater, you might get overwhelmed by types – should you go for a ceramic heater, or perhaps an infrared heater is the one, and what about an oil-filled radiator heater? Is energy efficiency of electric heaters a factor you should care about?

energy efficiency of electric heaters

I think you know where I’m going with this. Logically, if there are various electric heater types, they must also vary in regard to energy efficiency. Well, yes, they do.

Kilowatt-Hours: The Language of Electric Heaters

Before we jump into efficiency and costs, let’s make sure we are on the same page when it comes to energy language. As with most electric appliances, the currency of choice is the kilowatt-hour (kWh). In other words, it’s the energy used by a 1,000-watt appliance running for one hour.

If you’re like me, the first time you heard “kWh,” you probably thought, “Great, another unit of measurement to confuse me further.” But, as it turns out, it’s not so bad.

Which Electric Space Heater is the Most Energy Efficient?

In our article linked above, you can read about six different electric heater types. The most energy-efficient out of those are infrared and compact ceramic heaters and we will take those as a general rule of thumb for this particular guide.

However, it’s not even necessary to know the exact type, as we will be dealing with an average wattage.

Your Electric Heater’s Appetite: How Much Does It Munch?

Now that we’re fluent in kWh and we know let’s see how much your electric heater feasts on this stuff. Most space heaters use between 750 and 1,500 watts, with the latter usually being the max setting.

So, to calculate the kWh consumption:

  • Wattage (in watts) / 1,000 = kW
  • kW x Hours used = kWh used

For example, let’s say you have a 1,500-watt heater running for 5 hours a day:

  • 1,500 / 1,000 = 1.5 kW
  • 1.5 kW x 5 hours = 7.5 kWh used daily

Quite simple, right? Now, to satisfy your curiosity, let’s see how much it costs to run that bad boy.

How Much Does It Cost to Run an Electric Heater?

You’re going to love this part. To find out how much it actually costs to run your electric heater, just multiply the kWh used by the cost per kWh charged by your utility company. For instance, if your utility charges 19 cents per kWh:

Note: The actual kWh price in the USA in 2023 varies greatly from state to state (from approx. 10 cents to 28 cents) so let’s take an average price of 19 cents.

  • 7.5 kWh x $0.19 = $1.43 per day

Running that heater every day for a month would then cost:

  • $1.43 x 30 days = $42.9 per month

This sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Well remember, we’ve considered a rather strong 1500-wattage and 5 hours of daily heating – so keep that in mind.

How Does This Compare to Other Appliances?

If you are wondering how an electric heater compares to other appliances in regard to its energy efficiency, here are a few examples:

  • Microwave: 1,000 watts
  • Coffee maker: 1,500 watts
  • Hairdryer: 800 watts
  • Vacuum cleaner: 1,400 watts

However, it’s important to note that wattage on its own is not the only relevant factor. You can have a 10,000 watts device, but it can be more energy efficient because it only runs two minutes a day – which would still be better for your wallet than a 1,000 watts device that runs 40 minutes a day. Get it?

That’s why knowing the exact kWh of each appliance is for you the most relevant information.

The Bottom Line: Is It Worth It?

So, is it worth having an electric heater? Well, it depends on a few factors: What type of electric heater are you going to get? For how long will it run daily? Shouldn’t you just move to a warmer country?

With that being said, if you’re looking for ways to save money, consider these energy-saving tips:

  • Insulate your home: Make sure your home is properly insulated to keep the heat in and the cold out.
  • Seal air leaks: Check for drafts around windows, doors, and other areas and seal them up.
  • Use a programmable thermostat: Set your thermostat to lower the temperature when you’re not at home or when you’re sleeping.
  • Layer up: Wear warm clothing and use blankets to stay cozy without cranking up the heat.
  • Consider energy-efficient heating options: Look into more energy-efficient options like heat pumps or solar heating systems.

In the end, it’s totally up to your preferences, your comfort, and your budget. If you love extra heat from your space heater (and god knows I do), then don’t feel bad and crank it up a bit. You deserve it.