Pros and cons of buying an electric heater

October 16, 2014

While an electric heater is easy to use, do you know if it meets your needs for energy efficiency and safety? Let's look at the pros and cons of electric heaters to help you figure that out.

Can you manoeuvre through the technology of today’s electric heaters? When the temperatures drop, all you want is to stay warm and save money. You want no regrets or trips to the returns counter. But you'll need to do some easy homework. Here's help to get you started.

Choosing your electric heater

Looking for an alternative or supplement to a gas furnace, heat pump or boiler? You have lots of options in electric heaters according to the type and size of space you need to warm.

Hardwired for permanency or plugin for portability, electric heaters come in models for the ceiling, wall, baseboard or floor. Heating a small work area in your garage or a spacious playroom in the basement? You have another decision: panel heater, radiant heater, fan-forced heater or convection heater.

Not sure where to start? A certified heating contractor is a good person to talk to, especially if you are going to need installation.

Electric heater pros

  • No duct work or pipes to install
  • No heat wasted out of a flue
  • No combustion, risk of carbon monoxide or gas leaks
  • No annual inspection or maintenance
  • Clean heat with no dust or fumes
  • Choice of stand-alone units or a whole system
  • Zone heating and focused warmth

Electric heater cons

  • Expensive for cold climates
  • Total energy efficiency falls to 30 per cent when electricity sources are coal, oil or natural gas plants
  • No heat in a power outage
  • Fire hazard for nearby draperies, furniture and bedding
  • Furniture may obstruct passage of heat
  • Dents and damage are probable
  • Dangerous around young, active and curious children

What’s your electric heater’s real final cost?

If you have an older house with not-so-great insulation in a colder part of Canada, the low initial cost of installing baseboard electric heaters probably won’t make up for your high electric bills in winter, with lots of heating day and night.

Still, you can estimate the daily cost of running any kind of electric heater before you get to the checkout at the store or call your electrician. It’s easy with a calculator, a little information and the formula below.

  1. Find the heater’s wattage – usually on a metal tag on the heater
  2. Get the kilowatts by dividing the wattage by 1,000
  3. Multiply the number of kilowatts by the number of hours you’ll run the heater a day
  4. Now, multiply your kilowatt hours (kWh) from above by your electric provider’s rate per KWh – found on your electric bill or by calling your utility

After you move the decimal point to the left two spaces, you have the daily rate to run one electric heater. Want the monthly or seasonal rate? Multiply the daily rate by the number of days you expect to use your heater.

After you have done the math on your electric heater

Now that you have some numbers at your disposal, any reputable heating contractor can help you weigh your other heating options against the pros and cons of an electric heater.

Pros and cons of buying an electric heater
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