Don’t be fooled by certain “energy-saving” gadgets that may cost you more this winter.
The advice comes after science journalist Greg Foot teamed up with Octopus Energy to identify the most effective space heaters.
In his latest Radio 4 Sliced Bread podcast, Greg evaluates the economics of a small plug-in ceramic heater compared to other heating devices.
The plug-in heaters have been snapped up by shoppers in recent weeks.
They are compact and feature a fan-assisted ceramic element that distributes heat evenly.
Customers can set the temperature of these devices between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius.
Some manufacturers claim they will use 30% less energy than other space heaters to heat any room – many people are drawn to this clever marketing trap.
When you look at their prices, it’s no wonder people are rushing to buy these compact heating gadgets.
Ryman, for example, currently sells the gadget for £10, while Argos shoppers can get one for just £25.
But while they use less energy per minute of use, you’ll need to keep them on longer to heat the room.
Greg Foot, with help from Octopus Energy energy expert Phil Steel, compared the cost of raising room temperatures with different space heaters, including plug-in ceramic heaters.
The test also includes electric fan heaters, convection radiators and oil-filled radiators with higher energy requirements.
But surprisingly, all devices ended up costing the same.
“If you want to heat an entire room, each piece of equipment costs about the same,” Greg said.
The only difference between these devices is how fast they heat the room.
These plug-in ceramic heaters are no better or cheaper than other space heaters, Phil Steele said.
But Joanna O’Loan, knowledge manager at the Energy Saving Trust, did explain when these space heaters might be cost-effective.
“If it’s only an hour or so and you have a particularly large room that just needs to be heated in the little corner where your desk is, a plug-in heater might be a cheaper option,” she said.
However, turning on the central heating is still the cheapest option overall.
Joanna said: “In most cases, the cheapest way to heat a room is to use a gas boiler, controlled by a thermostatic radiator valve.
This is because natural gas is about three times cheaper per unit than electricity. “
If you’re willing to pay more, we still have a list of the best space heaters to keep you comfortable this winter.
We’ve also tested the best electric heaters so you don’t have to.
How much does a space heater cost to run?
Citizens Advice has a handy tool that can give you a rough idea of the running costs of each device in your home.
Its guide claims that a typical electric fan heater costs around 85p per hour, but prices can vary widely between models.
If you want to be more accurate, check the wattage on the heater label or manual.
Currently, most of us will pay 34p per kilowatt-hour of electricity we use until April, thanks to the government’s energy price guarantee.
So a 1,000-watt device costs 34p an hour to run, while a 2,000-watt device costs 68p an hour.
So if you were to run a 2,000 watt device for five hours it would end up costing £3.40.
To calculate the current hourly cost of running any appliance, take the wattage, divide by 1,000, and multiply that number by 34.
How much does central heating cost to run?
The energy regulator Ofgem estimates that a medium-sized home using a typical amount of natural gas will use around 12,000 kWh a year – costing around £1,200 a year.
That means the average household is likely to be spending £3.57 a day on petrol, according to Which?.
So if you extend the heating time by 5 hours, a typical home will cost 15p – a full £3.25 cheaper than using 2,000 space heaters for the same amount of time.
You can further reduce your heating costs by turning off any radiators in rooms you are not using.
It is estimated that households can save up to £70 a year by turning off radiators in empty rooms.
But don’t forget this is just an estimate, the amount of gas you use will depend on the size of your home and how often you use your heating and hot water.
We now list 30 ways to reduce energy bills.
This includes blocking, ventilating and isolating your attic, as well as keeping lights off and doing laundry efficiently.