Radiator vs electric heater: which is the cheapest way of heating?

House model wrapped in scarf on radiator winter energy, heating and insulation background

During the colder months, keeping heating costs low becomes quite challenging. To help, we compare radiator vs electric heater to find out which is cheaper to run.

The energy price cap rose by 5%, which means that the current energy comparison for switching isn’t offering the big savings it once did. 

And with the UK in the grip of a much colder spell of weather, we all want to know the cheapest way to heat a room and which appliances are the most cost-effective

So far, we’ve looked at fan heater vs oil heater and underfloor heating vs radiator and whether it’s cheaper to leave the heating on low all day.  

Now, we compare radiator vs electric heater to find out which is cheaper.

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Radiator vs electric heater


Central heating

How much does it cost to run a radiator?

Setting your central heating to come on at regular intervals so your house is toasty warm when you get up in the morning or come home is a luxury. Many have to crawl out of a warm bed to switch on an electric heater or come home to a cold house. 

If you’ve got radiators in every room, there’s no need to worry about some rooms being left cold. Every room should be evenly heated. But how much is it costing you?  

We spoke to expert Jo Alsop from The Heating Hub, which advises households on heating systems, to work out how much central heating costs to turn on.

Actual costs will vary depending on many factors, including how cold it is and the type of boiler you have. But as a rough guide, based on the January price cap gas rate of 7.42p per kilowatt hour (kWh), it costs an average of about 34p per hour to run your central heating. 

According to the Heating Hub, the average UK household uses 9,000kWh of gas for heating across six months. This amounts to 49kWh per day on average, which might rise to 70kWh for heating on colder days.

So it would be a total cost of £102 per month based on the price cap, or £3.40 a day. This is typically if you use the heating for 10 hours every day, say between 5am to 9am and 4pm to 10pm. 

How to efficiently use a radiator

Young woman switching on heating and will send new energy bill to energy supplier after moving house

Here’s what you can do to slash gas and electricity  costs when using your radiator: 

  • Keep your curtains and doors shut: Closed curtains and doors help insulate your home and prevent any heat from escaping. 
  • Turn down your thermostat by a degree. The World Health Organisation says 18°C is enough for healthy adults, but many of us have it above that. So try to turn the heating down by a single degree and you could save up to £100 a year, according to the Energy Saving Trust.
  • Reduce your combi boiler’s flow temperature. The flow temperature on most combi boilers is set well above the boiler’s optimum level. By reducing the flow temperature from 75°C to 60°C – a level that’s more efficient – you should be able to cut your gas usage by 8%, according to innovation charity Nesta.
  • Invest in smart heating controls: You can tailor your heating and adjust your heating times to use minimal energy. 
  • Bleed your radiators to boost the efficiency of your heating. Bleeding your radiators can make a difference to your energy bills. If they contain bubbles of air, not only will they be cold in some places, but it’s also likely that your boiler will be having to work harder to heat the room. Energy supplier E.on has a handy video on how to do this.
  • Leaving your heating on low all day is an energy saving myth. Some believe keeping your heating on at a low temperature all day is  more energy efficient than reheating your home at certain times of the day. But the Energy Saving Trust says it’s more cost effective to reheat your home at certain times of the day, to avoid heat loss.
  • Move large furniture items away from radiators, Look at where your radiators are in relation to big items of furniture. If you have a bed or a sofa blocking one, the chances are that the heat it’s generating is being absorbed into your furniture rather than the air. British Gas says that even if you can only move these big items away from the radiator by an inch, you will improve the heater’s efficiency.

Learn more about economical ways to use central heating at home in our guide. 

Electric heater

Electric radiator in home room

How much does it cost to run an electric heater?

Electric heaters are great if you want to heat up a single room without switching on your central heating system. 

However, how much you pay for it depends on the wattage of your electric heater. The more power it uses, the more expensive it becomes to run. 

There are several types of electric heaters, including fan heaters, oil heaters and convectors. Have a look at our fan heater vs oil heater guide to find out which is cheaper to run. 

We’ve done a breakdown below of how much electric heaters cost to run. Bear in mind that the calculations are based on the average January price cap electricity rate of 28.62p per kWh.

Type of electric heater Cost to run per hour Cost to run every day for ten hours Cost to run every day for a month
1500W fan/oil heater £0.43 £4.30 £129
2000W convector heater £0.58 £5.80 £174

Depending on what kind of electric heater you have, your cost could either go up or down. So make sure that you pick something that works for you. 

How to efficiently use an electric heater

Here are a few things you can do to reduce your heating costs with an electric heater: 

  • Target your heating: Use electric heaters only for specific rooms instead of trying to warm the entire house or it would become costly.
  • Use the timer function: By using a timer for your heater, you can consume less energy and control your usage. 
  • Decide what size you need: If your room is too big, it will be harder to use a small heater. Instead, go for a heater that is suitable for your home and needs.
  • Reduce the temperature. Use the thermostatic control feature to reduce your electricity use if it’s not too cold. 

The verdict - which is cheaper?

It all comes down to whether you’re heating a single room or an entire house. 

Using a single electric heater for 10 hours a day will cost you about £41 a week compared with around £24 if you fire up your central heating for the same period. 

Bear in mind that the central heating figures are not based on a single radiator but your entire household’s heating system. What you pay depends on the size of your home, how long you run your heating and at what temperature.

Plus, the radiators run on a gas boiler, and since gas is cheaper than electricity, it is generally more cost-effective. 

But if you’re just using one room – for example working from home – and need a quick burst of heat, using an electric heater can be a money saver and more economical compared to using the radiators. 

Plus, electric heaters come out on top for ease of use, low maintenance and easy installation. All you have to do is plug it in.  

But if you use electric heaters to heat your entire home, it will cost much more and won’t give the same level of warmth as a radiator. 

Ultimately, if you are heating the whole house or multiple rooms, you are better off using the central heating. 

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