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Electric Radiators: Are They Any Good?

Nick Geary
By: Nick Geary
Updated: 6th July 2022

No to gas boilers

When it isn't possible to have a central heating system fuelled by gas – like for properties off the gas network – electric radiators are a reliable option.

However, the high running costs of electricity put a lot of people off. So, are electric radiators any good?

How do electric radiators work?

Electric radiators contain a thermodynamic fluid that heats up and expands as electricity is sent through the system. The fluid gives off heat as it expands, which is when heat is felt on the surface of the radiator that then warms the air in the room.

Types of electric radiators

There's more than one type of electric radiator, from the way they emit heat to how they're controlled.

Oil filled electric radiators

The fluid used in electric radiators is often oil as it can hold onto the heat which means that less energy has to be used.

Infrared heaters

The future of electric heating could be infrared heat. Rather than heating up the space, infrared warms up objects and people to minimise heat loss.

One such infrared heating system are the Logicor Clear Heater Panels that uses pulses of electricity and infrared heat to minimise energy usage to efficiently heat the room in a way that will keep energy bills as low as possible.

Plug in electric radiators

Plug in electric radiators are powered by electricity straight from the mains via a plug socket. While they need a plug socket, they are still wall mounted, unlike portable electric heaters that can be moved and stand anywhere.

Smart electric radiators

As electric radiators have advanced so has the control you can have over them. Electric radiators that can be connected to Wi-Fi allow you to take control of each radiator using a smartphone or voice controlled assistant (Amazon Echo) to help maximise efficiency.

Electric towel radiators

Most electric radiators resemble conventional radiators in terms of their look and style but electric towel radiators are also available for bathroom installation. These are often vertical electric radiators that have bars for towels to be hung on.

Electric radiator thermostats

Many electric radiators have their own thermostat which will really help when it comes to keeping the running costs down. Individual thermostats for each radiator around the home gives you the power to only heat up certain rooms, much like Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) on traditional radiators.

As well as a built-in thermostat, some electric radiators have what is known as 'Open Window Detectors'. Opening a window or door to let air in while the radiator is still on is a great waste of energy, Open Window Detection puts the radiator into standby (or frost protection mode) when it detects a drop in temperature. Then once the radiator stops sensing the cooler air coming into the room, it will go into the previously set heating mode.

Benefits of electric radiators

There are many advantages to installing electric radiators over those powered by gas, including:

  • Heat up faster than gas central heating system
  • No moving parts so there's less chance of a fault developing
  • Don't need to be bled or balanced
  • Lower maintenance costs
  • They don't need any pipework which will speed up the installation as well as making it cheaper
  • Will increase the efficiency of your home by reducing your carbon footprint
  • Ideal home heating solution for properties that aren't connected to the gas network

All of the energy used by the radiator is converted into heat, making them highly efficient appliances. Despite being efficient at converting energy to heat, electricity is expensive to run.

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How efficient are electric radiators?

Electric radiators are nearly 100% efficient, converting almost all of the energy into heat. Despite being highly efficient, electricity is expensive, costing on average 14.4p/kWh across the UK, with this price varying depending on your tariff and location.

The reason why electricity is so expensive is because of the way it's generated. Most of the electricity is currently generated using fossil fuels, releasing lots of carbon into the atmosphere as a result, which means that it's considered a carbon intensive fuel.

While this is the case electricity will continue to be expensive but as energy suppliers turn to renewable sources of generation we could see the price go down.

So, while the electricity is used efficiently by the radiator, it is more costly than a gas central heating system.

Costs to run electric radiators

In the UK, the average cost of electricity is 14.4p/kWh which is much higher than the 3.8p/kWh paid for gas. As a result, running electric radiators will inevitably be higher.

There are Economy 7 tariffs that offer reduced rates for electricity during the night but, unless you'll be using the radiators during the night rather than the day, they're not much benefit when it comes to electric radiators.

To keep those running costs down, insulation will play a key factor. The better insulated a property is, the better it will be at keeping in the heat. If heat is able to leave the property easily, this will only see your energy bills increase.

Best electric radiators

Electric radiators vary in price depending on the make and model. We've listed some of the best electric radiator manufacturers and how much you could expect to pay for one of their radiators.

Electric Radiator Manufacturer Potential Cost per Radiator
Ecostrad £280 – £490
EHC £300 – £845
Electrorad £360 – £540
Haverland £200 – £480
Hudson £125 – £225
MHS Radiators £545 – £715
Premier £160 – £230
Reina £145 – £225
Vogue £255 – £690

The size of the radiator will also have an impact on price, as well as how well it heats the room. Going for a smaller size because it's cheaper won't benefit your heating at home as more energy will be needed to meet demand so make sure your next radiator is the right size using our Radiator Sizing Guide.

What is an electric storage heater?

Storage heaters have been the electric heating system of choice for many homes as they store heat overnight when some energy suppliers offer reduced rates. They work by storing energy generated during the night for use the following day or as and when needed. This heat is then released during the day but, without a thermostat or timer, the home might not be heated at the most suitable times.

Electric radiators or storage heaters?

The biggest benefit of storing electricity during the night to later use during the daytime are cheaper night tariffs, such as Economy 7. Something you can't take advantage of with on-demand heating from electric radiators.

Despite the ability to take advantage of cheaper night tariffs, storage heaters often need more maintenance, take up more space and the heating needs to be set in advance.

What are electric boilers?

As well as electric radiators and storage heaters, electric boilers are also available. Electric boilers heat water for central heating and domestic hot water but don't burn a fuel, such as gas or oil. Not having to burn a fuel to generate energy gives electric boilers several advantages:

  • Perform at highly efficient levels of 99-100%
  • Helps to reduce the carbon footprint of the property
  • Can be installed just about anywhere as there's no need for a flue or condensate pipe to expel waste gases
  • They don't produce any harmful gases such as carbon monoxide

Should you fit electric radiators?

As fossil fuels, including gas, are expected to run out within the next 40 years an alternative way of heating homes is needed. The answer? Electricity.

Electric radiators heat up the room much faster than a traditional gas fired central heating system and use energy in a highly efficient manner.

While they might be expensive to run, electric radiators heat the space efficiently and give you great control.

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Nick Geary

About the author

Nick Geary

Nick has a wide range of experience writing about conventional and renewable heating solutions, and is always increasing his knowledge by researching any new heating technologies on the horizon.

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