What is the Best Type of Heater for Your Home?
As the famous Game of Thrones quote goes, winter is coming, so many Australian homeowners are getting their heater primed and ready for use. For many households, it’s likely the first time in at least six months that they’ve had to rely on their heating.
While some heaters might simply pick up where they left off, others might need replacing. Which begs the question – which is the best type for your home? With so many options available, each boasting different features, benefits and drawbacks, it can be a complicated question to answer. Luckily, we’re here to make a solid attempt to do so.
So, rug up, get into your most comfortable, round-the-house-only clothes, grab a cuppa and read on!
Keep Your Room Warm with One of These
To keep your family warm, there are three key types of home heating solutions to choose from. They are:
- Gas heater
- Electric heater
- Reverse cycle air conditioner
Each has their own features and benefits, but also some possible drawbacks that are well worth considering too. After all, to determine the best option for your home, you need to know what it won’t do for you just as much as what it will do. So, let’s take a look at these options, including the different types that fall within each category, so you can make as informed a choice as you can.
One of the most common heating options found in many Australian homes is the gas heater. As its name implies, gas heating provides warmth to the indoor spaces of your home by burning gas.
When choosing a gas heater for your home, there are numerous points to consider.
- Do you go for natural gas or LPG (liquefied petroleum gas)?
- Fixed unit or a portable option?
- Flued or unflued?
So, let’s explore these further.
It’s important to understand that a gas heater built specifically for LPG will not work with natural gas, and vice versa. Natural gas heaters are connected to your home’s main gas supply and are typically fixed in place. LPG heaters are connected to a gas bottle, and are portable.
Unlike fixed natural gas heaters, portable gas heaters do not require a flue to divert potentially harmful emissions like carbon monoxide outdoors. However, you should only use unflued heaters in larger spaces with suitable ventilation. Not doing so leaves you vulnerable to carbon monoxide poisoning.
What are the Benefits of Gas Heating?
A gas heater is often more expensive to buy and install than an electric-powered model, however, they are typically cheaper to run. They also present a variety of features, benefits and drawbacks that are worth your consideration. Benefits include:
- Greater energy efficiency than an electric heater
- Quick and effective at getting and keeping the room warm
- Can still enjoy heat output in the event of a power outage
- Lower carbon footprint due to fewer greenhouse gas emissions than with electric
In addition to the higher cost of purchase for a gas heater, other potential drawbacks include:
- Cost of installation is higher than for electric heaters
- Health and safety concerns with possible gas leaks and poor installation/maintenance
- Their reliance on a gas supply; a disruption or shortage can leave homes without heating
For optimal performance and safety, you will need a regular service by a licensed heating and cooling professional.
If convenience is the biggest factor in deciding which option to buy, then an electric heater might be the choice for you. Portability is their strong selling point; as they don’t require connection to the gas line, and instead only require a powerpoint to plug into, you can use them in just about any room of your home!
They have a maximum heating capacity of 2.4kW and are designed to bring heat to small spaces of between 20 and 30 square metres.
Electric heaters come in a range of options, so there is a variety of options to choose from.
- Radiant heaters – typically the least expensive option to buy, radiant heaters will heat the area within its immediate vicinity rather than the entire room. You may want to keep this one close to you if you’re relaxing on the couch.
- Oil column heaters – the oil-filled columns might take a little longer to heat in this unit, but once they do, they continue providing heat to your room long after you’ve turned the heater off.
- Fan-forced systems – These heaters are ideal for small spaces as they are great at quickly dispersing the heated air across the room.
- Convection heating – The perfect solution for small rooms with low ceilings, convection heaters (also known as panel heaters) provide warmth to the air which then rises and spreads throughout the room. Combination convection-radiant heaters are also available.
- Heat lamp – A common fixture in bathrooms, usually as part of a lighting/heating combination.
Another option that is available, though possibly less common, is the electric fireplace.
An Electric Fireplace?
You can enjoy the visual appeal and cosy ambience of a traditional fireplace, complete with log effect, without the firewood and smoke or the need for a chimney! Instead, an electric fireplace imitates the flame effect by using LED lights in place of flames. Some even simulate the production of smoke by emitting steam.
Like the gas heater, an electric model also comes with its strengths and weaknesses. The biggest benefits are:
- Convenient due to its portability.
- The affordability at the point of purchase.
- The general ease of use – just plug in and play.
- No risk of gas leaks inside putting people in danger.
The drawbacks of an electric heating system include:
- Expensive to run, due to the rising electricity prices around Australia.
- Not as energy efficient as gas heaters.
- Lower heating capacity than other options.
- Loss of heat in the event of a power failure when relying on electricity.
Electric heaters are relatively inexpensive to buy, very easy to use and offer the convenience of portability. However, their high running costs and lack of energy efficiency may be a key dissuading factor for some.
Reverse Cycle Air Conditioner
For an all-in-one, year-round heating and cooling solution, a reverse cycle air conditioner might be just what you need. These systems use electricity to bring warm air to your home in the winter, and cold air in the summer.
Reverse cycle air conditioning most commonly comes in either ducted or split systems. Your biggest choice, therefore, would be either having a series of ducts installed in nominated zones throughout your home or separate split systems installed in as many rooms as you need. For those who like the classics and want something a bit more portable that they can take (almost) anywhere, some box/window air conditioners also offer reverse cycle functionality.
Energy efficiency is one of the strongest selling points of reverse cycle air conditioning. The technology boasts efficiency between 300-600%. This means it converts one unit of electrical energy into between three and six times as much energy for heating or cooling.
Due to the use of a larger fan and the greater energy loss through the ductwork, split system reverse cycle air conditioners are generally more energy efficient than ducted systems. The most energy efficient option would be one with inverter technology as it is capable of maintaining a comfortable temperature without continually stopping and starting.
How Much Will It Cost?
Of course, one of the biggest deciding factors in choosing the best heater for your home is price.
As with almost anything, the “you get what you pay for” principle certainly applies to home heating solutions. Whether you opt for gas or electric, or go for a full reverse cycle multi-head split system or ducted heating and cooling, you’ll likely find options at each end of the pricing spectrum.
It’s worth bearing in mind that those at the cheaper end of the scale will likely be less efficient than those at the higher end. This means that the purchase savings you might enjoy will, over time, likely be absorbed by the running costs. This trade-off will exist no matter what type of heating solution you choose.
In many regions of Australia, the winters can get as cold as the summers get hot. So having suitable heating in your home is almost a necessity. Choosing the best solution to keep your family comfortable depends on a number of factors, but the most common options fall down to gas or electric heating, or reverse cycle air conditioning.
Each of these options come with their own potential strengths and drawbacks. Therefore, determining the best type of heater for your home really depends on which option best meets your needs.
Please note: This information is provided for advice purposes only. Regulations differ from state to state, so please consult your local authorities or an industry professional before proceeding with any work. See our Terms & Conditions here.