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Top weird and wonderful reasons you use an electric heater

From a backup heater to warming a cat, these are the most common and uncommon uses for an electric heater

Top weird and wonderful reasons you use an electric heater

We’ve just finished one of the coldest winters in many years and lots of people in the UK were using an electric heater to keep cosy. But, as we discovered, not everyone uses an electric heater in the same way. 

An electric heater comes into its own if your heating system fails, plus it’s a great way to add an extra burst of heat when you need it.

We asked electric heater owners* what they used their heater for and how they used it. The most popular answer, from half of our electric heater owners, was that it’s a backup – used when their boiler busts.

But it was the less common ways in which people use their heaters that caught our eye. We were particularly heartened by those of you who use your heater to keep your pet comfortable. Read on to find out more about the different ways you could be using your electric heater.

Just looking for a great heater? Check our Best Buy electric heaters for our top recommended models.

Six different ways to use your electric heater

Not only have we discovered that there are some pampered pets out there, but we’d also wager that the trusty electric heater has been responsible for saving family relations. Step forward, those of you who take one when you stay overnight with someone who likes to keep their thermostat wedged firmly at ‘chilly’.

  • So our cat doesn’t get too cold overnight when the central heating is on low
  • For visits to in-laws
  • I like the noise and I find it comforting
  • To heat a wife that is permanently cold
  • To heat the loo in the middle of the night if a long midnight visit is required
  • In the room where our dog sleeps overnight, so he stays warm

The most popular ways you use your electric heater


If your heating fails in winter, an electric heater is an essential. Half of our owners use their electric heater as a backup.

If you don’t already have an electric heater, make sure you check out our reviews before you buy. We’ve found big differences between the best and worst – you don’t want to be stuck with a noisy model that struggles to maintain an even temperature, so you’re left unable to hear the TV and shivering.

The second most common use of an electric heater is for extra bursts of heat when you need it. Respondents described using their heater to warm up their bathroom in the morning or to keep their toes toasty while they worked or watched TV.

Other owners use their heater to quickly warm up a room. In our electric heater tests, we record how quickly a heater can raise the temperature in a 3.5 x 4-metre room from 10°C to 20°C. The best heaters should complete this test in 10 minutes or less. The worst take more than 40 minutes.

Electric heaters for caravans, sheds and garages

Garden shed in summer

Another use for an electric heater is to heat up a space without central heating, such as an unheated room or a caravan, shed or garage.

If you’re looking to heat up space about the size of a small-to-medium room, look for a heater with a power output of 2kW. A smaller heater will use less energy, so you can save money over time.

Need to heat a large room? Look for a heater with more power – more than 2kW should be fine.

When you buy an electric heater, make sure it adheres to the EcoDesign Lot 20 legislation for maximum energy efficiency. Essentially, all heaters manufactured for sale in the EU from January 2018 will have to incorporate intelligent room temperature controls to minimise wasted energy.

In our latest 2018 electric heater tests, we discovered models that fell short of the new standard. Which means they’re not as energy efficient as heaters that do.

Here is everything you need to know about EcoDesign Lot 20

* November 2017 online survey of 2,042 Which? members on electric heater ownership.

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