Plugging in a portable electric heater is a quick, easy way to take the chill out of a cold room. A portable heater also makes a good emergency option if your usual heating system's on the blink.
Electric heaters can be surprisingly hard to come by during winter, though, with many going out of stock. So you might find it hard to track down a particular heater that you're after.
We've found some of the cheapest heaters available right now and shared some tips on what makes a heater truly good value.
Few electric heaters are eye-wateringly expensive; even the priciest aren't likely to set you back more than £150. Some are more expensive because they have extra features like air purification claims and Wi-Fi connectivity. But you still don't want to spend more than you need to, and many cost as little as £20 or £30.
One important caveat, though - use your portable heater too much and the running costs might well send a shiver down your spine.
On average, most electric heaters run at a maximum output of 2kW. In other words: if you run your electric heater at full blast for one hour, you'll be paying twice your charge per kilowatt hour.
If you use your heater carefully and sparingly, to top up your main source of heating during the coldest hours, you should keep your bills under control.
The cheapest electric heaters we've tested all have thermostats that detect the ambient temperature and adjust the heater's output according to your preferred setting. They usually have adjustable energy settings and timers so you can turn the heat down if you want to, or limit your heater's running time.
Cheaper electric heaters do tend to have fewer features than more expensive ones. Compared with more expensive ones, a cheap heater is less likely to have:
How important these features are is down to personal preference. If all you want is something to keep you warm when there's a nip in the air, and don't care about how it looks or the ability to control it at a distance, a decent budget electric heater should be perfectly adequate.
Fan heaters generate heat and blow it around the room. They get going much more quickly than other types of heater; we've found that convector heaters and oil radiators can take half an hour to raise a room's temperature significantly, but a good fan heater can do this in half the time. Some are less efficient than others though, so check our reviews to avoid buying a poor performer.
Don't buy a fan heater if you need something quiet, though, as their internal fans can make a racket.
The cheapest electric heaters tend to be fan models with a small horizontal grille. They sit on a desk or sideboard and push air out of a small outlet that gets very hot.
Most cheap fan heaters don't oscillate, so you'll need to point your heater in your general direction. This makes them worse at distributing heat throughout the room, which we reflect in our scoring.
This 2kW fan heater stands stationary on an elevated surface and blows hot air in whichever direction you face it.
It's useful year-round because of its cold-air setting, where the fan operates without the appliance generating any heat.
Just mind out because this is a loud heater. It's not a great companion for an evening watching the TV, but it's perfectly fine for a short burst of heat at times when it wouldn't be too distracting.
The DeLonghi HTF3033 is a pretty basic heater (like many other cheap heaters, it only has two heat settings) with a horizontal grille.
The joy of this model is its simplicity. It weighs just 1.6kg and is operated by a couple of dials protruding from the top. You can plonk it down and let it get to work with minimal fuss.
Just watch out: at its highest setting it runs at 2.5kW. That's a lot of energy for a little heater. Your wallet will feel the burn if you use it for more than short bursts.
It's been on the market for a decade now, but it's so popular that we retested it last year to see how it stood up against more modern alternatives.
This is a small fan heater, but unlike the other two choices in this article, it oscillates. This means that it turns up to 60 degrees to blow air around the room rather than just pointing in one direction.
This helps it to distribute heat more widely, though at a 60-degree rotation it won't project heat in every direction, so you still need to choose where to point it.
These heat up the air in your room in a different way to fan heaters. Convector heaters have an exposed heating element which warms up cold air that passes through. Radiators heat with a mix of air convection and thermal radiation: the latter means they heat objects and people directly, as well as warming up the air in the room.
They're not quite as cheap on average as fan heaters - we've found that the average convector heater and radiator-type is a more mid-range price between £50 and £100 - but they tend to be more thorough, managing to heat rooms evenly from corner to corner, floor to ceiling. They can be slower to get going, though.
Many fan heaters have a maximum output of 3kW while most convectors have a maximum output of 2kW or lower. Convector heaters and radiators are better suited for use over several hours compared with fan heaters, especially if they're set to use fewer watts.
This heater bucks the trend of convector heaters being typically pricier than fan heaters. It's consistently been one of the cheapest heaters you can buy, though it's also often short-stocked.
It doesn't have a digital display or any hallmarks of an expensive heater. But it does have three heat settings available via the manual control panel on its side, alongside its timer and thermostat.
For slightly slower, quieter, more comfortable heating, it's got the edge over fan heaters.
This heater can run at 1.2kW or 2kW, but you're best off setting its thermostat and letting it select the right output itself for the ambient temperature.
It doesn't have a digital display but it has a prominent timer on its front as well as two control dials on its side, one for manually setting the temperature and one for setting its thermostat.
This heater has been hard to find this winter, but at the moment it's stocked by Hughes, though with limited availability, depending on where you live.
The oil inside this radiator acts as a reservoir of heat and when it gets hot, it stays hot, even for a while after the heater has been switched off.
Like any radiator, it has fins within that help with the transfer of heat. Most of the heat this radiator produces is by convection, but it does emit a small amount of radiant heat that makes it warm to the touch. This is great if you want to huddle by your heater.
Not necessarily.Heaters can be highly efficient at turning electricity into heat regardless of their price. You don't necessarily need an expensive heater to get 'more' out of the electricity you draw. We've tested several that cost less than £50.
That said, plenty of cheap electric heaters are quite poor at doing the basic job of keeping you warm. Three of our Don't Buy heaters cost less than £40 when they flunked our tests. If you want a heater that's good value (rather than just cheap), check our first. You're much more likely to buy a dreadful heater if you buy a cheap model without doing your research.
Paying more doesn't guarantee good quality either, though; one of our Don't Buy heaters costs £100.
Regardless of price or type, portable electric heaters aren't designed to be used to heat your entire home. Trying to do so will be an exercise in frustration and high costs. Use an electric heater selectively, as a top-up or a fallback option. Here are some things to consider.
Prices and product availability correct as of 15 February 2022. This story was first published on 7 October 2021 and is updated regularly to reflect new models we've tested as well as changing prices and availability of heaters.