Buying the wrong electric heater will leave you cold, stressed and wondering why you wasted your money. We'll help you to pick the best electric heater for your needs and budget.
In this article we'll update you on the pros and cons of the different types of electric heaters, their key features, as well as energy costs, safety, and more. We've also picked out a selection of the best electric heaters we've tested.
Only electric heaters that heat quickly, keep your room temperature stable and don't rack up huge energy bills are good enough to be recommended by our experts
Best electric heaters
Below are some of the best heaters we've tested in a range of categories.
This heater did well enough in our tests to earn a Best Buy. It'll heat a room quickly and does a great job at maintaining temperature in mild, cold and very cold conditions. It's a brilliant budget option.
This isn't a feature-rich heater, to put it mildly, but it's great for quick blasts of heat and its thermostat is among the best we've tested. Just mind that it doesn't oscillate, so point it at the direction that works best.
These are the lightest and most portable type of heater. They’re great if you want to heat a room fast, as they warm up quickly.
They’re also easy to set up first time round – usually you just take the fan heater out the box, plug it in and you’re ready to go. On the downside, this type of portable heater can be quite noisy.
Convector heaters are quite tall, but are usually thin and light – making them easier to move from room to room. Like fan heaters, they heat up quickly – but they are quieter.
Convector portable heaters are often wall-mountable, which means they can be located out of the way. Brackets and instructions for wall mounting are usually included, but you do need to drill holes in your walls.
These heaters have exposed heating elements which heat up cold air as it passes.
Oil-filled heaters tend to be cheap to run, but some can be really slow to heat up after switching them on. Their oil acts as a heat reservoir and it stays hot for some time after the heater's switched off.
Most oil-filled heaters are fairly heavy and cumbersome, so look out for models that come with wheels as this makes it easier to move them around.
Some radiators are called 'oil-free'. They function in a comparable way, but they don't contain any fluid and they only use an internal heating element.
How much do you need to spend to get a decent electric heater?
Electric heaters vary in price from about £10 for a small and basic one, all the way up to £300+ for more powerful and advanced models.
Our latest electric heater tests uncovered an excellent model that beat heaters more than double its price
We've tested a lot of heaters that cost between £10 and £50, and even found some Best Buys in this price range. But you need to shop carefully, because quality varies a lot in the budget price bracket.
Most of the budget heaters you’ll see are compact fan heaters which generate heat and blow hot air around the room. But you can get hold of cheap convector heaters too.
Just don't be drawn into a false economy. If you buy a heater with low up-front costs that doesn't work properly while it guzzles electricity, you'll rack up bills and feel shortchanged before long. Check out our electric heater reviews to make sure the bargain you had your eye on isn't a dud.
You can easily spend a few hundred on a portable heater, though many cost around £50 to £100.
A high price is no guarantee of quality. We tested one heater that cost £100 and yet it was nearly a Don't Buy. But if you do spend a bit more, there's more choice of brands, styles, designs and features that deliver on the quality front.
There are heaters of every kind at this price point. The most expensive have additional features, such as with a fan heater which is also a cold air fan, and an air purifier.
If you wanted an oil radiator that offers a slow burn well suited for long periods, or a powerful convector that thoroughly heats the environment, then you can buy one at this price point.
Before you splash out a lot of money on a portable heater, decide whether or not you'd be better served by a central heating system or a storage heater. These offer more robust heating at lower running costs and might be better suited for heating your whole home.
Our latest electric heater tests uncovered an excellent model for less than £60 that beat heaters more than double the price to make our list of Which? Best Buy electric heaters. Browse all of our electric heater reviews.
Useful electric heater features to look for
Some portable heaters have useful extras, such as an LCD screen that displays the current temperature or a remote control for turning the heater on from across the room. Some of the more expensive models may feature some of the following too:
Fan heater timer switch
A timer is useful for setting a heater to turn on just before you get home or wake up, so there's no waiting around for the heater to warm up. Some models also include frost protection, which means the heater can be set to automatically heat when the temperature drops below 5°C.
Cold air setting
Some fan heaters can help cool you down too. They're not nearly as effective as a dedicated air conditioner, but a light breeze of cold air is better than nothing.
Fan heater climate control
Climate control is a useful feature to have: our portable heater will heat the room, and when the desired temperature is reached, the heater will try to maintain the room at that temperature.
Every heater we review has a star rating for how well it keeps the room temperature stable, so that you can buy a model that doesn't have you manually turning the heater on and off every five minutes.
Is it worth buying a smart heater?
The market for internet-connected heaters, also known as 'smart heaters', is growing. These allow you to connect your heater to your home network and control it remotely using your own device, usually a smartphone or a voice assistant such as Google Home or Alexa. As with any internet-connected device, smart heaters have pros and cons.
Pros of smart heaters
They can be easy to use, since you'll usually have the controller on-hand or within speaking distance. Voice controls, in particular, can provide accessibility benefits for some users.
You don't have to be close to the heater to turn it on or off. You shouldn't leave your heater on without someone in the room to monitor it – but smart controls mean you can, at least, turn it off from afar should you forget.
Depending on the heater's app, you can have data on-hand to see the thermostatic reading, current heating setting, runtime, and more. This means you don't have to check the heater itself to see its settings. This could be helpful if the heater's in a position that makes this awkward, for example.
Cons of smart heaters
They're often more expensive than non-internet connected electric heaters.
As with any smart device, there are potential privacy and security risks if the heater isn't properly configured and protected. We put every smart heater review through privacy and security tests and report on our findings, so you can buy with confidence.
Smart heaters need updates to keep their apps compatible and to make them cybersecure. If a manufacturer decides to stop supporting a smart heater with software updates, it's left vulnerable to new security risks. We haven't seen a heater lose its support yet, but you have no guarantees that software support will continue for as long as you want to keep the heater.
You'll need to be relatively tech-savvy to use a smart heater. Plus, if something goes wrong with the smart controls, it's not always clear where the source of the problem lies – the heater itself, the app, or your internet connection.
Every smart heater we review goes through our rigorous digital security tests. If we find a product with vulnerabilities, we'll warn you about it.
If your heater has smart functionality but you don't want to use its internet-connected features, you can simply leave it unconnected to your network. This will make it practically the same as any non-smart heater.
If you buy a smart heater that we haven’t tested, make sure that you trust the brand and the marketplace you’re buying from. We've tested smart tech devices from little known brands that were on sale on digital marketplaces, and we found a number of them pose security risks.
Can an electric heater help reduce your energy bills?
Portable heaters allow you to heat just the space you need to be warm, and not your entire home. This means they can actually work out cheaper than putting the central heating on – especially if your heating system doesn't have individual room control.
But you need to be careful because electric heaters will cost you a lot in electricity after a while. They are much more expensive per hour than gas heating and less efficient than alternatives such as a storage heater that draws electricity during off-peak hours. And if your home isn't well insulated, you'll be getting less value as the heat you're paying for escapes.
Depending on the size of your home, it may be more economical to set the main central heating thermostat to low and use a portable heater in the living room, for example. This means that your living room is nice and warm as you snuggle up in front of the television, while hallways and bedrooms are maintained at a comfortable temperature.
Our experts test electric heaters to find out exactly how long each one will take to heat your room, how well they maintain that temperature and to see what they're likely to add to your electricity bills. Only electric heaters that heat quickly, consistently and cheaply are given our Best Buy status.
Another important consideration is the power of the heater. Measured in kilowatts (kW), higher power means the heater will be better for heating big rooms. If you want to heat a small room, a good, low-power portable heater (less than 2kW, say) will be fine – and cheaper to run.
Want to heat a small room? A good model that's less than 2kW will do the job, and be cheap to run
However, manufacturers’ claimed power is not always what it seems. Our lab testing has found that some fan heaters don't match the power claimed on the box. This means that you could end up with a model that leaves you shivering in a cold room for longer than you had expected.
We test each heater to see whether it achieved the full claimed power. The only way to find out if you'll get the wattage that you pay for is to see our electric heater reviews.
Are there any dangers to using an electric heater?
As long as you use them according to their instructions, they are safe appliances. Nearly all have some kind of carry handle for moving them about, and many have a safety cut out feature – this will switch off the heater if it gets dangerously hot.
Never place anything on, or cover up, a portable heater as it massively increases the risk of a fire. Some heaters also have a ‘tilt protection’ feature – if the heater is knocked over, it will automatically switch itself off. It's worth considering this feature if you have a large, enthusiastic dog.
What about heater style?
Portable heaters aren’t the trendiest looking household appliances but, all credit to their designers, some of the latest generation have a hint of style about them.
For example, the Dyson Hot and Cool AM09, which is both a fan and a heater, has a distinct futuristic design and comes in multiple colours to suit your room. Check out our Dyson Hot and Cool AM09 review to see whether it heats well too, or if it's a case of style over substance.
What heater is best for your space?
Portable heaters are lightweight so can easily be moved from room to room. Heavier models often have a carry or tow handle and wheels that allow you to easily move them about.
All the portable heaters we've tested and reviewed are mains operated. Most have a cord that is over 1.5 metres – so you have more flexibility about where in a room you place the heater. The smaller, lighter ones are ideal if you have a caravan or mobile home.
Some heaters can be wall-mounted. This is a space-saving boon because it frees up floor space, but does mean you won't be able to move it about freely. If portability is more important than space saving, then a freestanding heater will make your life easier.
We weigh every heater we test so you can ensure you choose one that you can manage. Find out the weight of each one on the tech specs page of each of our electric heater reviews.
Where to buy an electric heater
When buying an electric heater, make sure you're handing your money over to a reputable seller. Check the retailer's returns policy and pay attention to customer feedback and reviews. For more details on shopping online safely and arranging refunds for faulty products, see our advice on shopping online.
Argos, Screwfix, George at Asda and John Lewis are some of the most searched-for electric heater retailers at the time of writing. We’ve included links to these retailers. They're handpicked by our experts because of their stock availability, best value price or warranty options.
Argos – offers a modest range of electric heaters to suit all budgets. Brands include Dimplex, Delonghi and Challenge. You can get same day in-store collection in selected Sainsbury's stores and it scores highly in our annual retailer survey of more than 2,000 members of the public.
Screwfix – sells a mixture of freestanding and wall mounted electric heaters. Prices start at just £10 for basic models and go up to around £300. You can get free delivery for orders over £50 or click and collect in-store within 48 hours. If you're not happy with your model you can get an exchange or refund within 30 days.
John Lewis – has a handful of own-brand electric heaters and a few models from Dyson. You'll get a two-year guarantee at no extra cost and and you can get a full refund within 35 days.
Littlewoods – stocks a small range of electric heaters, with the majority from Dimplex and Black & Decker. Prices range from just £30 and go right up to nearly £700. You can get free delivery or click and collect and their returns policy runs for 28 days
When is the best time to buy an electric heater?
A lot of new heaters come out at the end of summer and beginning of autumn. But this doesn't mean you can't shop before then if you want to get in ahead of other consumers.
We've found in the past that availability can become an issue, particularly once winter starts. If you're anticipating needing an electric heater, it can be wise to preempt this and snag one before they're most needed.
What is EcoDesign Lot 20?
Lot 20 sets out a new set of rules that electric heater manufacturers must follow in order to make their products more efficient and less wasteful of energy.
This regulation means that electric heaters must have mechanical thermostatic control functions. This means that they must be able to measure the room temperature and adjust accordingly in order to avoid wasting energy.
Lot 20 legislation covers all local space heaters manufactured for sale in the EU after 1 January 2018 which use electricity, gaseous or liquid fuels.
Because this legislation has been in force for a few years now, non-compliant heaters will be sparse and probably only sold second-hand.
Lot 20 is a minimum standard and we go further than this when we measure the thermostatic control of every electric heater we put through our test lab. We give every electric heater a star rating out of 5 according to its ability to maintain a stable temperature in a range of different climates.