Electric heaters

Which heater should you buy?

If you are renting a house or flat that has no heating, you will probably need to buy an electric heater. Some second-hand heaters are not safe. If you are buying second-hand, check that it has a tilt switch so that if the heater falls over, it turns itself off immediately. If you have small children and buy an oil-filled column heater, you need to chain it to the wall so that it doesn’t fall on top of a child.

The following features on a heater could save you money: a timer, a fan, a thermostat. With a timer, you won’t leave it on by mistake. A thermostat controls the temperature. A fan helps to increase the temperature of your room very quickly and moves the air so that you are not heating empty space at the top of the room.

Never use a radiant heater in a bedroom. This is a heater with a red, glowing element.

Consumer magazine says all portable electric heaters are 100% efficient so should cost the same to run. However, those with a fan were cheaper to run because of the more even heating. Consumer NZ tested heaters in a special room with 81 temperature sensors. They made a 3D map of the heat. When they tested an oil-filled column heater with no fan, it took 38 minutes to raise the temperature of the room by 5 degrees. With a small desk fan on the floor aimed at the heater, it took 12 minutes.

Consumer NZ suggests an oscillating tower heater, especially one that costs about $150, is a good one to buy. Check that it has a fan. You have to read the June 2014 magazine to see all their test results. The library has copies.


  • portable – can be moved easily
  • even heating – the same heat all the time; opposite: uneven
  • sensor – it measures temperature
  • oscillating – turns back and forward

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