Comparison of the week: Electric vs gas heaters

Posted: 27 May 2019 12:33 pm
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Dog in a beanie Image: Getty ImagesWant to warm up your home this Winter but can't decide between an electric or gas heater? We're here to help.

We compare virtually everything at Finder and our Comparison of the Week isn't afraid to tackle the big questions. This week we put electric and gas heaters to the test.

Whether you're preparing in advance for the season change or have just felt the first hit of frostiness in the early morning, choosing the right heater can be a tricky task. Electric and gas heaters are the two most popular choices for people looking to heat their home in the cooler seasons, but which is better? We've compared the two types based on purchase price, running costs, safety and functionality so your decision is just that little bit easier.

The essentials

Electric heaters come in all shapes and sizes, are portable and work well for heating small spaces or individual people. They plug into a power socket like a regular appliance, making them easy to move around.

Gas heaters on the other hand heat up large rooms efficiently, but are rather bulky in size and/or weight. It's also important to be aware of the two types of gas heaters and how they can affect your home. Flued heaters direct fumes outside through a flue or a pipe. This removes the carbon monoxide and water vapour, which is normal for any gas heater, from the home. This type is generally more expensive to purchase and install. Unflued heaters are portable and do not have the same pipe. However, the fumes and water vapour are expelled into the room so you will want to make sure your home is well ventilated.

Of course there are other good home heating options such as reverse cycle air-conditioning, combustion stoves and underfloor heating but these all require installation, often at a high cost, and aren't always suitable for every home. However they are definitely worth investigating as a solution if you have the budget and the right location.

The comparison

Let's take a deeper look at both electric and gas heaters side by side, so you can see which one might be right for you.

Electric heater Gas heater
Purchase price Electric heaters are usually a lot cheaper than gas heaters. Prices can vary depending on the brand, size and what kinds of extra features it comes with. As an example, this Rinnai electric heater will set you back $179. The upfront payment of a gas heater will always work out to be more expensive than an electric heater. As an example, this Rinnai unflued gas heater is priced at $1,349. It's similar to the electric heater from the same brand, it's portable and is similar in size and weight.
Running costs and energy efficiency In Australia, gas prices per unit are significantly lower than electricity prices per unit. This is why electric heaters tend to be more expensive to run than your standard gas heater, although the initial purchase price is often a lot less. Gas heaters are far more energy efficient than electric heaters, and will cost less to run. Look out for the energy star labels as this can help you pick the most energy efficient heater which means lower energy bills.
Portability An electric heater can easily be transported from room to room. This is also handy if you're renting and move from time to time, as you can just unplug the heater and take it with you. Flued gas heaters need to be connected through a gas pipe installed in the wall which limits portability. If you're renting, you'll need to check with your landlord before installing a gas pipe and of course there will be a cost for installation.
Installation process Installing an electric heater requires little to no effort. They are usually small, portable and are connected simply by a power point cable. Installing a gas heater needs to be done by a professional. This ensures that all parts are fitted correctly and there are no leaks present in the gas line. Flued gas heaters can be installed through any wall in your home. However, the process can be expensive. Gas installation in the home can cost anywhere from $1,200 to $5,000 depending on the amount of pipework needed and the type of walls you have. If you want to move it to a different wall, you will need to get it re-installed by a professional.
Speed to heat up It will take a while for the heat from an electric heater to circulate around the room. Smaller rooms like a bedroom will heat up much quicker than larger living spaces. Gas heaters are known for heating a room in a short amount of time, and generally much faster than an electric heater.
Room size Electric heaters are designed for heating one room. We recommend an electric heater for a small apartment, your personal office or your bedroom. Gas heaters are ideal for large living spaces. They are usually installed in the living room area and the heat can easily circulate around the space.
Safety Using an electric heater can pose a few risks. Considering the high wattage use, it could potentially start an electric fire when left running for long periods of time (particularly if it's an old model that's not energy efficient). Moreover, if something is caught over the heater (such as an item of clothing or a blanket) this could catch on fire quite quickly. Gas heaters should be professionally serviced every few years to ensure everything is running as it should. They naturally produce carbon monoxide and water vapour (which can attract mould). Flued gas heaters distribute these fumes outside through the pipe but unflued gas heaters must be installed in a well ventilated area.
Allergies Electric fans can easily distribute dust particles, pollen and other allergen like pet hair around the room. Some brands, such as Dyson have been Certified Asthma and Allergy friendly, so look for one of these if you suffer from allergies. Flued gas heaters are recommended for people who suffer from asthma or dust allergies. If you're using an unflued gas heater, it's highly recommended to do so in a well ventilated room to keep the air circulation clean and fresh.
Size and appearance Electric heaters are popular not only for their portability, but for their size. They come in all different shapes and sizes so you'll easily find something that will suit your home. Generally there are more designs available for electric heaters on the market and often look more sleek and modern. Gas heaters are bulky in size and weight, and generally take up more space in a room compared to an electric heater. They are not always the best looking devices and tend to lack the design options that you'll get with electric heaters.
Extra features Some electric heaters can tilt in different directions for maximum airflow, some can be easily mounted on the wall and some can be controlled with a remote or a timer. Just remember the more fancy features it has, the higher the price will typically be. Some gas heaters can be wall mounted or placed inside the wall, taking up less floor space and looking a bit more appealing in a room. However the installation process can be more expensive for this.

The lowdown

When trying to decide between electric or gas heating, you need to consider both the needs of your home, your current lifestyle and the price you are willing to pay. In the long term, gas heaters are generally cheaper to run and are also better at heating up larger living spaces. However, the upfront payment of a gas heater is a lot more expensive.

If you're not keen on making the large upfront investment on gas heating, we recommend choosing an electric heater. They are the perfect solution if you're looking for something to heat either a small to moderately sized room. Plus, their portability means that they're suitable for one person, and more convenient if you're likely to move from time to time.

We're all about helping you make better decisions. Do your own comparison by heading to the Finder home page to compare credit cards, savings accounts, shopping deals and much, much more. Go on, be a Finder.

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2 Responses

  1. Default Gravatar
    WendyMay 29, 2019

    Since using reverse cycle heating & disconnecting from gas our costs of heating have decreased significantly. Your article on gas vs electric heating is limited as it doesn’t compare reverse cycle/ heat pump heating .

    • Avatarfinder Customer Care
      MarinaMay 29, 2019Staff

      Hi Wendy, we agree there are lots of heating options out there but this article isn’t a definitive guide to all of them. Using reverse cycle heating is certainly a great choice for a lot of people, however this guide is merely a quick comparison between two of the most popular forms of heating, particularly for people who don’t have the option of installing heating in their homes.

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