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How much does it cost to run your heater in winter (2020)?

We've crunched the numbers to give you an idea of how much you'll spend on heating this winter

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Worried about how high your energy bill might be this winter? Heating is one of the biggest parts of anybody's power bill during the colder months and choosing the right heater for your home and needs can potentially save you quite a bit.

In this guide, we compare a range of different electric and gas heaters, exploring which are the most cost-effective in keeping your heating budget down.

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What type of heater is the cheapest to run?

Heater typeAverage hourly usage (kW/h)Hourly running costWinter running cost
Electric blanket0.12$0.04$12.96
Oil-filled column heater1.6$0.47$167.40
Panel heater1.7$0.51$182.13
Fan heater1.9$0.56$202.50
Tower heater2.0$0.59$213.60
Convection heater2.1$0.63$226.80
Reverse cycle air conditioner3.5$1.04$373.09
Radiant bar heater3.8$1.14$410.40
Heater typeAverage hourly usage (MJ/h)Hourly running costWinter running cost
Radiant convection heater19$0.38$136.80
Convection heater20$0.40$144.00
Radiant bar heater35$0.70$252.00

According to these tables, an oil-filled column heater is the cheapest electric heater to run, while a radiant convection heater is the cheapest option when it comes to gas.

How do the best heaters compare when it comes to winter cost?

While we didn't have precise cost and usage data for the best heaters in 2020, we used data for extremely similar models, instead. In the following table, we assumed an average of 4 hours of heating use per day for all 90 days of winter to calculate the winter running cost.

Heater modelHeater RRPHourly running costWinter running cost
DeLonghi 2,400W Convection Heater (electric)$139$0.72$259
DeLonghi 1,500W Dragon4 Oil Column Heater (electric)$261$0.45$162
Rinnai AvengerPlus AV25PN (gas)$1,858$0.48$173
DeLonghi 2,200W Panel Heater with Timer (electric)$369$0.66$238
Kambrook 2,400W Upright Fan Heater (electric)$46$0.72$259
Panasonic Reverse Cycle Split System$949$0.96$346
Dyson HP04 Hot + Cool Purifying Fan Heater (electric)$898$0.02$5

Electricity vs gas heaters: What are the main differences?

Here's how electric and gas heaters stack up against each other:

FeatureElectric heaterGas heater
Operation methodUses electric resistance to warm up heating elementsCombustion of natural gas
Installation costCheap – often below $500, almost always below $1,000Expensive – often starts around $700+
Running costsExpensive – electricity rates are much higher than gasCheap – requires more units of gas for the same heat, but gas is still much cheaper overall
Efficiency100% (in the heater itself)80-90%
Safety concernsElectrocution, electrical firesGas fumes (require a ventilated space)
Environmental friendlinessPoor – mains power in Australia is largely generated by burning fossil fuelsOkay – gas heaters produce around 80% fewer emissions than electric heaters given Australia's energy mix

Should I consider a reverse cycle air conditioner?

There are a few benefits to a reverse cycle air conditioner versus a single-function heater. Here's what they offer:

  • Flexibility. Since reverse cycle air conditioners can heat your home in winter and cool it in summer, you don't have to shell out for multiple appliances.
  • Efficient. These kinds of air conditioners tend to be extremely efficient, transferring heat to and from your home with 300% or more efficiency. This means they transfer three kW worth of heat for each kW of energy consumed.
  • Air quality. Some reverse cycle air conditioners possess a purification feature where they filter the air that passes through them, removing pollutants or dust.
  • Less noisy. Certain modern reverse cycle air conditioners are very quiet compared to traditional electric or gas heaters.

Tips to save on energy

If you're hoping to save on energy for heating and beyond, here are a few tips to follow:

  • Use energy-efficient appliances. Different appliances have different efficiency ratings. Investing in more efficient appliances can help save you money in the long term, even if it costs more now. We've identified the 5 most energy-hungry appliances in the home.
  • Consider a different tariff. If you use a lot of energy during the day or at other low-demand periods, you might be able to save by switching to a time-of-use tariff instead of a single rate.
  • Turn things off. Leaving one device in standby instead of turning it off may not use much power by itself, but it adds up across the home. Shut things down instead of just leaving them chewing energy for no reason.
  • Switch energy plans. Chances are, changing to a better energy plan could save you a large amount on your bills. After all, if you're paying less for electricity, your bill will drop even with the same usage. Take a look at how much you could be saving using our energy comparison page.

For more energy-saving tips, check out our comprehensive guide to saving energy.


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