Are you confused by all the options in the electric furnace & heater shopping vortex? You’ve come to the right place.
This Ultimate Electric Heater Buying Guide has what you need to know to make the right choice for your home.
What to consider when choosing an electric heater
Key factors to consider:
- Climate: The temperature ranges and extremes where you live make a difference in what type of home electric heater you choose.
- Home Size: You’ll want to consider the size and layout of your home and the areas you want to warm when choosing a home electric heating system. Does your home and lifestyle lend itself to zoned or timed heating, for example?
- Comfort: The right choice in an electric heater will keep your entire home warm at a consistent level throughout the days and nights, even in the coldest temperatures.
- Safety: While an electric heater doesn’t present the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning that a fossil-fuel heater might, it can pose a safety risk if it’s not installed correctly.
- Maintenance and Durability: If you save money on the purchase but spend more on maintenance and the unit doesn’t last, you’re not coming out ahead.
- Energy Efficiency: An energy-efficient home electric heater will save you money by lowering your energy bill, and help save the planet, too.
You can maximize your energy efficiency in the following ways:
- Seal your windows, doors and anywhere that air might leak.
- Thoroughly insulate your walls, windows and attic.
- Recirculate heat from your system’s exhaust if it has one into your home.
- Set your home’s temperature at a lower level when you’re away or sleeping.
- Lessen the amount of heat you need with other strategies, like electric blankets and warm clothing.
- Keep your system operating at top efficiency with regular maintenance.
- Use sustainable energy sources like solar and wind when possible.
Energy efficiency is rated in different ways, depending on the type of system.
- Heating Seasonal Performance Factor (HSPF), used for most electric heating systems as well as heat pumps.
- Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), used for heat pumps which also include air conditioners.
- Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) used for electric furnaces.
- In all cases, the higher the rating, the more energy-efficient the system.
- Environmental Impact: Electric home heaters generally are easier on the environment than heating systems that run on fossil fuels. They protect your home’s air quality as they don’t produce any on-site emissions. If you’re able to get power from solar, wind, or other sustainable sources, you’ll go a long way toward a more sustainable future.
Cost: Be sure to check into rebates and incentives for energy-efficient equipment. And consider the long-term cost of utility bills, maintenance, and how long the unit will last.
What type of electric heater should you choose?
There are six basic types of home electric heaters:
- Heat Pumps
- Baseboard Heaters
- Radiant Floor Heaters
- Wall Heaters
Each option operates differently and has pros and cons.
Types of electric heaters
An electric furnace uses a blower or fan to push air that’s been heated by electricity running through coils or resistance wires, typically through a central air system’s ducts. Stand-alone units work for smaller spaces.
- Safe when installed and maintained correctly, especially in comparison to systems that use fossil fuels.
- Flexible, cost-effective installation.
- Low maintenance.
- Typically, an electric furnace is the least energy-efficient of the five systems considered here.
- May not have the heating capacity needed.
- Can have higher operating costs.
- If you lose electric power and have no back up source, you have no heat.
- Environmental impact depends on the power source.
Electric Boilers warm your home by circulating hot water or steam through the structure. An electric boiler system will have an electric heating unit and a radiator or pipes where the water or steam is distributed to warm your home.
- Boilers are typically the third most energy-efficient system of those listed as a boiler loses virtually no energy creating heat from electricity. Overall energy efficiency will vary with insulation and distribution implementation with the source of the electricity.
- Boilers evenly heat an entire building or home.
- You can zone a boiler to heat only certain spaces, at specific temperature settings.
- Boilers are extremely durable. A well-maintained boiler can last for many decades.
- Boilers are quiet as they dont use a fan or blower.
- An electric boiler that’s correctly installed is considered quite safe, while a boiler that combusts fuel and has flames is less so.
- The cost of purchasing, installing, and creating the needed pipes, radiators and other infrastructure needed for a boiler can be higher than for other types of system.
- Boilers take up more space than the other systems discussed here.
- A boiler needs to be inspected and maintained regularly.
Electric Heat Pumps
Electric heat pumps don’t generate heat, but instead transfer heat from outside air, ground, or water into your home through central air system ducts or radiant floor heating. They can also cool your homes inside air by moving warm air from inside your home to the outside and pushing refrigerated air into your home.
- Highest energy efficiency, saving you money on your energy bills.
- Second-ranked system for safety.
- One system for heating and cooling.
- Low environmental impact, especially when powered by sustainable energy.
- Long lifespan, highly durable when property is maintained.
- May not be appropriate for very cold climates.
- Upfront cost can be higher, though may be offset over time through energy savings.
- Requires regular maintenance of filters, refrigerant, and regular professional servicing.
- If you lose electric power and have no back up source, you have no heat or cooling.
Electric baseboard heaters create heat when electricity runs through heating elements inside housing along the bottom of your walls.
This type of heating system draws cool air from the floor, heats it, and then puts it back into the room as warm air in a natural convection loop.
- Baseboard heaters are controlled by individual thermostats in each room or zone, so everyone can have the temperature to their own liking, and you can save energy by not heating unused rooms.
- No ducts are required, and installation is fairly easy. Most of the time, few if any modifications to your home are required.
- Baseboard heaters don’t use a fan or a blower, so they’re essentially silent.
- Considered safe when installed per manufacturer’s directions, kept clear from flammable materials.
- Higher energy costs, as baseboard heating systems are the fourth most energy-efficient of the five discussed here.
- Baseboard heaters can take longer to warm up a room or zone than other types of systems.
- You may need to re-arrange furnishings and fixtures as you need clear space around baseboard heaters for them to operate properly.
Radiant Floor Heaters
Electric radiant floor heaters warm floors in your home with electricity running through heating mats or cable under floors from material that transfers heat easily, such as stone, engineered wood, laminate, or ceramic tile instead of carpet. The floor must be properly insulated so the heat is directed upwards, and you don’t lose heat below.
- The second most energy-efficient system of those considered here when installed and insulated correctly with flooring that has good thermal conductivity.
- Safest of all the systems considered, with no exposed flames or heating elements.
- Nice warm floors are comfortable and provide even, consistent heat.
- Lack of a blower or fan makes for quiet operation.
- Allows for temperature control by room or zone.
- No need for unsightly vents or radiators.
- Lack of circulating air means less dust, particles, and allergens.
- Cost can be higher because of materials and labor, and when retrofitting an existing structure.
- Radiant floor heaters take longer to warm your home than most other types of systems.
- Radiant floor heaters provide only heat, whereas a heat pump system can also cool your home.
Electric wall heaters are exactly what the name implies: a heating unit that’s installed on a wall. Most of the time, these systems have an element that’s heated electrically, a fan to push the warm air into the room, and a thermostat.
This kind of heater warms only one room or zone, so it’s important to get one that is sized correctly for the space where you want to use it, and to insulate the space so that you don’t lose much heat.
- The fourth most energy-efficient system, depending on how much space you heat.
- Considered safe when installed correctly and equipped to automatically shut off in case of overheating.
- Heats just one room or zone.
- Typically warms up a room or zone quickly.
- Installation is relatively easy and compact wall units saves space.
- Each wall heater warms just one room or zone, not suitable for larger spaces.
- Walls absorb some heat and may drive up your energy costs.
- Can be noisier than other systems due to the required fan or blower.
A professional opinion always helps. The experienced pros at Scottsdale Air can answer your questions and help you decide what’s going to work best for you!