Energy

Best ways to heat your home on a budget

Ever wondered about the cheapest way to heat your home? Discover how much it costs to run a range of heating solutions and compare the best ways to stay warm this winter.

In Ireland, the majority of homes have central heating. There are four main fuels people use to heat their homes and often householders use more than one method to keep warm in winter.

Here’s the most used fuel sources:

  • Oil: Kerosene, gas oil, LPG or diesel fires a boiler to heat water that provides central heating via radiators and hot water. The oil is stored in an external tank.
  • Gas: Natural gas fires a condensing boiler to heat water that’s pumped through radiators to heat homes. It’s provided via connection to the national gas grid.
  • Electricity: Centrally controlled panels, radiators or storage heaters provide heat throughout the home. Electricity can also power underfloor heating or portable room heating.
  • Renewables: Solar or ground-generated heat provides hot water and heat for homes via solar panels or a heat pump. Least common, costly to install but very cost-efficient.

How we heat our homes in 2023

Around 97% of homes in Ireland have central heating, with 37% using natural gas, 36% using oil and 12% electricity.

Urban homes are more likely to have gas central heating with over half of town and city dwellers reporting it as their main heating source. In contrast, 60% of rural households use oil to heat their homes and only 4% are connected to mains gas.

How we heat our homes is changing though: the CSO reports that 84% of homes built since 2020 are heated by electricity and 60,000 homes now have solar panels fitted. Oil and gas-fuelled central heating has steadily declined in homes built since 2000.

Source: Central Statistics Office (CSO), Household Environmental Behaviours - Energy Use

What other ways can you heat your home?

Many households use additional methods to boost a chilly room once winter hits, and some people rely exclusively on space heating due to high energy costs or being off-grid.

The most popular types of room heaters are:

  • Portable electric heaters
  • Wall-mounted heaters
  • Portable gas heaters
  • Decorative effect fires
  • Open fires or log burners
  • Ranges or stoves with back boilers

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Electric heaters can be relatively cheap to buy, low maintenance, and environmentally friendly, but how expensive are they to run and which type of heater is the most cost-effective?

Types of electric room heaters

  • Infrared/halogen heaters are also known as quartz heaters; they provide instant, radiant heat to focused areas. They cost around €30.
  • Ceramic heaters generate heat via a ceramic plate safely, efficiently and evenly. Suitable for heating small spaces, they cost around €50.
  • Wall-mounted panel heaters are space-saving and versatile; they radiate heat upwards and outwards and can be sized to fit any room. Prices start at €90.
  • Oil-filled radiators are also known as column heaters; they produce enduring, non-drying heat to small and mid-sized rooms. Prices start at €40.
  • Fan heaters circulate air passed over a heated element to provide warmth. Can be freestanding or wall-mounted. Priced between €25 and €160.
  • Freestanding convector heaters distribute heated air upwards into a room for quick and efficient warmth. Prices start at €30.

How much does it cost to run an electric heater?

Plug-in heaters start at around €25 and get more expensive depending on size and sophistication. The more energy efficient they are, the pricier they become.

It’s worth weighing up the heater’s price tag with running costs before purchasing.

Here’s some examples of running costs:

Heater Wattage Daily cost Hourly cost  
Infrared heater 500w to 1,500w €3.12 0.39c  
Ceramic heater 750w to 1,500w €3.51 0.44c  
Wall mounted panel heater 500w to 2,000w €3.90 0.49c  
Oil filled radiator 1,000w to 2,500w €5.45 0.68c  
Fan heater 1,500w to 3,000w €7.01 0.88c  
Freestanding convector heater 2,000w to 3,000w €7.79 0.97c  

How to calculate heater costs: Divide the wattage of your heater by 1000, multiply by the kWh unit price of your electricity tariff and then divide by 100. For example, on a tariff with a standard unit rate of 38.95c a portable fan with a wattage of 2250 (2.25 kWh) would use 0.876 cents per hour. Over an 8 hour period on full this would cost €7.01.

What are the advantages of space heating?

There are several benefits to using electric heaters in your home, but there are also downsides.

Here’s some of the pros and cons of portable heating:


Pros

  • flexible and easy to use
  • good for small spaces
  • energy-efficient and eco-friendly
  • cost-effective if used correctly
  • cheap to buy

Cons

  • costly for full house heating
  • less effective in large rooms or hallways
  • could be dangerous
  • need to set thermostat and timer to ensure cost benefits

Compare heating costs

What else can you do to beat the heating bills?

Working from home has become increasingly common in recent years, leading to a rise in the popularity of heating suits and foot warmers. These wearable devices provide body warmth without the need to turn up the thermostat.

Heating suits are garments containing heating elements placed around the body and powered by a battery or USB. They’re energy efficient and truly portable, so you can wear them while working at your desk, watching TV or reading.

How much does it cost to run central heating?

There are lots of different factors influencing the cost of heating an entire house per day. After comparing various systems like for like, gas central heating is the cheapest heating method.

Here’s what each fuel costs per day on average:

  • Gas central heating averages out between €10.00 and €16.00
  • Electric central heating averages around €12.00 and €20.00
  • Oil fired central heating averages out between €13.00 and €22.00

Using a renewable energy source like solar panels generates between 3 and 10 kWh per day, so could reduce electricity bills by around 60%

How do storage heaters work?

Storage heaters are commonly used as part of an electric central heating system. They work by powering on during cheaper, off-peak periods, retaining the heat in clay or ceramic bricks and distributing warmth gradually during the day.

Electric storage heaters, often used in rental accommodation, average €7.00 to run daily with an hourly cost of 0.88c, but typically draw power during off-peak hours, so in reality costs less.

Storage heaters are designed for time of use tariffs so if you need to boost up the heating during the day, they lose their cost-effectiveness. On balance, gas-fired heating works out cheaper.

How do space heaters compare to central heating?

Some electric heaters are very cost-effective - especially if they have a low wattage, but if you need to heat several rooms on a daily basis, costs would soon add up. For instance, an electric panel heater in four rooms for 8 hours per day could cost around €15 per day or up to €460 per month.

Ultimately, the actual cost of centrally heating your home depends on

  • the size of your home
  • frequency and length of heating
  • your thermostat setting
  • energy efficiency rating (BER)
  • type of energy tariff
  • your heat conserving efforts

In reality, the only way to compare costs accurately is to use a smart meter.

What’s the best way to heat your home?

Electric, portable heaters like infrared, ceramic and oil-filled radiators are great for heating one room efficiently, but buying a space heater for every room would increase your electricity bill more than if you bumped up the heating controls.

Bear in mind that when you use central heating and the thermostat reaches a set temperature, the boiler switches off and only fires up again to keep the house at a constant temperature. This means the cost per hour will be reduced after the first couple of hours as your boiler doesn’t have to work so hard.

For those working from home or regularly only using one or two rooms, it’s worth buying a portable, energy-efficient heater with a thermostat to keep the room temp in check. This means you can keep the heating down or off in unused rooms.

The bottom line is: if you need to heat your entire home, central heating, especially gas central heating, is the cheapest way to stay warm.

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