Split-System vs Electric Heater? The cost is not so different

couple sitting on sofa

It’s almost Winter, so out comes that trusty electric heater.

You may have thought that a small, portable heater was cheaper and better for the environment in the long run.

You’ve been deluding yourself.

Because while you’ve saved yourself a few dollars buying that nice model from K-Mart or Big W, you’re paying more to run it than someone who bought a split-system air conditioner.

An electric heater gives you 1kw of heat for every 1kw of electricity it uses.

An air conditioner, however, in heating mode pumps heat from the outside in.

Typically an air conditioner can give you 3kw of heat for every 1kw of electricity it uses.

So an air conditioner is a more efficient heater.

In fact, as the table below shows, a portable electric heater is the least efficient option.

Source: Choice Australia

And while gas heating appears to be a cost-effective alternative to a portable electric heater, there are still issues with health and safety.

Gas heaters must be vented adequately as the carbon monoxide produced when the gas is burnt is odourless, colourless and deadly.

The formula for your energy costs

  1.  Find out what you are paying your local electric company per kilowatt-hour. 
  2. Locate the wattage of your heater based on the manufacturer’s information.

Apply the formula: (heater’s wattage) x 24 ÷ 1,000 x $(cost p/kw p/h) to determine the cost to run the heater for a day. (Dividing by 1,000 changes watt-hours to kilowatt-hours.)

The stats around heating your home

  • Cooler months see a 10% increase in the number of home fires
  • Each extra degree of heating increases energy usage by 5-10%
  • According to the National Fire Protection Association in the US, space heaters cause 43% of home heating fires each year, which are the second leading cause of fire-related deaths.

The benefits of split-cycle heating

Heating your home efficiently saves energy and costs less to run. 

Better efficiency leads to:

  • lowering your heating costs by up to 40%
  • a consistent temperature throughout your home
  • lowering your greenhouse gas emissions

Reverse cycle split-system air conditioners are the most energy efficient electric heater. 

High-star reverse cycle units produce just one-fifth of the greenhouse gas emissions that a standard electric heater creates. 

They are quieter to run because the compressor is outside, and provide low cost heating in winter and cooling in summer. Try getting your gas heater to do that.