What is the most cost effective heating for a home - Cheapest heater to run Australia
As the years pass by, the urgency of the climate change crisis becomes clearer and clearer. As a global community, we have surely arrived at the ‘now or never‘ point. At the individual level, the necessary response includes consideration of several things, including our consumption patterns, the transport we use, and the types of houses we live in. 

In turn, consideration of the types of houses we live in involves choosing how we heat and/or cool our houses. As it turns out, choosing effective, economical heaters brings added benefits. Heating systems that are good for the environment are also good for the hip pocket. 

So, which type of heater is cheapest to run? There is no simple answer to this question. Finding the cheapest heater to run depends on several factors including where you live, the lifestyle you lead, the local climate, and the size of your house. On top of that, cost doesn’t just involve purchase cost. It is important to also consider how much does it cost to run per hour.

However, there are some factors that everybody should be aware of regardless of what type of heating system they have. There is no point in heating spaces that nobody is using, and it is most efficient to set the temperature at between about 18°C - 20°C. Heating your house beyond that level involves increasing energy consumption by about 5 - 10% per 1°C increase in temperature on your thermostat.

With that said, here (in no particular order) is a list of the various economical heaters used in Australia and an appraisal of the relative cost-effectiveness of each:

open fireplace

Open fireplaces

The main appeal of open fireplaces is their charm. Everybody loves the comfort of looking at a warm fire when it is cold outside. Despite this, however, they are notoriously inefficient. While they generate plenty of radiant heat, as much as 90% of this heat leaves the house via the chimney and is replaced by cold heat.

Still, it must be noted that open fireplaces are actually cost effective, particularly for those with their own supply of wood. Indeed, in some cases a fireplace is the most economical heater. However, from an environmentally point of view, they contribute more carbon emissions than any another heating solution. For this reason, alone, they do not represent a viable large scale heating option.

slow combustion wood heater

Slow combustion wood heaters

Defined as metal fireboxes that burn wood, slow combustion wood heaters are much more efficient than traditional open fireplaces. In fact, the best products are up to 85% efficient. They deliver much of the ambient appeal of fireplaces and are also cost effective, however like open fireplaces they also produce a very large amount of pollution. 

On top of this, the smoke they produce can have a negative health effect for both the homeowner and his/her immediate neighbours.

portable electric heater

Portable electric heater

Retailing for as little $30, an electric portable heater has the lowest upfront costs of any heating solution. There are several types of portable electric heaters, including oil heater, fixed wall panel heaters, fan convection heaters and free-standing panel heaters. They run on a maximum of up to about 2.4kW. However, while the price tag of these little products may be attractive, they are also the most expensive to run, particularly over long periods.

Still, they are useful for heating small spaces for short periods of time and are attractive for those on low incomes and people who rent and don’t have many alternative options available. They are simple to operate but more suitable for bedroom than for large rooms.

in slab heating

In-slab heating

This heating system involves laying either electric cables or hot water pipes into the concrete slab when building a new house. In-slab heating is most effective for cold climates. The pipes or cables heat the slab for a period of about eight hours at night. The slab holds the heat and then effectively becomes a radiator throughout the rest of the day.

The problems with this heating solution are that it is more expensive than alternatives and that the heat is not immediate. It takes time to start effectively warming the space. Retrofitting is also not an option.

reverse cycle air conditioner

Reverse cycle air-conditioners

Reverse cycle air-conditioners are units that use the same ‘heat pump’ technology to keep your house warm in winter and cool in summer. For this reason alone, they have seen a surge in popularity in recent years. 

Available in a range of types (including electric ducted reverse cycle, electric multi-split reverse-cycle, and electric room reverse-cycle air conditioners), they work by either absorbing heat form outside the house and delivering it inside or absorbing heat from inside and taking it outside. 
Energy efficient and cost-effective, they are a good way to heat most Australian homes. They are suitable for new build and retrofits, and they come with Energy Rating labels.

gas ducted heating

Gas ducted heating

This heating system involves sourcing air from outside the house, heating it in a gas furnace and then distributing it throughout the house. Its benefits include the fact that it heats the house quickly, and that it can be used to zone the heating, however it is not as cost-effective as other gas heating options like gas space heaters. It is suitable for both new builds and retrofits.

gas space heater

Gas space heaters

Also suitable for both new builds and retrofits, gas space heaters are available in two types, portable or fixed. The former are not flued while the latter are. They are cot effective when compared to gas ducted system, however the portable units are not flued and can therefore cause health issues if there is not adequate ventilation in the home.

gas hydronic heater

Gas hydronic heaters

While radiators are far and away the most common gas fired hydronic systems, this class of heating systems also includes pipes embedded in the concrete slab and fan-coil units. While they are quiet, they take a long time to heat when compared to central heating systems. While they cost a lot to install, they are cost-efficient to run as a room heater.

halogen heater

Halogen heaters

Halogen heaters are a very cost-effective option for small rooms only. Instead of using electric coils or fuels, halogen lamps actually heat objects that are around them (but not the air). They are suitable for both new builds and retrofits.