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Last updated: 18th December, 2023


Why Electric Space Heaters are a Bad Idea

Why Electric Space Heaters are a Bad Idea

Key takeaways

  • Electric space heaters can be costly and less effective for maintaining a comfortable temperature.
  • Gas boilers offer an efficient and eco-friendly heating solution for households and businesses.
  • Cleaner, more sustainable alternatives to traditional gas boilers are available, offering both financial and environmental benefits.

Gas heating systems are often more economical for households as natural gas is generally cheaper than electricity.

Electric space heaters have become a popular choice for many households due to their affordability and ease of installation. However, there are several drawbacks to using these devices which have prompted a search for alternative heating solutions. One such alternative is the use of gas boilers, which have gained recognition for their efficiency and environmental benefits.

While electric space heaters are convenient, they often come with a higher cost due to the greater expense of electricity compared to gas. Additionally, electric heaters may not provide even heat distribution throughout a room, making them less effective in maintaining a comfortable temperature. 

On the other hand, gas boilers have been favoured for their ability to efficiently heat entire households and for their eco-friendliness. Thanks to recent technological advancements, there are now cleaner and more sustainable alternatives to traditional gas boilers available.

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To make an informed decision, it's vital for homeowners and businesses to consider the drawbacks of electric space heaters and explore the benefits that gas boiler alternatives can provide. Adopting greener heating solutions not only saves money in the long run but also helps to minimise the negative impacts on the environment.

The Drawbacks of Electric Space Heaters

High Running Costs

Electric space heaters can lead to increased energy bills due to their high running costs. They consume a significant amount of electricity to produce heat, which results in higher energy consumption. Consequently, this leads to an increase in energy bills, making electric heating an expensive option when compared to more efficient alternatives like gas boilers or infrared heating panels.

Environmental Impact

The use of electric space heaters contributes to an individual's carbon footprint as they are often powered by fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. These energy sources generate greenhouse gas emissions which are harmful to the planet. Although electric heating contributes to a smaller portion of the energy sector's carbon emissions compared to fossil fuels, their widespread use still has a negative environmental impact. 

Efficiency and Heat Distribution

Efficiency is a key factor when it comes to heating systems. Electric space heaters often struggle to distribute heat evenly around a room, which can lead to cold spots and an overall uneven distribution of warmth. Traditional radiators or infrared heating panels have an advantage in this regard, as they provide more consistent heat coverage.

Moreover, electric space heaters are less efficient than alternatives such as gas boilers. This is because they need to convert electrical energy into heat, whereas gas boilers use the heat produced from burning natural gas directly. The reduced efficiency of electric space heaters means that more energy is required to achieve the same level of warmth, ultimately increasing the carbon footprint and running costs.

In summary, electric space heaters present several drawbacks as a heating solution, including high running costs, negative environmental impact, and lower efficiency in terms of both energy consumption and heat distribution.

Benefits of Gas Boilers

Fuel costs

Gas heating systems are often more economical for households as natural gas is generally cheaper than electricity. In fact, electricity can sometimes cost three times more than gas. This makes gas boilers a more cost-effective alternative for many households when compared to electric boilers.

Fuel Efficiency

The fuel efficiency of gas boilers is another advantage over electric ones. Gas boilers can achieve efficiencies of around 90-94%, whereas electric boilers have a maximum efficiency of 99.9%. However, this gap narrows when considering that natural gas boilers can produce maximum heat from the moment they are switched on. Furthermore, gas central heating systems heat the home faster and more effectively than electric heating systems. This means that gas boilers may require less energy to achieve the same level of comfort, making them a more fuel-efficient choice.


In terms of maintenance costs and longevity, gas boilers tend to last longer than electric boilers. With proper care and regular servicing, a high-quality gas boiler can serve households for up to 15 years or more before needing replacement. This longer lifespan can help offset the initial investment in the boiler and reduce the need for frequent replacements.

Exploring Gas Boiler Alternatives

As concerns over climate change and increasing energy costs continue to grow, many homeowners are looking for more efficient and sustainable alternatives to traditional gas boilers. In this section, we will discuss two popular low-carbon heating systems that utilise renewable energy sources: biomass boilers and heat pumps.

Biomass Boilers

Biomass boilers are an eco-friendly alternative that use organic materials, such as wood pellets, chips, or logs as fuel. These renewable sources release only as much carbon dioxide when burned as they absorbed during growth, making them a carbon-neutral option. They're a particularly attractive option for those with access to a consistent supply of wood or other biomass material.

Though the initial investment for a biomass boiler can be higher than a conventional gas boiler, the long-term savings in energy costs and their low carbon footprint make them an attractive option for homeowners seeking greener heating solutions. However, it is important to consider the required space for storage, as well as the maintenance requirements for a biomass boiler.

Heat Pumps

Heat pumps are another energy-efficient alternative to gas boilers. They work by extracting heat from the air or the ground around the property, which is then used to heat the home. There are two main types of heat pumps: air source and ground source.

Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) absorb heat from the outside air, even in colder temperatures. They can be installed on an external wall or in the garden, where they will have adequate access to air flow. ASHPs are generally more affordable and easier to install than ground source heat pumps, making them an appealing choice for many homeowners.

Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs), on the other hand, extract heat from the ground through a network of buried pipes. This heat can then be used for both heating and hot water. GSHPs offer a higher level of efficiency than ASHPs; however, they require more significant upfront investment and a larger area for installation, such as a garden.

Both air source and ground source heat pumps have the advantage of low running costs and are compatible with underfloor heating systems and larger radiators. In addition, they have a minimal environmental impact due to their use of renewable energy sources.

By exploring these gas boiler alternatives, homeowners can find a low-carbon heating system that not only reduces their environmental footprint but also saves them money in the long term.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the advantages of a boiler?

Boilers offer a centralised and efficient heating solution for your home. They typically have a longer lifespan and require less maintenance than electric space heaters. Additionally, by heating water and distributing it through radiators, they can provide a more balanced and comfortable heat throughout a space than space heaters, which tend to heat a limited area.

Why are gas boilers good?

Gas boilers are a popular choice for many households due to their affordability and efficiency. They generally have lower running costs compared to electric heating systems, as gas is typically cheaper than electricity. Their efficiency also tends to be high, which helps in reducing energy consumption and, subsequently, carbon footprint.

What are the benefits of having a new boiler?

A new boiler offers improved energy efficiency, which translates into more significant savings on energy bills in the long run. Newer models are typically more eco-friendly, emitting fewer greenhouse gases and often supporting a range of renewable energy sources. They also come with better safety features and modern heating controls for enhanced convenience and ease of use.

Do space heaters use a lot of electricity?

Space heaters can indeed consume a considerable amount of electricity, as they rely on converting electrical energy into heat. Their power usage will differ based on factors like size and type of heater, but generally, electric space heaters can be costlier to run than gas boilers on a daily basis.

Can you sleep with a space heater in your room?

It's generally not recommended to sleep with an electric space heater in your bedroom, as there are potential safety concerns, such as fire hazards or carbon monoxide poisoning. However, if used appropriately and according to the manufacturer's guidelines, space heaters can provide supplementary heat in a well-ventilated room for short periods of time.

Can I run a space heater constantly?

Running a space heater constantly is not advisable due to energy consumption and safety concerns. Extended usage may lead to higher electricity bills, and an increased risk of overheating, which could result in a fire. It's crucial to follow the manufacturer's instructions, ensuring proper ventilation and regular checks to maintain safe operation.

Is it cheaper to turn up the heat or use a space heater?

The cost comparison between turning up the heat or using a space heater will depend on factors like the efficiency of your central heating system, fuel prices, and the type of space heater. Generally, though, using a gas boiler to heat your entire home can be more cost-effective and efficient than relying on electric space heaters, especially in larger areas.

Stephen Day profile photo
Article by
Stephen Day | Co-founder
Gas Safe registered and FGAS certified engineer with over 20 years experience in the heating and cooling industry.