girl sitting with heater

Here are the cheapest heaters to run this winter

Posted  May 3, 2019

When temperatures drop, a warm and cosy room can take away the winter chill and cheer the spirits, but there’s a cost. Which heater won’t break your budget to run? We find out.

Keeping your home warm in the winter months comes at a price – whether you use electricity, gas or paraffin. We’ve compared prices for different heaters and the energy they use to help you choose the best heating option for your home.


Three types of heaters and what they cost

Electric heaters
If you’ve got electricity, and Eskom isn’t loadshedding, it’s one of the easiest ways to heat your home. You buy a heater, plug it in and the room warms up. It’s also quite a safe option as long as the heaters are used correctly. There are two costs you need to be prepared for when buying and using an electric heater – the cost of the heater and the cost of electricity.

How to work out what you pay for electricity
Electricity is charged per kilowatt (kW) used per hour.  1 kilowatt is 1000 watts.  On the packaging and labelling on your heater you will find the kilowatts the heater uses, for example 1500kW. The more kilowatts your heater uses, the higher the electricity cost.

Heaters may have different heat settings such as 1, 2, 3 or warm and hot. The higher settings usually use more watts. So turning your heater up may give you more warmth but it could double your costs.

Also, the more hours your heater is on the more kilowatts it uses and the more you will pay for electricity.

Tops tips: If your appliance has only volts (V) or amps (A) listed on it ask the manufacturer, shop or seller how many watts the heater uses.

While you will pay a lower cost for electricity with a low wattage heater, the trade off is that you may have less power for heating. So if you have a large, very cold room, a low wattage heater may not warm the room as much as you would like.

How we worked out the costs
Costs will vary depending on your heater model, what setting (high heat or low heat) you use and electricity tariffs. We used 156,45 cents per kilowatt, which is Eskom’s Homepower Block A rate, including VAT. The costs are for 3 hours a day for 30 days’ usage at full power.


Based on the above, wall panel heaters should have the lowest running costs. These heaters are suitable for heating rooms of 10 – 12m2. They are easy to install, you mount them on a wall. However, they use a low wattage so the heat they provide will be less than a gas heater or fin heater, for example. And they aren’t portable.

Gas heatersThe most common gas heaters used in South Africa are the 3 panel heaters that use a 9kg canister of LPG, liquid petroleum gas. A gas heater costs around R1 000 and a 9kg gas cylinder R580 (with gas).

The price of gas is set by the Department of Energy and just like petrol the price changes each month. You can find the latest prices on the Department’s website. Based on current prices (to 30 April 2019) a 9kg canister will cost around R230 to refill. You may also need to take your gas cylinder to be refilled so there may be some transport costs and time involved.

According to Bruce Wilson of Midgas, a 9kg canister of gas lasts around 30 hours. So to run a gas heater at full power for 3 hours a day for 30 days could cost nearly R700.  However, gas heaters are very efficient at heating rooms, and because they give a lot of heat, you may not need to run them at full power all the time. Bruce says you can save gas by turning the setting down to the lowest heat when the room has warmed up. This will lower your cost considerably.

Paraffin heatersParaffin heaters can heat rooms very effectively and cost as little as R200. We priced paraffin heaters on Gumtree as we could not find new ones. Unfortunately, some models have been discontinued in South Africa due to safety problems.

Like gas, the cost of illuminated paraffin is set by the Department of Energy every month. 5 litres of paraffin will cost (to end April 2019) around R45.

Running a paraffin heater is cheap, but there are safety risks. Never leave a paraffin heater on if you are not in the room. Place the heater far away from any flammables and have a fire extinguisher or blanket nearby to extinguish any flames should the heater topple over.

The bottom lineComparing gas and electric heaters, a wall panel heater using electricity is the cheapest heater to run.

Consider your needs, your room, your budget and your energy costs when deciding which heater to buy. The right choice will mean you’re warm and cosy and safe - without blowing your budget.

Safety tips
Save on heating costs

Products compared are from Game, Makro, Builders, Eco Heat, Gumtree, Coldbuster, Midgas, Speedheat, Prices are as at the beginning of April 2019, are rounded up and include VAT. For all except paraffin heaters we priced new products.

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