Heaters: How to choose


Estimates in this article are based on a tariff of 106,37 cents a kilowatt-hour (kWh) – the unit used in determining electricity bills – but tariffs differ from area to area.

WOOD FIREPLACE Wood generates more heat than gas or electricity but not as much as anthracite, a type of coal. An open fireplace loses 40 to 60 per cent of its heat through the chimney. Modern fireplaces smoke less and those with glass-panel doors are safer for kids. But sparks can shoot out causing damage to your home. Price: R3 000 to R8 000. Cost: R4 to R6 an hour depending on the amount of wood.

GAS HEATER It heats instantly and is effective for small and large rooms. Gas heaters are odourless and are useful during power cuts but they can be dangerous if the cylinder leaks. Price: R500 to R1 000. Cost: R1,84 to R5,52 an hour.

OIL HEATER It has a large surface area that radiates heat outwards so rooms are heated more quickly. A thermostat turns the heater on and off to maintain heat level but it gobbles power to warm up. Price: R400 to R1 200. Cost: about R2,66 an hour.

ANTHRACITE STOVE Your room is warmed in two to three hours, it creates a cosy atmosphere, can burn all day and gives off lots of heat. Anthracite makes the hottest fire and burns longer than wood. They’re environmentally friendly and useful where there is no electricity but anthracite isn’t available everywhere. Price: R5 000 to R12 000. Cost: about 65 cents an hour.

WALL-PANEL HEATER It heats by means of natural convection. It’s economical and easy to install. They’re safe for kids and pets and can be painted. But they can be used only indoors and can crack if it gets a hard knock. Price: R299. Cost: 43 cents an hour.

FREESTANDING HEATER It’s ideal for quickly heating small areas but takes a long time to warm a room. It’s clean, relatively inexpensive and easy to use hot elements can cause injuries and fires can result. Price: R80 to R700. Cost depending on the heater: the higher the wattage, the higher the usage (R1,38 to R2,13 an hour).

UNDERFLOOR HEATING Heats a room evenly and thermostat can be set according to the temperature outside. But it’s a slow process and the heater has to be on almost all the time. It’s safe, there’s no danger of fire, it doesn’t dry the air and it doesn’t take up space. Price: R150 to R290 a square metre. Cost R1,28 an hour for 12 square metres.

GAS FIRE These are fireplaces that don’t need chimneys and heat by radiation. They’re safer than an open wood fireplace because there are no high flames and you can turn it off at will. It’s not as warm as a wood fire-place and expensive to install. Maintenance costs are higher than wood fireplaces. Price: R5 000 to R12 000 with installation. Cost: R11 to R14,66 an hour, depending on size.

Read more about staying warm this winter in YOU, 5 May 2011.

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