Heating and cooling can account for about 40% of your energy use.

The typical South Australian home uses more energy for heating than cooling. Heating your home efficiently can help save you energy costs.

Heater appliance running costs

Heaters work in different ways - the best type of heater to use depends on what you want to heat.

The table below suggests the most effective heater types for different situations and provides
estimated running costs. The costs are indicative for your existing heating appliances.

The first row shows heater options for one or two people staying in one space, e.g. watching television. These are best if your home has large living areas and your only heating option is a small heater which may not be large enough to heat the whole area. Radiant heaters and electric rugs heat you directly, but not the whole room.

The other rows show heaters that heat different sized areas and are best if people are moving around. The heaters listed in the table will be most effective when used in a well insulated, draught proofed home.

Be aware that portable heaters, such as oil heaters, may be low cost to purchase but can be very expensive to run if used to heat larger rooms. If a portable heater is your only option, you can lower running costs by reducing the size of the area you ’re heating, for example by closing doors.

The examples are only a guide and will differ depending on the size and efficiency of your appliance, how big the area is you are heating, what the thermostat of the appliance is set to, and whether your home is insulated and draught-proofed.

You can get a more accurate idea of how much your heater costs you to run by calculating your running costs or using a plug-in power meter, which you can borrow free of charge as part of a Home Energy Toolkit.

I want to heatSuggested heater options and hourly running costs
1 or 2 people in one place

Electric radiant
heater (1kW)

Flat rate:

Time of use:
20-21c (shoulder)
25-26c (off-peak)
39-40c (peak)

Electric heated rug

Flat rate:

Time of use:
2-3c (shoulder)
3-4c (off-peak) 
4-5c (peak)

Electric blanket

Flat rate:

Time of use:
2-3c (shoulder)
2-3c (off-peak) 
4-5c (peak)

Small room
floor space 12m2

Small reverse cycle air conditioner

Flat rate:

Time of use:
5-10c (shoulder)
6-14c (off-peak) 
10-17c (peak)

Electric panel heater

Flat rate:

Time of use:
25-26c (shoulder)
30-31c (off-peak) 
47-48c (peak)

Electric portable heater (2.4kW)

Flat rate:

Time of use:
25-26c (shoulder)
30-31c (off-peak) 
47-48c (peak)

Large room
floor space 36m2

Reverse cycle air conditioner

Flat rate:

Time of use:
24-36c (shoulder)
28-42c (off-peak) 
45-66c (peak)

Gas heater

Flat rate:

Electric heat bank (Controlled load (CL))

Flat rate:

Time of use:
51-52c (shoulder)
65-66c (off-peak) 
$1.41-$1.42 (peak)

Small combustion fire

Flat rate:

Whole of house
floor space 200m2

Zoned ducted reverse cycle air conditioner

Flat rate:

Time of use:
$1.15-$1.91 (shoulder)
$1.35-$2.24 (off-peak) 
$2.12-$3.51 (peak)

Zoned ducted gas heating

Flat rate:

Large combustion fire

Flat rate:

Note: Estimated running costs are based on the AGL electricity and Origin Energy standing retail contracts. For further methodology information, please contact the Energy Advisory Service

Energy plan costs

How much your heating appliance will cost to run is dependant on a number of factors. Not only is the type of appliance and it’s energy rating a factor, but also the billing plan you have with your energy retailer. Some energy plans, specifically electricity plans, can include different charges depending on the time of day. It’s worth knowing if you are charged a flat rate all day, or if your plan has charges for time of use.

Flat rate

Customers on a flat rate plan are charged at the same rate for electricity all day. For example, using your heater at 9 am for 30 minutes will cost exactly the same as using it at 11 pm for 30 minutes. Customers on a flat rate typically have an older type of electricity meter on their home  (not a smart meter).

Time of Use

Customers on a time of use plan will have a smart meter on their home and are charged a different rate for their electricity depending on the time of the day in which it is used. These often include a shoulder period (typically 10 am to 3 pm), an off-peak period (1 am to 6 am), and a more expensive peak period (6 am to 10 am and 3 pm to 1 am). Typical Controlled Load Time of Use shoulder period is 9.30 am to 3.30 pm, off-peak is 11.30 pm to 6.30 am, and peak is 6.30 am to 9.30 am and 3.30 pm to 11.30 pm.

Looking at your most recent energy bill will help you determine if you are on a flat rate plan or time of use plan, but if you are not sure it’s suggested you contact your energy retailer.

You can save on energy use and costs by reducing the amount of heating you need. Follow our easy energy saving tips and watch our video for more information.

Make your heating more effective

Reducing the amount of heating you need to stay comfortable can be as easy as making some simple and practical changes.

  • Set your heater’s thermostat to 18–21oC or as low as you feel comfortable with. Every degree lower may reduce the running costs by up to 10%.
  • Choose the best heater for your needs based on the size of the area you need to heat. A heating specialist can help you with this decision.
  • Adjust your heater’s louvres towards the floor, as hot air rises. Keep any louvre blades dust free and clean filters regularly.

Tips for your home

1. Let the sunshine into your home to help heat it for free

Open curtains and blinds during the day and move anything blocking the light, such as external shading. Tiled or concrete floors can store warmth from the sun and help warm the home into the evening. Shut curtains and blinds at night time to help keep the warmth in.

2. Only heat the areas you need

The larger the area you heat, the more energy you will use. Divide your home into sections (or zones) by closing doors and, if you have a ducted heating system with zone controllers, turn off rooms that are not in use.

3. Insulation

Insulation reduces the amount of heat transferred into or out of your home through the ceiling, walls, floors, doors and windows.

Typical heat loss in winter from an uninsulated home. Ceiling 25-35 per cent, Walls 10 to 20 per cent, Floor 10 to 20 per cent, Air leaks 15 to 25 per cent, Windows 10 to 20 per cent.In winter, up to 60% of your heating could be lost through your ceilings and walls if you don’t have insulation.

If you don’t have ceiling insulation, consider having it installed. If you rent, ask your landlord if they will install it. Insulation can deteriorate over time, so ensure it is replaced or topped up when it’s no longer effective.

Up to 20% of your heating could be lost through your windows. Thick curtains and pelmets are an effective way of insulating your windows to help keep your rooms warmer.

With no pelmet, warm air from near the ceiling is drawn down between the curtain and window. This air is cooled by contact with the glass, heat is lost through the window and a cold draught comes from beneath the curtain. With a pelmet, heat is retained.

4. Draught proofing

Cracks and gaps in a home, such as those around doors and windows, can cause draughts and a lot of heat loss from your home.

You can make simple changes like using draught excluders under doors (such as door snakes), sealing strips around door and window frames, and filling gaps to help reduce your heating costs.

If you are using a gas heater, see ventilation for gas appliances to make sure you are using your heater safely.

What to look for when buying a new heater

If you are buying a new heater, talk to a heating specialist about the best option for your needs and the costs associated with buying, installing, running and maintaining the heater. For example, if you are thinking about buying a gas heater but don’t have gas connected at your property, you’ll need to consider the gas supply charge as well as the gas used. If you already have gas connected for water heating and cooking, it may be more cost effective to install a gas heater rather than an electric one.

Buying a new heater may be a good time to consider your best options for cooling as well.

You can use the following table as a rough guide to work out the heat output (in watts or megajoules) needed per square meter of your home or heating area.

Home typeRequired heater output per square metre of floor area

Uninsulated home

130 watts or 0.47 megajoules per hour

Insulated ceiling only

100 watts or 0.36 megajoules per hour

Insulated ceiling and walls

80 watts or 0.29 megajoules per hour

Energy efficient home

60 watts or 0.22 megajoules per hour

These figures are based on rooms with 2.4 metre ceilings.

Some heaters will have an energy rating label that you can use to compare the energy use and efficiency of smaller appliances. The more stars the better. You can also compare the estimated running costs of new appliances on the Energy Rating website.

Heater safety

Follow a few simple steps when using a heater to keep your home and the people in it safe:

  • Don’t leave heaters unattended when they’re operating, as they can cause fires. Keep any flammable materials at least one metre away.
  • Never plug a heater into a power board, double adaptor or extension cord with other appliances, as the connection may overload and cause a fire.
  • Regularly service and maintain your heater according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Check that power cords and plugs are in good condition before plugging them in.

If you have a gas heater, make sure there is adequate ventilation to avoid build-up of dangerous combustion gasses. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless poisonous gas that is produced when your heater doesn’t burn gas properly. It is very hard to detect and is often called ‘the silent killer’.

If you are using a gas heater in your home, check with a licensed gas fitter that the room has adequate ventilation. Gas heaters should be installed and serviced regularly by a licensed gas fitter – ensure you get a certificate of compliance for any work done.

Never use outdoor LPG cylinders or gas heaters inside, including camping heaters, as they release dangerous combustion gases and are a high fire risk. Where LPG appliances are used, the gas cylinder should be located outside and the gas supply piped inside by a licensed gas fitter.

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Page last updated 4 May 2022

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