Oil Heater vs. Electric Heater: Pros and Cons

Christine Herrington

Christine is our Chief Editor and a contributing writer to the site.

Last Updated on May 26, 2021

Making the purchase decision between an oil heater and an electric one can be difficult, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the benefits of each one.

While electric heaters work well in small rooms as they can heat areas quickly, oil heaters are more efficient in heating larger spaces due to their higher heat retention. When it comes to deciding which heater to buy, it all comes down to your preferences, your home’s square footage, and what you need the system for.

But, if you’re still tossing up between an oil heater vs. electric heater, this guide to the pros and cons of each heater can help you decide.  

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Table of Contents

What is an Electric Heater?

Electric heaters are devices that transform electric currents into heat. An electrical resistor is the heating element housed inside an electric heater, creating heat via a process called Joule heating. This principle sees an electric current pass through a resistor and converts the electrical energy into heat.

 Electric heaters usually come in convection or blower models. Convection electric heaters use the principles of air density and convection currents to disperse heat around a room. While a blower heater features a fan that circulates the heat energy.

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The Pros of Electric Heaters

1. They are Cheap

Because electric heaters are mass-manufactured products, it means there’s also lots of competition. With this competition comes cheap prices, which can be great for those on a budget but are looking for extra heating power.

2. They Run Fast

Electric heaters can heat a room in minutes because they are connected straight to a power source. Because of this direct power outlet and features such as a fan, they can spread heat quickly and efficiently throughout a room.

3. They are Safe Heating Systems

Electric heaters do not use burning materials, noxious flames, or combustible gases, making them one of the safest heating solutions available. Convection electric heaters don’t have any moving parts, which means the system has less chance of breaking down.

4. They are Environmentally Friendly

Due to the absence of burning materials, electric heaters do not release any carbon dioxide into the air. They also preserve natural resources, as no fossil fuel is used. Also generating zero emissions and eliminating the risk of gas leaks, electric heaters are environmentally friendly systems.

The Cons of Electric Heaters

1. They Can Lose Heat Quickly

Electric heaters have poor heat retention; if the electricity is no longer flowing through the resistor, there is no heat produced. Once you switch off the heater, there is no heat output, and the room quickly cools down. If your room is drafty or has bad insulation, heat can be lost even faster.

2. They Can Be Noisy

While this is not directed to all electric heaters, some systems can be loud, especially those with fans. When it comes to electric heaters, there’s always some level of noise, so it’s best to read the reviews of models to see whether people have previously complained to check the decibel (dB) level in the user’s manual. Anything below 60dB (the sound of normal conversation) is considered acceptable.

3. They Can Be Bad for Allergies

When electric heaters are in action, the air movement can bring up allergens, pollutants, and dust in the air. If you suffer from asthma or allergies, electric heaters may not be the best option as this air distribution can worsen symptoms.

What is an Oil Heater?

An oil heater is a type of convection heater. Oil heaters are connected to the household electrical system via a regular wall outlet. These heaters feature metal fins that are filled with heat-conductive oil.

This diathermic oil never requires refilling, as the oil in the heater isn’t used as a form of fuel. Instead, the diathermic oil acts as a heat reservoir that circulates continually through your heater, transferring heat to the metal fins, which increases the room’s temperature.

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The Pros of Oil Heaters

1. They are Energy Efficient

Oil heaters are excellent at heat retention. Once they reach the temperature you desire, you can save lots of energy using the low power setting. This maintains and sustains the warmth in the room, all while ensuring your energy bill doesn’t skyrocket.

2. They are Silent

Unlike electric heaters, oil heaters are silent. This is because the heat comes from the heating of the oil, meaning no sounds emerge from the systems. This is great if you want to use your heating system while you sleep or during periods of relaxation where loud noises could be frustrating. If the noise of your heater is a deal-breaker, oil-heaters may be an excellent option for you.

3. They Provide Long-Lasting Heat

Because oil heaters have high retention, it means they can stay hot for a sustained period after the system has been switched off. This long-lasting heat is great for saving money on your heating bills.

The Cons of Oil Heaters

1. They are More Expensive to Buy

Even though oil heaters are energy-efficient and cost-effective when they are in use, the upfront cost can be much more than electric heaters. While some may see this as a negative, if you don’t mind paying the initial cost, you can experience efficient savings when using the system.

2. They Take a While to Heat Up

Unlike electric heaters, oil heaters can take much longer to heat a room. While they can sustain heat for long periods after the system has been switched off, they can take around 30 minutes to heat up. This is why many people turn oil heaters on in advance, as it ensures the system will have heated up when the time comes to use it.

3. They Can be Heavy

Oil heaters can be much heavier than electric heating systems. On average, oil heaters can weigh over 200 lbs., so if you’re looking for a portable system, maybe these models aren’t for you.

Which Heater is Right For You?

When choosing between an oil heater vs. electric heater, there are several factors to consider, including how large your room is, your budget for the expenses, and how long you need to operate your heater.

Whether you’re looking for a quiet device or you’re looking for something inexpensive, both heaters have an abundance of benefits. From highly efficient oil heaters providing long-lasting heat to eco-friendly electric heaters for faster heating, you’ll have no problem staying warm.

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