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Electric heaters to avoid buying

These models rated lowest in our independent lab test.

illustration of an electric heater with a cross on red
Last updated: 01 June 2023

Need to know

  • We review different types of heaters from a range of brands such as Dyson, DeLonghi, Arlec, Kmart Anko, Kambrook, Kogan and more
  • Experts assess key factors such as how well they heat up a room, how much they cost to run, and how easy and safe they are to use
  • Consider joining CHOICE to access full reviews and find out which are the top-rated heaters

If you're feeling the chill and need a quick heating solution, an electric heater is a convenient option with relatively low upfront costs. 

It's as easy as picking one up from the shops and bringing it home to plug it in, and (hopefully) immediately basking in its warmth. 

But before you buy the first model you look at, it pays to do some research. A poor-performing electric heater is likely to leave you feeling frosty, or worse, run up an eye-watering energy bill.

Each year, CHOICE heater reviews give you a rundown on the latest models on the market, and how they perform in our rigorous tests. We give each model a score based on factors such as how quickly it heats up a room, how evenly it distributes heat, and how consistent it keeps the room's average temperature. 

Below are the worst performers in our tests. 


It may have Wi-Fi, but the Arlec PEH224HA panel heater left our testers cold.

Arlec Black Smart Convection Panel Heater (PEH224HA)

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 47%
  • Heating score: 40%
  • Price: $119

This Arlec heater may initially impress with its sleek glass look and Wi-Fi capabilities (enabling it to be voice- or remote-controlled via a smartphone app), but it's tough to overlook its dismal heating performance.

When we compared its energy efficiency to other models, it scored an acceptable 'OK', but with a score of just 40% in our heating tests, this is one you probably don't want to waste $119 on.

Read the full Arlec PEH224HA heater review.

kogan aoilhtb24a_

Low running costs, low heating scores: the Kogan KAOILHTB24A oil column heater.

Kogan KAOILHTB24A oil column heater

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 51%
  • Heating score: 43%
  • Price: $129

The one thing this heater has going for it is good energy efficiency, which is welcome news given the current cost of living. It has the lowest running costs of all the electric heaters we tested.

But there's a reason it doesn't use much electricity: it doesn't heat a room very well. 

When we put it to the test in our labs, it didn't even manage to raise the mercury by 10°C in two hours. By comparison, some of the best performing heaters manage that in 30 minutes or less. 

Oil fin heaters do typically take longer to heat a room than other electric heater types, but this one takes things to the next level (or rather, doesn't). 

Our experts recommend avoiding this model if you don't want to be left out in the cold this winter. 

Read the full Kogan KAOILHTB24A review

How to reduce your heating costs this winter

Temperatures may be dropping, but the cost of living keeps rising. How can you stay warm this winter without blowing your budget?

Here are a few tips from our experts:

  • Use a ceiling fan on the reverse setting to help make your electric heater more effective by moving the warm air through the whole room. 
  • Insulate your home to keep the warmth in. Without insulation, up to 35% of a home's warmth can be lost through the roof, so adding wall, ceiling and floor insulation can save you hundreds of dollars a year in energy bills.
  • Seal any gaps where cold air can get in. Silicone sealant, weather seal tape and draught strips can help keep the warm air in and the cold out.
  • Before you buy a new electric heater, make sure you know how much it'll cost you to run – some are far more expensive than others. Our detailed electric heater reviews break down running costs to help you budget for ongoing costs. 
  • Don't assume that the most expensive heaters are the best, or that cheap models won't work well. Our tests regularly reveal high-end duds and affordable winners – there's just really no telling how a heater will perform based on its price tag. 

Our expert guide to buying a heater

Electric heaters aren't the most energy-efficient way to heat up your home (that would be reverse-cycle air conditioning), but they're still an effective solution to quickly take the chill out of a cold room.

"An electric heater is generally a short-term solution for those nights when it gets chilly in the spare room or the kids' room and you don't have a reverse-cycle air conditioner in that area of the home," says Chris Barnes, CHOICE home heating expert.

Here are Chris's top tips for features to look for when buying a new heater:

Look for a long cord

You want the heater reasonably close to you, particularly in a large room, and you don't want to be using an extension lead.

Try to get a timer

Electric space heaters are the most expensive heating product to run, so a timer can help you manage those costs. If you want to use an electric heater to take the chill out of the room before going to sleep, set the timer for the heater to turn off after a couple of hours, and maybe have it set to turn on again early in the morning.

Consider size and storage

You'll need to stow the heater somewhere in the summer months, so you might want to consider one of the smaller models.

Be smart about using it to dry laundry

Don't put your clothes over an electric heater – even an oil column heater – to warm them up. It's a fire risk. Instead, put the clothes on a rack at least one metre away from the heater. If you often need to dry laundry indoors, a clothes dryer or a dehumidifier might be a better option. 

Read more tips on how to choose the best electric space heater for your home in the CHOICE electric heater buying guide.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.