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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: 26 April 2024

Need to know

  • We review different types of heaters from a range of brands such as Dyson, DeLonghi, Dimplex, Arlec, Kmart Anko 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
  • Even more newly tested models will be added to our heater review in June. Consider joining CHOICE to access lab-tested reviews for products and services over 200+ categories, as well as more expert advice and unbiased information

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. 

Even more newly tested models will be added to our review in June but below you'll find the heaters that are currently the worst performers in our testing. 


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: $149

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 your money on.

And even though it has a cheapish upfront price tag, our calculations show that it'll cost you a relatively pricey $404 to run it over winter (approximately 6 hours a day for 3 months). 

Read the full Arlec PEH224HA heater review.


The Rinnai PEPH-22PEW panel electric heater won't be suitable for large living spaces.

Rinnai PEPH-22PEW panel electric heater

  • CHOICE Expert Rating: 53%
  • Heating score: 52%
  • Price: $339

Our testers did note some good points about this panel heater - namely that it can be mounted to the wall or used free-standing and portable, it comes with a 7-year warranty and a programmable 24-hour timer (with delay timer function that can turn the heater on or off) as well as a child lock.

But, it only has one heat setting, it doesn't come with a remote and it received a rating of 'borderline' on its heating performance. This may be acceptable if you're using it in a small living space however this heater likely wouldn't cut it in a larger area. 

We calculated running costs of $397 over the winter, based on 500 hours of use (approximately six hours per day for three months). 

Read the full Rinnai PEPH-22PEW 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.