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Best heating options for renters

From portable electric heaters to the humble door snake, you won't need your landlord's permission for these heating options.

electric heater wheat bag rug jumpers socks door snake electric blanket
Last updated: 25 May 2022

Depending on where you live and whether you're a renter or a homeowner, your heating needs and what you're able to do about staying warm this winter will vary. 

For renters, warming options can be even more limited. After all, you're not likely to have the inclination to invest in – or the landlord's permission to install – a permanent reverse-cycle air conditioner, wood-burning stove or underfloor heating. 

But you'll still want to stay warm this winter, so here are six of the best heating options for renters that you don't need your landlord's permission for.

electric column heater

1. Portable electric heaters

There are three different types of portable electric heaters to choose from – fan, oil column and panel. 

There are pros and cons to all three, but in the end a good electric heater comes down to overall design rather than type. Here's how to find the best portable electric heater.

The effectiveness of your electric heater will depend on the size and insulation of the space you're trying to heat: a tiny heater is not going to be much good to you in a large, cavernous space. But our tests have uncovered plenty of larger heaters that don't perform well and could cost you a great deal of money over the whole winter.

Check out our heater reviews to find the best portable electric heater for you, and to discover more efficient ways of heating your home, visit our home heating guide.

stack of jumpers

2. Cover up

Cold, hard floors can be intolerable in the cooler weather, especially if you're renting and don't have underfloor heating. Here's a solution – rug up! 

  • Cover your floor with a rug, which will work to insulate your room. 
  • Single-glazed windows can also bring the outside cold in – or let the inside warm out – so covering your windows with a simple blind or curtain will help retain any heat you're generating inside and also stop the cold air from getting in.
  • Covering up goes for your body, too. It's amazing how effective a pair of warm socks or an additional layer of clothing can be to keep the cold at bay.
unflued gas heater temp control square

3. Portable gas heaters

Portable gas heaters are more energy-efficient and heat large spaces faster than their electric heater cousins, but come with limitations. 

Unflued gas heaters expel emissions from the gas combustion process, which are vented back into the room. They produce carbon monoxide (CO) and nitrous oxides (NOx) in small quantities, which can cause problems for asthmatics or people with certain allergies or respiratory problems.

Unflued gas heaters are illegal to use in bedrooms, bathrooms and other small or badly ventilated rooms

They're illegal to use in bedrooms, bathrooms and other small or badly ventilated rooms – water vapour from the combustion process can condense on walls and ceilings and cause mould. 

Read our guide to buying gas heaters so you know which features to look out for. 

door snake

4. Draught busters

Draughts of cold air that enter through gaps in doors and windows can undo all your best efforts to heat your home. But, as a renter, you'll inevitably need your landlord's permission to alter any fixtures like window or door seals. 

There is, however, an age-old solution to eliminating annoying cold draughts – door snakes!

These tube-like 'creatures', made of simple fabrics like corduroy or canvas and filled with insulating material, can be used to block out draughts. They come in all kinds of different styles and prices and can be bought from most homewares and department stores, such as Bunnings, Big W and Kmart. If you're crafty, you could even make one yourself.

Another clever option is to add draught excluders, which you can tape to the underneath or top of doors or windows.

wheat bag

5. Wheat bags

Microwaveable wheat bags are convenient, reusable and a gentle way to warm the body and soothe sore muscles. 

But you must always follow the manufacturer's instructions, as overheating or reheating a wheat bag that hasn't fully cooled can lead to burns or fire. They also shouldn't be used as bed warmers due to the risk of fire. 

Wheat bag dos and don'ts

  • Don't microwave for longer than specified by the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Never wrap or cover a wheat bag.
  • Avoid products that contain wrapped wheat bags, for example cuddly soft toys containing a compartment for wheat bags.
  • To heat a bed, use a hot water bottle or electric blanket instead of a wheat bag. Wheat bags should only be used for direct application to body aches and pains.
  • If you notice a burning smell coming from the bag, let it cool and then dispose of it.
  • Fragrant oils added to the wheat bag may increase fire risk.
  • The organic filling dries out with age and becomes more combustible so check your heat bag for signs of age and scorching regularly.
  • CHOICE recommends against the use of wheat bags by children.
electric blanket

6. Electric blankets

Another cosy option for renters is to put an electric blanket on your bed. Turn it on before bed-time with enough time to warm up and then dive in and savour the snuggly warmth of a heated bed. 

Electric blankets come in a range of sizes and with numerous heat settings; some are even programmable and may even have a wool-pile cover, which works as a woollen underlay as well. 

But there are some safety issues to consider. There have been numerous electric blanket recalls over the years and a number of electric blanket fires have occurred.

All electric blankets must carry Australian Standard 3350.2.17:2000, so look for this when shopping. Read the instructions and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for use and care. 

For more on what to look for in an electric blanket, read our buying guide

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.