Are you trying to figure out which is the better choice: an oil heater vs electric heater?

Or which type of heater will save you the most on your electricity bills? 

If so, then this guide is for you. 

We’ll take you through some basic features about how an oil heater works and electric heaters works to keep you warm.

As you’ll discover below, the oil filled radiator vs electric heater question is not an easy thing to answer because both units come with many advantages and disadvantages. 

But we assure you that by the end of this article, you’ll know exactly which type of heater is best for your heating needs.

Oil Heater vs Electric Heater

Oil Heater vs Electric Heater

First, we’ll discuss the different types of oil heaters and electric heaters.

Next, we’ll explain the advantages and disadvantages of each heater.

Then, we’ll talk about the energy consumption between oil heaters or electric heaters.

Finally, we’ll end by answering some common questions people have about these units which you may want the answer to as well.

Types of Oil Heaters

Standard Oil Heater

These are the taller oil radiator heaters that average around 25 inches in height and weigh around 20 lbs.

These units use a maximum of 1,500 Watts of electricity and are good for 150 square feet if used as a primary heat source and 300 square feet if used as a supplement to your house furnace or boiler.

Most standard size oil filled heaters include casters (wheels) in addition to a carrying handle to make them easy to move from one room to another.

Mini Oil Heater

These are mini versions of oil heaters that are approximately 14-16 inches tall and weigh around 8 lbs.

These units use up to 700 Watts of electricity and can cover about 70 square feet if used as the main heating source and up to 140 square feet if used as supplemental heat.

These oil filled heaters are best used for personal spaces like a small bedroom or office.

Since mini oil filled radiator heaters are so small and lightweight, they don’t include wheels.

You can find a complete comparison of standard and mini oil heaters in our other guide here: best oil filled space heater reviews.

Types of Electric Heaters

Fan Forced Heaters

A fan forced heater is also called a blow heater. 

These heaters use a fan to pass air over the heated elements. This warms up the air and the room.

Fan forced heaters heat an enclosed room faster than an oil heater.

Fan forced electric heaters come in various sizes and can warm rooms between 150 square feet to 1,000 square feet.

Ceramic Heaters

Ceramic electric heaters come in two types: radiant and convection.

A radiant ceramic heater warms a ceramic plate using electricity that then radiates the heat into the room. 

A convection ceramic heater uses a fan to blow air over the hot ceramic. This quickly spreads the heat and warms up a room.

Ceramic electric heaters come in several sizes and can warm rooms between 150 square feet to 500 square feet.

Check out our page on ceramic heaters to learn more about these units.

Infrared Heaters

Infrared heaters transfer heat energy to objects in a room using electromagnetic radiation. 

These heaters convert electricity into radiant heat.

The main difference between electric infrared heaters and oil heaters is that infrared heaters warm up objects in the room and not the air around them like oil heaters.

Infrared electric heaters come in multiple sizes and can warm rooms between 150 square feet to 1,000 square feet or more.

Check out our page on infrared heaters to learn more about these units.

Panel Heaters

Panel heaters are a type of electric convection heaters that heat rooms in residential or commercial settings by warming up the air.

The advantage of panel heaters is that you can mount them onto a wall as opposed to having them sit on the floor like oil heaters.

Panel electric heaters come in various sizes and can warm rooms between 150 square feet to 500 square feet.

Oil Heater vs Electric Heater Consumption

OIl heater vs electric heater consumption

The energy consumption of an oil heater vs electric heater is the same. 

Both an oil heater and electric heater use electricity as a source of power.

When used as a supplementary source of heat, we can easily calculate the energy consumption on a monthly basis.

Here is the formula for consumption:

Watts x Hours Per Day x kWh rate ÷ 1,000 = Average Daily Cost

As an example, let’s assume a 1,500 watt electric heater or oil filled heater is being used 5 hours per day at the rate of $0.13 per kWh.

Using the above formula we get:

1,500 watts x 5 hours x $0.13 ÷ 1,000 = $0.97

Therefore, the average cost would be $0.97 x 30 days = $28.20 to use the heater on a monthly basis.

Advantages of Oil Heat

  • Quiet: Oil-filled space heaters are silent and, unlike traditional heaters, these units lack a fan to blow the hot air. The only noticeable noise is a faint clicking when the thermostat adjusts.
  • Thermostat controlled: Some oil heaters include a thermostat that automatically turns the heater on and off to maintain the room temperature. This feature can save you money because it doesn’t need to run continuously.
  • Portable and compact: Oiled filled electric heaters are easy to move around and lightweight. Some can even fit under a desk.
  • Energy-efficient: All of the electric energy is effectively converted into heat energy. Oil heaters don’t need extra power for a fan motor.
  • No need to replace the oil: Since the oil isn’t used for fuel there is no need to replace it. The same oil inside the unit is reused over and over again for the life of the heater.
  • Doesn’t dry the air: Due to the lack of a fan, the air in your room won’t dry out.
  • Cools down slowly: Oil heaters keep on radiating heat for some time after being switched off.

Disadvantages of Oil Heat

  • Time-consuming: Oil filled electric heaters take some time to heat the room so it doesn’t produce instant heat. These units also need a longer time to cool down.
  • Slow heat circulation: Oil filled heaters don’t have fans to spread the heat in the room.
  • Not a lot of options: Oil heaters are quite basic in their features. You won’t find any fancy upgrades like you would on an electric heater.
  • Not suitable for large rooms: Oil heaters have a maximum heating output of 300 square feet. So they’re not the best choice for heating large rooms.

Dangers of Oil Heat

  1. Explosion risk: Oil heaters for homes can explode when the thermal fuse fails to shut them off. This can cause fires and smoke.
  2. Oil leaks: An oil filled heater can be a fire hazard if the oil is leaking, which is not too common. However, always make sure that the oil heater is well maintained and not damaged or punctured by sharp objects.
  3. Dry air: If you run this type of heater overnight, you can end up having a dry throat or dry skin. Luckily, most modern oil filled heaters have timers that automatically shut off the heater.
  4. Electrocution risk: Because oil heaters use electricity to operate, you don’t want to use them in bathrooms or laundry areas where the heater can enter in contact with water. Doing so could electrocute you if the electricity is not isolated from the water that flows on your body.
  5. Short circuit risk: Oil heaters can short circuit if not operated properly. Always plug the heater directly into the wall socket. Never use a relocatable power switch or an extension cord with these units.

Advantages of Electric Heat

  • Affordable: Compared to other heat sources, electric heaters are very affordable. Their upfront cost is low and they can reduce your utility bills when used as a supplemental heat source.
  • Safe and easy to use: Electric heaters have a number of safety features, including overheat protection and tip over sensors. Also, the generated heat isn’t hot enough to cause a combustion.
  • Variable coverage: You can choose the exact size electric heater for your needs. There are small heaters for 150 square feet or less as well as large heaters for 1,000 square feet or more.
  • Small size: Most electric heaters are small and compact, allowing you to use them in any room of the house.
  • Takes less time to heat up: Electric heaters produce fast heat and if you close the windows and doors, the room heats up quickly.
  • Portable: These units are lightweight and easy to carry around. Some even include a handle. Larger electric heaters often have wheels so you can roll them around.
  • Adjustable thermostat: Many electric heaters have thermostats that allow you to regulate the temperature of your room.

Disadvantages of Electric Heat

  • Heat stops quickly: Unless you use an infrared heater, most electric heating units will stop heating a room as soon as the unit turns off.
  • More expensive: Electric heaters tend to cost more than oil heaters.

Oil Heater vs Fan Heater

Oil filled portable heaters are more efficient to operate than fan heaters because oil heaters have better heat retention. 

However, oil filled heaters do take more time to heat up. If needed, oil heaters can be changed to a low power setting and use less energy to maintain a desirable warm temperature. 

On the other hand, electric fan heaters lose their heat much faster. Therefore these units need to stay on for longer periods of time to maintain a warmer temperature.

If efficiency is important to you, then check out our most efficient space heater reviews.

Infrared Heater vs Oil Heater

Both an infrared heater and oil heater have outstanding performance. 

Infrared and oil heaters give you amazing warmth and comfort in the colder months.

Although both types of heaters are a good option, they do have some differences which are important factors to consider:

  1. Infrared heaters are quiet and odorless and transfer heat very fast in the room. This system is unique because it warms up objects and people in the room.
  2. Infrared heaters can heat very large rooms up to 1,000 square feet.
  3. Oil heaters are good for heating small rooms up to 300 square feet.
  4. Oil heaters generate heat on their radiator fins which then transfers the heat around the room. As a result, the room takes longer to be heated.
  5. Oil heaters can create some smell, especially if dust collects on the radiator fins.
  6. Oil heaters take more time to cool down than an infrared heater.

Which is Better: Oil Heater or Electric Heater?

Being certain when buying a new heater can be tricky.

Especially when having so many options at your disposal. 

An oil filled heater or an electric heater can be the best option depending on your needs and space.

Compared to oil filled heaters, electric heaters are better for heating large rooms as well as smaller rooms more quickly. The reason is that electric heaters come in variable sizes and some models include fans that distribute the heat faster.

Oil filled heaters are better than electric heaters when it comes to long-lasting heat. These units continue to radiate heat even when they’re turned off. Also, oil heaters are silent. Some electric heaters make considerable noise with the fan moving.

If you’re looking for a bedroom heater, then an oil heater is a good choice. They’re the most quiet and can silently keep the room warm.

If you’re looking for a small room heater, both an oil heater and electric heater can work well. But remember that an oil heater will provide longer-lasting heat than an electric heater (unless you get an infrared heater which produces the most efficient heat).

If you’re looking for a large room heater, then an electric heater is the best option. You can choose between various types of heaters and pick the unit that meets the size of your room

Is it Cheaper to Run an Electric Heater or Oil Heater?

The cheapest portable heaters to run are oil filled heaters.

Oil filled heaters are cost-effective because oil has a relatively high boiling point. To generate heat, the heating element is heated up with oil which flows around the cavities of the heater by convection.

Once the oil is heated, the unit cycles on and off to maintain the set temperature.

This process produces long-lasting and efficient heating of the air inside a room.

An electric heater, on the other hand, must constantly be running to generate heat. Once the unit is turned off or the thermostat reaches the set temperature, the heater will stop warming up a room.

If you’re not careful, an electric heater can increase your electricity bill if it’s running for too many hours throughout the day.

The best electric heaters are models that include energy-saving features and adjustable thermostats to keep electricity use low.

Technically speaking, both an electric heater and oil heater use the same amount of electricity: 1,500 watts, but it’s due to the heating method that makes it cheaper to run an oil heater vs an electric heater.

Summary of Electric Heater vs Oil Heater

Investing in a heater that’ll take you through the winter is a very serious matter.

As we’ve seen in this comparison of electric heater vs oil heater, both come with their own disadvantages and advantages.

Hopefully, this guide has helped you figure out which unit is best for your needs. 

If you’re still doubting between an oil heater vs electric heater, then you should know that both are excellent choices regardless of the type you pick.

Both heaters are easy to use, highly portable, and heat rooms efficiently.

Selecting either of the two heaters will go a long way in saving money on your annual electricity bills when used wisely.

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About David Morrison

David is an Air Quality & Comfort Technician. He has expert knowledge on the technology and design of air purification, air conditioning, and heating systems. His main role is to write content that helps people get the most value out of their air purifiers, air conditioners, and heating units. (See Full Bio)