Panel heaters are low cost home heaters which heat purely using convection. Panel heaters, sometimes described erroneously as “panel radiators”, or more accurately “convection heaters”, heat rooms by warming the air. Hot elements in the panel body heat the air as it circulates around the room, keeping the room’s occupants cosy by surrounding them with warm air. Because the elements which heat the air are unenclosed, the heaters are cheaper and easier to manufacture than our electric radiators. Whilst convection heaters can be a fast and effective source of heat, they also come with three significant disadvantages which you should consider before choosing this cheaper option.
Panel heaters are less efficient than electric radiators
Convected heat is inherently less efficient than radiated heat. Radiation heats people directly, transferring energy in one straight-forward transaction. Convection heat is more convoluted. Panel heaters transfer heat to the air which in turn transfers heat to the people in the room. This is much less efficient. Heating by radiation effectively cuts out the middle man in the convection heating process, allowing less scope for energy loss. This means that you’ll need to use more power to heat your room with panel heaters than you would with energy efficient electric radiators. This in turn makes the heaters more expensive to run than radiators. If you use a panel heater frequently, any initial savings you made by choosing it over an electric radiator would quickly be outweighed by the greater running costs. It is difficult to compare exact running costs because every situation is different with different insulation, windows etc, but smart fluid radiators are around 20% cheaper to run than panel heaters.
Panel heaters are not suitable for constant use
The unenclosed elements which make panel heaters cheap to produce have some unfortunate disadvantages. Because the hot elements come into direct contact with the air, any dust circulating around the room can burn and leave sooty deposits on the wall. Over time this can cause wall blackening and damage to paintwork. Circulating dust particles can also agitate allergies. This means that panel heaters should not be used as your primary home heating source. The good news is that wall-blackening only becomes a problem for panel heaters if they're used every day; if you have a panel heater for portable use, or for heating a secondary space like a spare room, wall blackening won't be a problem. Wall-blackening is an issue common to all convection heaters – no matter what the brand, price or style.
Panel heaters are less durable than electric radiators
Because panel heaters are less efficient than electric radiators, they have to work much harder to heat home spaces. This can give them significantly shorter lifespans than our energy efficient radiators. The lifespans of panel heaters often suffer from cheaper manufacturing designed to satisfy a demand for low priced heaters. Again, this is only a problem if you intend to use panel heaters as your prime source of heat – a shorter lifespan will not be an issue in rooms you only use occasionally.