Electric heater vs air conditioner—it’s a decision we’re often asked to weigh in on by customers looking for the perfect heating solution. While an electric heater might seem like the obvious choice for the cooler months, reverse cycle air conditioners come with a range of benefits that often make them a more efficient and effective option. And in Brisbane where AC is a must in summer, what’s not to love about having your heating and cooling all in one?
Electric heater vs air conditioner — what’s the difference?
To provide some insight into the electric heater vs air conditioner debate, let’s take a look at the differences between the two.
An electric heater works by converting electric energy (i.e. electricity) into heat energy. Electric heaters pass electricity through a resistor to transform the electric current into heat energy. Radiant, oil and space heaters are all common types of electric heaters.
By comparison, a reverse cycle air conditioner is a heat pump that takes free heat from the air outside and releases it into the room. It works by using a reverse refrigeration cycle, whereby it passes a cold liquid called a refrigerant through an external coil to absorb heat from the air outside. The refrigerant is pumped by a compressor, down through chambers into a condenser, which warms the air up as it compresses it to create hot air. This hot air is then circulated around the room by a fan. Once this process is complete, the refrigerant cools to a liquid and the cycle starts again.
Reverse cycle air conditioners are available in wall-mounted, floor console, and ducted air conditioning systems.
Reverse cycle air conditioner — pros and cons
Versatile, energy efficient and cheap to run, it’s no wonder reverse cycle air conditioners are a popular option for heating in Brisbane. Here are just a few of the many advantages of reverse cycle air conditioners.
- Extremely energy efficient. In fact, reverse cycle air conditioners are three times more efficient than electric heaters. Because electric heaters convert electricity into heat they have a one-to-one power-to-heat ratio. That is, for every two kW of heat you need 2 kW of electrical power. By comparison, a reverse cycle air conditioner is able to absorb heat from the air outside, reducing its electricity requirements to 0.6 kW of electrical power for every 2 kW of heat.
- Enable heating and cooling, making them a more versatile option than electric heaters. This is especially beneficial in Brisbane, where air conditioning is even more important than heating.
- Evenly distribute air throughout the room. Daikin air conditioners have “3D” air distribution that circulates air to every corner.
- Thermostat control ensures no electricity is wasted by overheating.
- In-built timers mean the air conditioner can be set to turn on 30 minutes before your alarm goes off in the morning. You can get out of bed into a warm room for less than 15 cents per day.
- Modern reverse cycle air conditioners typically have air-purifying filters to prevent dust and other allergens from circulating around the room, making them a good option for people with asthma and allergies.
- Long-lasting with a typical lifespan of up to 20 years.
While not major, there are some downsides to reverse cycle air conditioning it’s important to keep in mind. Specifically:
- They need to be installed by a professional.
- The external unit can detract from your home’s aesthetic value, depending on where it is placed.
Electric heater — pros and cons
Unlike reverse cycle air conditioning, electric heaters only do one thing and tend to require more energy to do it. If you plan on using your heater most days in winter, the cons probably outweigh the benefits.
- They are relatively small and, depending on the type you buy, can be moved around the house.
- Available as standalone units and do not require installation.
- Low maintenance costs.
- High energy consumption, using three times more energy than reverse cycle air conditioners for the same heat output.
- Uneven heat distribution, meaning it is often hot near the heater and cold in the rest of the room. Once the heater is turned off, the room cools down quickly.
- Can cause safety issues. For example, a 2 kW electric heater can overload electric circuits (especially in older houses), potentially causing a fire. The high levels of radiant heat close to the heater can also cause nearby materials such as clothing or curtains to catch fire, while the heater itself gets very hot which can make it a risky option if you have small children.
Heater vs air conditioner cost — which one wins?
With electricity prices continuing to be a significant cost for most households, you’re probably wondering which option wins in the heater vs air conditioner cost challenge. Thanks to their superior energy efficiency, reverse cycle air conditioners are significantly cheaper than their electric heater counterparts.
To prove the point, let us run some numbers in terms of dollars. On today’s energy costs (winter 2013) of 25 cents per kWh the 2 kW electric heater will cost 50 cents per hour to run. The reverse cycle air conditioner will cost 15 cents per hour.
In a Brisbane winter assume that the heating is run for 10 hours per day for 8 weeks, or around 560 hours. The running cost for the electric heater will be $280, while the air conditioner will only cost $84! That’s nearly a $200 saving.
The reverse cycle air conditioner is the clear winner in the AC vs heater debate
Energy-efficient. Cheap to run. Guaranteed performance. These are all benefits that make reverse cycle air conditioning the clear winner in the AC vs heater debate.
To summarise, the main benefits of reverse cycle air conditioners are:
- Superior energy efficiency – three times more efficient than an electric heater.
- Budget-friendly – at just one-third of the cost of an electric heater thanks to lower electricity consumption, reverse cycle air conditioning is one of the most cost-effective ways to heat and cool your home.
- Consistent temperature throughout the room – thanks to thermostat control and even air distribution.
- Temperature control – timers or Smart Phone control guarantee a comfortable morning wake up environment, no matter how cold it is outside.
- Improved safety – air conditioners have none of the fire hazard risks of electric heaters, giving you peace of mind that your home and family will be safe no matter how long the unit is on for.
- Long-lasting – with a typical lifespan of up to 20 years, the upfront investment pays off over time.
While we strongly recommend our customers choose a reverse cycle air conditioner, in some cases an electric heater may be the better option. If you do decide that an electric heater is the best option for you, and you live in an older house, it is recommended that the switchboard and wiring be checked by a local electrician.
To find out more about how a reverse cycle air conditioner can make next winter more bearable, get in touch with Crown Power today, your experts in air conditioning and electrical services.