Space heating is a must for many families as we enter the colder months of the year but how do you choose the right system? There are a number of different heaters, each with their merits and drawbacks. Some can blast you with enough heat that you’ll think you are on vacation in the Caribbean; unfortunately that comes with a hefty bill at the end of the month. If you are looking for something that effectively takes the chill out of your home, then a wall panel heater might just suit your pocket. Wall panel heaters are heavily promoted as being cheap to run and they generally consume around 400W of power. They are better for the environment - using one for an hour would result in as little as 0.5kg of CO2 emissions and cost only a few cents.
The low cost energy saving solution that I purchased to fit to my son’s bedroom wall.
What are Wall Panel Heaters?
Wall panel heaters are known as a convection heating appliance meaning that they warm the air in the room. The heaters are slimline in design and are wall mounted. They can be installed singly in your home or office or in multiples to improve the comfort levels. They are constructed from a fibre-cement board (non-asbestos) within which a heating element is completely encapsulated inside the panel. Around 90% of the heat from the panel is in the form of convection heat from the back of the panel while the remaining 10% is radiated from the front of the panel. The wall panel heater works similarly to a central heating system. As the panel and the wall which it is mounted against heat up, the air between the panel and the wall begins to heat up and the hot air rises. The motion of the hot air rising continuously draws in cooler air from the bottom of the heater causing it to become heated. They are thermostatically controlled to create a comfortable environment and run off mains electricity. These types of heaters rapidly heat up and provide space heating for the period for which they are running. They are a very economical form of ‘background’ heating that is safe and effective.
Energy Saving Heating for Your Home
Panel wall heaters are some of the most economical heaters on the market; this is because they are of such a low wattage and consume very little electricity. Typical households will use a 1500W space heater for one room but a panel heater can warm the same space of your home for up to 75% less electricity. A standard panel heater is normally rated at 400W and is an effective option to take the chill out of the air, for long periods of time. In winter months they can be kept on 24/7 to maintain the room temperature. They are specifically designed to heat an average size room of about 3m x 4m (12m2) and will only cost you approximately a few cents per hour to run!
Low cost heating is amazing - however are wall panel heaters able to do a good job of heating a bedroom? This depends a lot on the insulation currently in the ceiling and walls of your bedroom and the current temperature outside. When considering space heating one must realize that your bedroom’s construction and insulation properties are basically just factors in an energy equation. With the amount of energy being released into your bedroom from the heater there is also a heat loss through the walls and windows and gaps in your ceiling. The bedroom forms an energy balance and an equilibrium temperature is reached in the room.Credit: Sudocream
When a 400W panel heater and a 2300W thermostatically-controlled oil column heater are put to the test in a controlled experiment where the outside temperature is 8°C, the difference in results is to be easily expected. It’s clearly an unfair match with the heating capacity of the oil column nearly 6 times greater. The fastest at heating is the oil column heater at 8.2 minutes to raise the temperature by 2°C.However the panel heater took 21 minutes to just move the temperature gauge. This clearly demonstrates the advantages of a higher power rating heater – instant comfort in heat!
Both of the heaters were left to run for a 2 hour period in the test. After no more than one hour, the oil column heater’s thermostat kicked in at 16°C and it began to cycle on and off to maintain the temperature. The thermostat temperature of 16°C was selected as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that bedroom temperatures do not drop below 16°C. The flat panel wall heater managed to raise the temperature to 12.2°C over the 2 hour period and showed positive signs that equilibrium temperature had been reached.
So what does this say about the wall panel heater’s ability to heat your bedroom? Well it shows from the above experiment that low wattage panel heaters can only do so much to heat your bedroom. Eventually the heating capacity is reached and the energy balance stabilizes. In simple terms: the energy in equals the energy out. It can be concluded that panel heaters are more than 3 times more economical to run but their heating capacity is limited. At best, panel heaters serve to take the chill out of the air and make the winter more bearable.
Advantages of Wall Panel Heaters
These are the main advantages that one can expect to benefit from using wall panel heaters:
- Energy saving – Very low electricity consumption (0.4kW/hr) translating to a lower energy bill for space heating.
- Quick and easy to install – I installed the wall panel kit in less than 30 minutes. Only had to drill the four mounting brackets and pin the panel in.
- Slim and compact design – A panel is mounted discreetly against a wall, saving on floor space and can be painted with a PVA or emulsion paint to match the interior décor of the home.
- Safe for children and pets – There are no fans or hot elements exposed. The panel operates with a relatively low surface temperature (75 - 90°C depending on ambient temperature). This may sound hot but as the fibre-cement is a poor thermal conductor, not enough heat transfer can take place from the hot surface for your finger to become burnt.
- Health hazard free – The panel does not contain any health hazardous materials such as asbestos. Due to its design and unlike a bar, fan or gas heater, it does not use up oxygen therefore will not starve the air of oxygen and is safe to leave on while you sleep. Rather the panel heater will warm the whole room without drying out the air.
- Silent design – It is completely silent and ideal for bedroom environments where you want peace and quiet.
- Heating capacity – It is able to heat an average size room of about 3m x 4m (12m2).
- High reliability – Due to the panel’s design, in which the heating elements are not exposed to air, dust is unable to collect on the heating wires which could eventually cause a burnout, as is the case with other types of heaters. There are no moving parts, such as a fan for blowing air, which is a high failure item.
Where Wall Panel Heaters are Most Effective
From my personal experience, I find panel heaters to be effective space heaters only in the ‘low traffic’ areas of your home. Rooms such as the bedroom or study which can have the door closed whilst you are sleeping or working, really get most effective use from the heater. Due to their low heating capacity they need to be left on for a long period of time. Panel heaters are not up to the challenge of heating a large, draughty living space, with people coming and going. This is where a gas heater or alternatively an infrared heater would be a smarter choice. Otherwise panel heaters can be quite effective in closed spaces and since they do not use oxygen, are non-flammable or combustible and so can be safely left on while you sleep.