Fan Heater vs Oil Heater - Which Is Cheaper to Run?

With so many options to heat the home, and households trying to spend less on energy, we’ve compared which is cheaper to run: fan heater vs oil heater.

image of a space heater
(Image credit: Future)

With expected heating bills to surge this winter, households are on the search for the most cost-effective way of heating. So which is cheaper, a fan heater or an oil heater? Below we’ll figure this out.  

But first, consider our other articles about home energy savings, including oven vs air fryerelectric heaters vs radiatorswood burning stove vs central heatingfan heaters vs oil heatersdishwasher vs hand washing, and our audit on how to save on energy bills

Fan heater: Cost to buy

For a 1,500-watt fan heater, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to as much as $150.  

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Fan Heater: Cost to run

Fan and oil heaters are different types of electric heating. According to CNET, running a fan heater costs around 20 cents an hour. This is for a 1,500-watt heater being used in a “standard” room. Say you’re home eight hours a day, you would spend around $50 a month.  

Fan heater: Pros and cons

1. You have the flexibility of shopping around for one at the right price for you.

2. Some come with temperature control which is a nice plus, but these tend to be more expensive. However, being able to control the heat output of your fan heater means you can also better control your energy use and costs.

3. The size of your room. If you have a large room or one with high ceilings, it’s going to be harder (and more expensive) to heat that room with just a fan heater. Judge the size of the room you need to be heated beforehand so you can purchase the correct size of a fan heater.

4. Insulation of your home. This is a big one. If your home isn’t insulated properly the heated air released will easily escape. As you can guess, a fan heater will be less effective without adequate insulation. This is where you are wasting the most money.

5. Fan heaters are known to give off short-term heat. When you turn it on, it will immediately start to heat your room, quickly filling the fan but once you turn it off, the heat will fade. If you want to heat a room temporarily, a fan heater is a good idea but again, the heat you get will not maintain and for many, this isn’t adequate especially during frigid days.

Oil Heater: Cost to buy 

For a 1,500-watt oil heater, you can expect to pay anywhere from $50 to as much as $250.  

Oil heater: Cost to run 

According to Home Inspection Insider, running a 1,500-watt oil heater costs an average rate of 10 cents an hour. If you run your heater for eight hours a day, it would cost you around $25 a month.  

Oil heater: Pros and cons

1. You have the flexibility of shopping around for one at the right price for you.

2. Most come with temperature control which is a nice plus. This function can help you cut energy costs, whereas a fan heater is either on or off.

3. Oil heaters have good heat retention. When you turn the oil heater off, it doesn’t cool off immediately thus still radiation heat. Less energy is required to heat your room, cutting even more of your energy bill.  

4. When heating a room, this typically makes the air dry. Oil heaters retain good airflow allowing for warmth and clear air without drying you out. According to Healthline, dry air can increases the risk of health issues. These can range from asthma and respiratory problems to dehydration, especially in the winter.

5. Oil heaters only provide a short-term solution. If you're trying to maintain heat in a room for more than a couple of hours, you’d be better off turning on your central heating.

The verdict

It’s clear that fan heaters tend to cost less than oil heaters (when comparing models with the same wattage.) But the big question is, which will lower your energy bill?

Oil heaters. 

They cost around half the amount to run than fan heaters do. Other benefits include better heat retention, safer use, and less dried-out air. 

When planning on investing in a new heater, whether it’s oil or fan, make sure your room has a good level of insulation so it can retain heat better. 

If you’re able to pay a bit more, you should consider an oil heater the overall winner.

Digital Producer,

Quincy is the digital producer at Kiplinger. He joined Kiplinger in May 2021. Before, he worked at Agora Financial - Paradigm Press and was a contributing writer for several other online media publications.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Quincy produces several newsletters, including Kiplinger Today, Investing Weekly, Tax Tips, Kiplinger’s Special Report, and Closing Bell. At the same time, he writes numerous articles every month. 

When he’s not working, he’s taking his dogs for a walk or fishing.