Space Heaters

Convector heater vs. oil-filled radiator: Which one is better?

Heating Trends, last updated on December 3, 2022

Let's go over the basic working principles of a convector heater and an oil filled radiator along with the pros and cons to consider.

#convector#oil radiator

Convector heater vs. oil-filled radiator: Which one is better?

The offer of convectors and oil radiators is really endless and the design often plays an important role when deciding which one to get.

There are a lot of little details that separate the two, but we should first focus on the most important things - their efficiency, safety and the way they warm a space.

Convector vs. oil radiator efficiency - which is cheaper to run?

Before going into details of each heater and how they produce heat, let's first talk about space heater energy efficiency. When deciding on a space heater, people often wonder which one will consume the least electricity and go easy on their electricity bills.

The truth is, both convector heater and oil-filled radiator are 100% efficient, they convert all consumed electrical energy into heat, which means there’s zero waste. Technically speaking, if both of our heaters have a real power of 1.5 kW, exactly 1.5 kW of heat is created by electrical heating elements and dissipated into the room.

But that doesn't mean that they'll both be equally suitable for the same enviroment.

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Convection vs. radiant heating

Convector heater works by air convection which means it warms the air and circulates it naturally, while an oil radiator works by both convection and radiation. Radiant heat warms objects in it's surroundings and provides a more pleasant and natural feeling of warmth, but it also takes longer for the room to reach the desired temperature.

Because a convector heater circulates the warm air though the room, it will heat the room much faster than an oil radiator. Keep this in mind when making your decision.

Is your room drafty, do you like to crack open a window and have the fresh air come in? In this case, convector would be a better option for you.

Are you looking to place a heater in your office where people come in and out all the time? Convector will work better.

If you like to enjoy a more pleasant, radiant heat with consistent temperature in a cozy room with minimal draft - oil radiator might work better for you.

Convector vs. oil radiator safety

We all know that space heaters don't have a great safety reputation and have a potential to ignite combustible materials like carpets, curtains, beds, sofas. And that's why we don't like to keep them unattended.

If we had to choose the safer option between the two types, we would definitely go with an oil radiator. The heating element inside an oil filled radiator is enclosed in a case as opposed to a convector, which has its heating elements exposed.

That doesn't mean that convector heaters aren't safe to use. Just choose a model that has more safety features, like tip-over and overheat protection. Avoid extension cords and always use space heaters safely and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

What is a convection heater?

Convection heaters rely on the natural circulation of air in order to heat it as efficiently as possible. A convector heater takes cold air from the bottom, cycles it through a heating element that heats that air, and then releases it through the upper opening.

Convector heater

This natural circulation is known as convection or thermal stratification, which means that the cool, dense air sinks while the warm and thin air rises. Such air circulation enables the room to heat up quickly.

Read more about convector heaters and how they work.

Electric convector heaters come at a low price and provide good heat for small to medium rooms. They convert electricity into heat by using heating elements which are often big in size so that they can operate at lower temperature.

Some convection heaters come with two flat panels, and use a fan to spread the heat and maintain the temperature of the room in which it is placed.

What is an oil-filled radiator?

Oil radiator is a not-so-lightweight heater with metal fins attached to the base and a control panel. Some oil radiators come with a single panel. They have an electric heating element submerged in diathermal oil, which uses electricity to provide heat.

It does not require refilling because oil is not combusted. Most versions come with small wheels which allows you to move them easily from room to room.

The electrical power is used by oil filled radiator that heats the reservoir oil with the help of a heating element. The heat is transferred to the oil that is then transferred to the surroundings of the oil and eventually into the whole room to maintain its temperature.

The oil in the heater has both high values of boiling point and specific heat capacity that allows it to remain in the liquid phase and makes it efficiently transfer the thermal energy to maintain the required temperature.

Which one looks better?

Space heater design isn't insignicifant, it's always nice to have a great piece of appliance compliment the interior of your room. In fact, a lot of people choose a heater by the way it's designed and often don't consider the safety features or little details.

Oil filled radiator design

Generally speaking, convectors look better and more modern. This is because they don't have fins like regular oil radiators which can sometimes look old fashioned. But that doesn't mean there aren't any nice looking ones. While the dull-looking grey paint seems to be a common one on oil radiators, there are also some great looking ones with a black finish.

Comparison of an oil-filled radiator and a convection heater

  • Convector heaters are often cheaper than oil radiators.
  • There is a built-in system of switching on and off automatically when the desired temperature is reached in both heaters.
  • Oil radiators retain heat, so even if you switch them off they keep on providing heat for some time, while an electric heater stops producing heat when turned off.
  • Oil radiators are safer to use because they are not hot from the outside and the whole system is enclosed. So, if you accidentally touch the grills you don't risk burning your hand, while the convector heaters are hotter.
  • Oil radiators usually have wheels so they can be moved easily.
  • Both heaters are easy to maintain and require only to be wiped once in a while.
  • Oil radiators are dust-free because they don't have any open space to let the dust in while convectors have exposed elements.
  • Convectors provide instant heat while the oil radiators require 30 minutes or more to get the room completely warm (depending on the room size).
  • Convectors are lightweight while the oil radiators are heavy due to the heavy liquid in them.
  • Oil radiators maintain a more consistent temperature because of their ability to retain heat.

Both heaters are equally good and both are portable (unless you go for a wall-mounted option), so the choice must be made based on the situation.