Heating with electricity: a comparison of variants and costs

Heating with electricity: a comparison of variants and costs

Gas heating is still the most established heat source in Germany. But heating with electricity is gradually catching up. What electrical heating methods are there? We look at variants and show the costs in comparison.

Heating with electricity: The best variants

With an electric heater you are less dependent on gas. That sounds attractive. There are many alternatives that are more or less profitable. We have put together popular variants for you.

We also show you in comparison which heating is more efficient. We clarify whether heating with photovoltaic electricity is worthwhile and whether heating with electricity is the future.

Electric heat pumps

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This heat pump can also be seen on more and more house walls in Germany. Image: © napa74/AdobeStock 2022

According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection , gas was by far the largest heat source in Germany in 2020. Around 50 percent of all heating systems were operated with it. Another quarter was due to heating with oil. Less than three percent of all households heat with electricity. But already in 2021, electric heat pumps were the most popular heating method in new residential buildings with over 40 percent. This is shown by BDEW in an analysis of data from the state statistical offices.

Electric heat pumps can output a multiple of the electricity used as thermal energy. One kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity produces up to five kWh of heating energy. With an average annual requirement of 20,000 kWh heating energy, you consume around 4,000 to 5,700 kWh of electricity.

However, the acquisition costs are high, despite state subsidies: between 13,000 and 30,000 euros will come your way here. Switching to a heat pump can be worthwhile for apartment and house owners. However, it is not an option for most tenants in the short term.

Oil radiators: Electric heating with hot oil

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With oil, but still electric: Oil radiators. Image: © 6okean/AdobeStock 2022

Mobile electric heaters, which you use in addition to or in alternation with the gas heating, are more suitable. Oil radiators look similar to normal wall-mounted heaters, but can be pushed through the apartment and connected to the mains using a plug. They are therefore suitable for targeted heating with electricity in individual rooms.

The heating oil in the radiator is heated by electrical heating resistors and then gives off heat evenly. An oil radiator costs 50 to 300 euros to buy. But use it sparingly, because it consumes a lot of electricity: If you heat with such a device for three hours a day, it uses between 21 and 52 kWh of electricity a week.

Radiators Buy now at

Fan heater: Hot air from the socket

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Heat up a room quickly with hot air: that's what a fan heater does. Image: © Evgen/AdobeStock 2022

Another mobile radiator that you operate with electricity is the fan heater . It sucks in the cold air in the room, heats it with electrical heating elements and blows it back into the room. However, this is accompanied by a noise level of at least 47 decibels, which corresponds to the volume of rain.

Some fan heaters are particularly cheap to buy. You can get the smallest ones from 15 euros – but there are also models up to 700 euros. With an output of 2 kWh, however, with three hours of heating per day, you quickly reach a weekly consumption of around 42 kWh of electricity for a single room. So far, this heating method has not been able to completely replace gas heating either.

Fan heater Buy now at

Radiant heater: Heat via infrared or quartz element

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There are chic panels: infrared heaters. Image: © MediaMarktSaturn 2022

Radiant heaters include a variety of devices that provide heat with infrared rays. They are mostly used for outdoor heating because they provide targeted heat even when it is windy. Some models are also suitable for indoor use. Get advice before you buy, so that there is no risk of fire.

Radiant heaters with quartz elements have an average power of 1 kWh, which varies greatly depending on the size. They can be operated for around 21 kWh per week if you heat with them for three hours a day.

Heaters with infrared panels take up quite a large area on the wall or ceiling, but are more economical with an average output of 500 watts. During the week they consume only 10 to 11 kWh with comparable use.

Radiant heaters are available from 30 euros. More expensive models cost up to 500 euros.

Radiant heater Buy now at

Comparison: These costs arise when heating with electricity

If you want to heat cheaply with electricity, the heat pump is the most efficient. On a weekly average, it consumes around 75 kWh. But that heats an entire household. The heat pump is difficult to compare with other electric heaters that you switch on in individual rooms for a few hours.

Here infrared heaters have the lowest consumption. The panels are even more economical than devices with quartz elements. Oil radiators and fan heaters share last place. If you heat a room with them, you use the most electricity.

The weekly power consumption with three hours of heating per day in direct comparison:

  • Infrared panels: 10 – 11 kWh
  • Radiant heater with quartz elements: 21 kWh
  • Fan heater: 42 kWh
  • Oil radiator: 21 – 52 kWh

Heating with photovoltaic electricity

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Electricity from your own roof: You can heat with that too. Image: © jozsitoeroe/AdobeStock 2022

In addition to the device used when heating with electricity, the power source is also important. A significant part of the electricity in Germany is still generated by burning natural gas. But there are many providers who offer electricity from 100 percent renewable energies.

Of course, heating with photovoltaic electricity is also possible. Depending on the weather, the heat pump is then undersupplied. In this case, you can buy a battery for your system. Then you automatically switch to battery operation when the sun isn't shining. However, they are expensive to buy and sometimes reach their limits when the heating is in full operation.

Which is cheaper: heating with electricity or gas?

Heat pumps are three to five times more efficient than gas heaters. They convert one kilowatt hour of electricity into up to five kilowatt hours of heating energy. That means, at current energy prices: The heat pump is around 30 to 50 percent cheaper than gas heating.

Mobile radiators, on the other hand, are significantly more expensive to operate. They are currently only suitable for occasional use. If you use them in a targeted manner, you can reduce your gas consumption. You still save overall.

Is heating with electricity the future?

Heating with electricity has potential. It can already be more sustainable and economical. And against the background of possible independence from natural gas in the long term, it is developing into a real alternative.

New construction projects are increasingly relying on electric heating and in the long term these and comparable technologies will be available in most households. For the time being, one can say: Heating with electricity is the future.

summary

  • Heating with electricity makes you less dependent on gas. But not every method is equally efficient.
  • A heat pump allows homeowners to heat with electricity at a coefficient of three to five.
  • Oil radiators and fan heaters are suitable for occasional use, but have a high power consumption.
  • Radiant heaters are significantly more efficient, especially with infrared panels.
  • Heating with gas is still cheaper than heating with electricity – with the exception of the electric heat pump.
  • But you can save by using both types of heating alternately.
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