Air Conditioning vs Heaters: Which is More Efficient?

Air Conditioning vs Heaters: Which is More Efficient?

It’s a frosty winter morning, you’ve just had a shower. A cold draught sneaks into the bathroom and you know where it’s coming from. Your bedroom. 

Giving yourself a pep talk, you count to three before opening the door and dashing toward the heater. You shiver as you rush to get your warm clothes on as quickly as possible, standing as close as you physically can get to the heater, appreciating its blistering heat on the front of your shins. 

South African houses are designed for heatwaves, not cold fronts! 

So, how does your family survive those snaps of cold we get from time to time? If you’re weighing up air conditioning vs heaters, this comprehensive guide has all you need to know. 

Heating With Air Conditioning

The phrase ‘air conditioner heating’ might sound a bit contradictory, they make air conditioning systems for cooling, after all. These days, almost all air conditioning units are built with a reverse cycle function. This makes their heating just as effective (and economical) as their cooling capabilities. Reverse cycle air conditioners that are powered by inverter motors will have the most efficient energy ratings.   

As a super-simplified explanation, a reverse cycle works because energy from the air outside is extracted and pumped into your home. This is opposite to what the unit does during cooling. For cooling to happen, warm air inside your home is removed and sent outside. 

Refrigerant gas, pipes, and a heat pump are all involved in extracting, transporting and releasing warm or cool air back into the room at the correct temperature. 

For our South African climate, air conditioning is a must. Having a unit that can do an equally good job of cooling and heating as temperatures vary is a win in any season.

Is It Cheaper to Run the AC or Heater?

In terms of electricity, what uses more power, AC or heater? 

An electric heater works by transforming a current which passes through a resistor into heat energy. This creates a power to heat ratio of 1:1, meaning 1kW of electricity only provides 1kW of heat. 

How efficient is air conditioning for heating? Since air conditioners extract warmth from the surrounding air and are regulated by minimum performance standards, they use less electricity to do a better job. In other words, yes, it is cheaper to run the AC because they produce heat more efficiently. 

What Are Space Heaters?

Space heaters warm up a certain volume of space, fueled with gas or electricity. If you sit very close to a space heater, it will warm you up, but the second you step away from it you’ll realise that the air in the room is still chilly enough to make you cold. Space heaters include fan, ceramic, infrared, and oil heaters. 

Like a fireplace, infrared heaters create a natural-feeling warmth with an element that glows brightly as it gets hot. Infrared heaters are intended to warm up the person closest to them, not the entire room.

Oil heaters are electrically powered. They work by gradually heating up the air around them. They are designed for sensitive temperature control because it takes a long time for their effects to be felt. So, they need to be safe enough to leave on for extended periods unattended. 

Regardless of the type, heaters all work on more or less the same idea. An element within the heater passes warmth to the immediate environment or occupant. 

In very cold places, space heaters are used in addition to central heating systems. They all use quite a lot of fuel to run, whether gas or electricity. 

If you like the idea of having your whole room warmed up within a few minutes, then heating with air conditioning is the way to go. Plus, no more family fights over who gets to put their feet closest to the heater!

Heater vs Air Conditioner Cost

There is a clear winner when it comes to air conditioning vs heaters on the energy-efficiency front. (We do understand though, that not everyone can afford the upfront cost of an aircon, and a heater is the next best thing. And that’s fine – it’s a personal decision after all.)

Delonghi 7 Fin White Oil Heater - KH770715

Delonghi 7 Fin White Oil Heater – KH770715

This Delonghi oil heater costs R1,399.99 to buy upfront, but the more watts a heater uses, the more it will load onto your electricity bill. At a max setting of 1500 watts, you can expect your monthly expenses to go up, especially since oil heaters are designed to be left on for a long time, even throughout the night while you sleep. 

If you want to work out exactly how much you’d spend, you can use this helpful guide from 1Life.

If you compare the oil heater above with this Samsung 18000 BTU inverter air conditioner, your upfront purchasing cost will be much higher (it currently retails at R12,999.99) but what you save in the cost of running it makes up for the higher price. 

As mentioned, the power of an AC distributes heat throughout a room in minutes, and, up to three times more efficiently than electric heaters. 

Samsung 18000BTU Inverter Air-conditioner - AR18TSHG

Samsung 18000BTU Inverter Air-conditioner – AR18TSHG

On top of it all, heating isn’t even the main reason you’d want to get an air conditioner. Besides keeping your home warm in winter, an AC will keep you cool in summer, which is more than one single-use heater can do. Moreover, installing an air conditioning unit adds to the value of your home.  

Keep Calm and Turn on the Aircon

It’s a frosty winter morning, you reach over to your nightstand to check the time… five more minutes… 

Your timed air conditioner automatically started itself and set to work a little before your morning alarm. You spend a few more minutes cuddled up in your duvet as the room warms up. When you feel ready to face the world you rise, stretch and get ready for the day. The end. 

When you compare the benefits of air conditioning vs heaters, there’s a clear winner. With even, powerful, energy-efficient heating, aircons are worth the investment. 

Check out Hirsch’s fantastic air conditioners for great deals!