What's the cheapest way to heat a room? Plus 9 expert ways to keep warm without using the heating

Knowing the cheapest way to heat a room could help keep your energy bills under control this winter

mother with baby on knee while sat on the sofa in front of an unlit fireplace
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Finding the cheapest way to heat a room is essential when it comes to keeping our homes warm, especially as it's now more expensive than ever before. 

The government’s energy bill freeze has capped the unit prices for electricity and gas for two years. Known as the Energy Price Guarantee (opens in new tab), this bills freeze means that the typical household will pay £2,500 a year for their energy. This is more than ever before, but significantly less than what the energy price cap (opens in new tab) was going to rise to. (Although remember this price is based on typical use. If you use more than the 'typical' amount of energy, you will likely pay more than £2,500). 

Goodto.com's Money Editor Sarah Handley (opens in new tab) says: "With families still facing rising prices all around, it's never been more important to keep costs low. Even though the Energy Price Guarantee will protect us from further energy price rises, and the £400 energy rebate (opens in new tab) will be landing in bank accounts from October 2022, we're still paying a much higher price for our gas and electricity than in 2021. So it's all the more vital that we understand how we can keep ourselves, our families and our homes warm cheaply and safely when the weather cools." 

You might be tempted avoid wasting cash by just heating the room you are in, rather than your whole property. Whether you’re working in your home office or spending Sunday on the sofa watching Netflix, just heating the room you’re spending all day in makes sense. But what's the cheapest way to do it?

What's the cheapest way to heat a room?

The cheapest way to heat your home is by using an efficient gas central heating system, thermostatic radiator valves, a room thermostat and a timer.

Gareth Kloet (opens in new tab), Go.Compare’s energy spokesperson, says: “At the moment gas is cheaper than electricity, so in real terms, using gas to heat a room, whether that be with gas central heating or a gas fire, should be cheaper than using an electric radiator or electric fan heater.”

Under the Energy Price Guarantee:

  • The price per kiloWatt hour (the unit of measurement for energy) of gas is 10.3p
  • For electricity, the price is capped at 34p.

It’s very difficult to put a figure on how much it costs to heat one room in your house using gas central heating and the radiator in the room. However, experts agree that it costs less to set your central heating to come on when you need it and just in the rooms that you are using, rather than running an indoor heater. Check out our guide to how many hours per day your heating should be on (opens in new tab) to avoid wasting heat unnecessarily. 

Energy adviser at the Centre for Sustainable Energy Katey Bell (opens in new tab) agrees with energy expert Gareth Kloet: “Although gas and oil prices have risen, they’re still cheaper than electricity. If you have a gas, LPG or oil boiler, it will be cheaper to use this than to use a plug-in electric heater.”

But if you don't want to heat your whole house, and just want to heat the room you are in, there are two main options you can choose from:

  • Gas fire
  • Indoor heater.

How much does it cost to run a gas fire?

On average a gas fire costs between 30.9p and 72.1p per hour to run. This is based on a gas fire requiring anything from 3kW to 7kW of power. If you have a 5kW gas fire and used it for an hour, this will cost around 51.5p per hour to run. But the exact running costs will depend on how much energy your fireplace uses, the size of your room as well as how often you use it. 

Uswitch says that if your living room or bedroom has a gas fire, it would only be worth using this rather than your central heating if the room is less than a third of the size of your home.

Using an indoor heater

If you don’t have a boiler or don’t want to use central heating all day, there are various types of electric room heater that will heat one room. These include bar heaters, convector heaters, oil-filled radiators, fan heaters and halogen-filled heaters. Some are portable, others fit to a wall.

When it comes to how much it costs to run an indoor heater (opens in new tab) again it depends on the type and model of heater you buy, how often you use it and how long you use it for. But these are likely to be more expensive than using a gas fire. 

 

9 genius ways to keep your room warm 

Whether you use central heating, plug-in heaters or a gas fireplace to heat your room, you’ll want to keep it warm and stop any unnecessary heat loss. 

1. Upgrade your curtains

Thermal or blackout curtains can help to keep heat in your home during the winter (as well as keeping heat out in the summer).

Yvonne Keal (opens in new tab), senior product manager at Hillarys, says: “A thermal lining on curtains creates a cosy insulating layer that can help towards reducing heat loss when your curtains are closed.

"Pair thermal or blackout linings with naturally thicker curtain fabrics such as velvet to improve the thermal qualities of your curtains even further.” 

You can buy a pair of thermal or blackout curtains for around £30, depending on the size you need, from places like Dunelm (opens in new tab), Amazon (opens in new tab) and Argos (opens in new tab). Keep you eyes on the sales too - if you find curtains that are the right length but too wide, consider whether you might be able to split them and use a single curtain for two windows instead to cut costs even further. 

2. Seal up draughts

Draught-proofing is one of the most effective ways to keep the heat in a room. Block cracks in floors and skirting boards and draught-proof your doors and windows. 

Draughtproofing doors and windows could save about £60 per year according to the Energy Saving Trust (opens in new tab), with more savings to be made if you have an open chimney at home. 

You can pay a professional to draughtproof your home, or you can do a lot of it yourself following guides on YouTube. But if you do it yourself, be careful that you don't block anything that is designed for intentional ventilation, like an extractor fan.

3. Make use of blankets

Remember there are plenty of cheap ways to keep warm (opens in new tab). Stay cosy for longer before you need to put the heating on again by making use of any blankets you have. Placing a hot water bottle under the blanket can help ramp up the warmth. 

Alternatively, you could consider an electric blanket instead (we've done the sums to see which is cheaper and more effective to use - an electric blanket or a hot water bottle (opens in new tab)). If you're wondering how much it costs to run an electric blanket (opens in new tab), it depends on what kind of blanket you have and how often you use it, but it's considerably cheaper than an indoor heater. 

Always follow the instructions when using an electric blanket and keep an eye on its condition to make sure its safe to use. 

4. Heat yourself rather than the room

If you can’t afford to put the heating on, focus on heating yourself instead. In addition to using blankets, wear several layers, including ski or mountaineering gear if you have it. Focus especially on keeping your head, hands and feet warm.

You could also consider heated gloves, insoles, gilets, heat pads and footwarmers that either plug into the mains or charge up via a USB and cost just 1p to 3p per hour to run. 

Remember too that if you are struggling to pay your energy bills (opens in new tab), help is available. Reach out to your supplier as a first port of call. 

5. Use radiator reflectors

Putting tin foil behind radiators reduces heat loss from radiators by reflecting heat back into the room and stopping it being lost via cold external walls. You can either buy specialist radiator foil, like this from Amazon (opens in new tab), or improvise with tin foil and cardboard to make it rigid enough to slide behind a radiator.

6. Use rugs if you have hardwood floors

If you have hardwood or laminate floors at home, think about switching to carpet or investing in a couple of inexpensive rugs to help your room feel warmer for longer. 

Flooring expert at carpet retailer SCS (opens in new tab) Ray Jones says: “As so much heat can be lost through the floor, it’s important to ensure your rooms are well equipped to handle the cold weather. Carpet is an ideal solution for this as it’s a poor conductor, meaning hot air will struggle to escape through it and cold air will become trapped in its fibres.

“Refitting your flooring for the winter season may not be feasible for some, so if you do have hard floors but would like to improve heat retention, a good rug can help towards that goal. Of course, it won’t be as effective as a fully carpeted room, but you definitely should notice a positive difference after laying it.”

7. Rearrange your furniture

Have a think about how your furniture is laid out and whether it could be rearranged to help you feel warmer. 

If you chair is near the doorway to the room or the window, you might find you tend to feel a draught, making you feel colder. Similarly, if you have radiator covers, or your furniture sits in front of a radiator, you might find that this is blocking the heat from effectively circulating around the room. 

Even if your space only allows you to partially unblock the radiator, that will help the room warm up quicker when the heating does come on. 

8. Keep doors closed

Warm air rises as it is less dense than cooler air, so depending on the type of property you live in, you might notice that it feels warmer upstairs than it does downstairs. 

To help keep warm air downstairs during the day, keep any doors to your hallway and stairs closed. This is also a good place to add a draught excluder (opens in new tab) as a extra layer of protection against heat escaping. 

If you live in a home with a conservatory, it's also a good idea to keep the door to it shut to prevent heat from escaping quickly out of the glass roof. 

Also make sure you close any windows before putting your heating on to make sure any heat you generate isn't going straight out the window - literally!

9. Be wise when you do use your heating

Making sensible use of the valves on your radiators can help you avoid wasting money by generating heat in rooms you're not currently using. You’ll either have manual or thermostatic radiator valves. Manual valves have a knob with the numbers one to six. You can turn them up, down or off depending on whether you want the room to be colder or warmer. One will be the coolest, six will be the warmest.

Thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) have a digital display. They give you greater control over the temperature of your home than manual valves because you set the valve to your desired room temperature.

Energy adviser Katey Bell says: “If you have thermostatic radiator valves, turn the radiators down in the rooms you’re not going to heat as much."

Andy Kerr (opens in new tab), founder at boiler company BOXT (opens in new tab), agrees, saying: “Installing thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) and using them with your thermostat could save £75 per year, according to the Energy Saving Trust. 

“They recommend using the thermostat to control the heat in your main living space and using TRVs to lower the heating in rooms you don't use as often. So, while you’re working from home you can keep the temperature comfortable in the room you work in, and reduce it in other areas to avoid heating up rooms when they’re not being used.”