Gas heaters vs oil heaters: Which one is better?

Kate Reynolds
Jun 25, 2024
Icon Time To Read5 min read
// Bring the heat

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As the temperature drops, so too can our stomachs when thinking about the upcoming winter electricity bill. You want to feel warm and toasty in the cooler months, but with cost-of-living at the forefront of many people’s minds, finding a cost-effective solution is more important than ever.

If you’re weighing up between an indoor gas heater or an oil heater for your home and wondering which one is right for you, we’ve stacked them up side-by-side to see which one comes out on top when it comes to cost, pricing and efficiency.

Pros and cons

Oil heaters

Oil heaters retain heat well, are pretty much silent when running, don’t dry out the air, and the risk of a fire is low.
pro
Pros
pro Long lasting heat
pro Silent
pro Suitable for small and larger rooms
pro Affordable to purchase upfront
pro Low fire risk
con
Cons
con Heavy
con Can be hot to touch
con Slow to heat
con Can be expensive to run

Gas heaters

Gas heaters get the job done with gusto. They’re powerful, and can heat up a whole house quickly.
pro
Pros
pro Quick to heat up rooms
pro Suitable for heating entire homes
con
Cons
con Usually needs professional installation
con Risks of carbon monoxide leaks
con Costly to purchase
con Need regular maintenance

Gas heaters vs oil heaters: Price

There’s no two ways about it. Indoor gas heaters are more expensive to purchase upfront than oil heaters. That’s because they require professional installation, so you’re looking at shelling out at least four figures for a good gas heater.

Oil heaters on the other hand can be quite affordable upfront - because they’re smaller, more portable and don’t require installation - you just plug ‘em into your powerpoint. You can score a decent oil heater for less than $100.

We’ve got a couple of our best picks for both gas heaters and oil heaters below so you can compare prices.

Gas heaters vs oil heaters: Running costs

Gas was once hailed as the cost-effective champion of heating your home - but with the rising prices of gas around the country (and the fact that it’s a limited resource) the pendulum has been swinging away from gas for some time now.

We’ve got a more in-depth guide for the running costs of gas heaters, but the TLDR version is that recent data from Energy Made Easy shows that a low gas-usage heater is about the same cost to run as a mid-powered electric heater. So while it’s about 10c cheaper per MJ (Megajoule - the measurement unit for gas) than it is per average kW of electricity - gas heaters are hungry beasts and you’ll generally need to use more gas than electricity for the same effect.

If you can get your hands on a low MJ gas heater, it could be cheaper to run in the long term - especially if you live in a warmer climate - but generally speaking, a good oil heater is probably going to be more cost-efficient to run.

But oil heaters are not without their disadvantages. Thanks to the gradual heating, it can take some time to heat a room, so while you only need to put the gas heater on for the time you want to heat your home, oil heaters need to be turned on in advance, which can blow out the cost a bit.

Gas heaters vs oil heaters: Efficiency

There’s a few factors that come into play here. As a general rule, gas heaters will heat a room more quickly, and can easily fill a whole house with warmth. Where you live comes into play though - gas heaters are less effective in the cooler winter climates of the ACT, Tassie and Victoria as they need to work harder to stay warmer. You'll need to pay special attention to what size heater you get in these areas.

Oil heaters on the other hand take a lot longer to warm up a room, so you need to have them switched on for longer, and won’t be effective heating a whole house with a single device (unless you live in a small studio apartment). However, once a room is warm, oil heaters are very good at retaining heat.

"“When we reviewed the De’Longhi Dragon 4 Pro it took over four hours for a small room to lift by 5 degrees celsius. In larger rooms, with high ceilings this runtime will only get higher.”
- Anula Wiwatowska
Home and Lifestyle Tech Editor

Gas heaters vs oil heaters: Health and safety

For oil heaters, the main concern is that once they’re on, they are HOT. This is especially important for those with small children - the risk of burns is very real if little ones get too close and touch them (that goes for adults too!). They can also be pushed and topple over, and because they can be quite heavy (sometimes as much as 40kg) this has the potential to cause some serious damage, especially if they tip onto your toes.  And while the risk of fire is pretty low with an oil heater, don’t be draping your socks over one to warm them up.

Indoor gas heaters are not hot to touch when they’re on - but there is a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if the gas does not ventilate out of the room. Some people install carbon monoxide alarms to help detect if there’s a leak and the CM levels are getting dangerously high. Plus, it’s actually against the law to have an unflued gas heater in small rooms, like bedrooms and bathrooms, so options become limited.

So which is better?

Gas heaters are good for those who have the existing infrastructure in their homes to safely hook up a gas heater (and for those wanting extra peace of mind, installing a carbon monoxide alarm can help detect dangerous levels). Homeowners and those who can afford the upfront cost may want to consider a gas heater.

Oil heaters are much more portable and have a low upfront cost, so they’re better for people who are renting, only need to heat up a small space or room, and are conscious of upfront costs.

Other hot tips for keeping warm

Even the cheapest heater is not the most-effective way to stay warm, but luckily there are other ways to stay toasty during winter.

Hot drinks

Hot beverages warm us up from the inside - so pop the kettle on and enjoy a cup of Earl Grey. And while it might be tempting to enjoy a hot toddy or two, drinking alcohol actually fast-tracks our body’s cool-down, thanks to our blood cells not constricting as much. Stick to tea (or hot chocolate!).

Layers

Layering up helps trap body heat (rather than wearing one big puffy coat) so whip out the thermal undies, get your skivvie and scarf and wrap yourself in a delicious cocoon of clothing.

Heat packs/hot water bottles

A hot water bottle is a great cost-effective way to stay warm - especially popping one between the sheets before bed. Heat packs don’t stay warm for quite as long, but they get the job done, too.

Flannelette sheets

When the temperature drops, remember to switch over to flannelette sheets - the warmer material will keep you feeling warm and cosy in bed, compared to cotton or bamboo. Pop a few extra blankets on too.

Gloves and socks

We lose heat through our extremities, so when we keep our fingers and tootsies warm, it helps regulate our body temperature and keeps us feeling warm. And there’s nothing worse than cold feet - especially in bed (and especially for the person sleeping next to you) in the dead of winter. Bed socks, ugg boots, wool socks, slippers, gloves - these are all your friends when the temperature drops.

Insulate floors with rugs

Wooden floors are always much colder than carpet, so if your house has the former, then popping down some rugs can help take the chill out of your floors.

Hug someone you love

As if we need an excuse! Snuggling up with a loved one - whether they be human, feline or canine, is a great way to feel cosy and warm, thanks to the transfer of body heat. And it’s a well-known fact pets make excellent heat packs - no microwave needed!

FAQs

Should I buy a natural gas heater?

If you’ve got the infrastructure and the means, and have considered the risks of carbon monoxide leaks, then a natural gas heater could be an efficient way to heat your home, especially if you live in a warmer climate.

What’s an oil column heater?

An oil heater is also called an oil column heater. This is because they work by heating and circulating oil within the heater to warm the room, so they often take on column-like designs to make this more efficient.

Kate Reynolds
Written by
Kate Reynolds is a writer who's at her happiest when there's haloumi on the brunch menu and a dog to give pats to. She's worked as a travel writer, journalist, theatre reviewer, broadcaster and radio creative, and spends her weekends with as much of the aforementioned haloumi and dogs as possible. She writes on Cammeraygal and Wangal land.

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