Don't buy this Kmart electric heater

Oil-column heaters are found in many Kiwi homes, but they aren’t all created equal – some are downright rubbish.

20jun dont buy this heater hero

The Anko HD904-11 bombed in our test. This Kmart model’s $59 price seems like a bargain, but this heater holds the dubious honour of being our worst-performing heater.

It took nearly an hour to heat our laboratory test room from 8°C to a (still cold) 13°C, a whole lot longer than a 2400W heater should. It does have a good thermostat that controls temperature quite well (when it eventually reaches your preferred setting) but we suspect that wait will be too long for most people. The next cheapest oil-column in our list comes in at around $100 but the extra cost is worth it as it has vastly superior performance.

Are they all the same?
20jun anko hd904 11a

Oil-columns don’t always fare particularly well in our testing (which rewards heaters that’ll warm your room in a jiffy). However, some do perform well enough to earn our recommendation. While none of them are particularly fast at heating, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have a place in your home. They are well suited to bedrooms, as they provide a cosy background warmth that’ll help you get off to sleep on cold nights – you just need to remember to switch them on in time to get things cosy before bed. They have the added bonus of having no exposed elements, so they’re safer around small fingers, though be careful of falls into the fins as that will cause a few tears.

What’s a better way to heat my home instead?

If you have access to cheap or free firewood, then a woodburner is your best bet. Failing that a heat pump is your next best option for keeping the chilblains at bay.

These fixed-heating options are efficient but come with sizable installation costs that are beyond the reach of many homeowners and tenants. So electric heaters remain a good option, especially in bedrooms, studies or rumpus rooms that aren’t too cavernous. Our testing has found some top-notch heaters you can pick up for less than $50.

A cheap way to keep you warm in the lounge or bedroom is an electric blanket or heated throw. Rather than trying to heat the room, these just keep you feeling toasty and only cost a few dollars to run per year.

Next step – keep that heat in

Once you’ve generated the heat, your home will work as hard as it can do get rid of it. Stop this from happening by loading up on insulation, blocking draught-causing gaps and make sure your curtains are in order. Our testing found honeycomb blinds work best but there are a few cheap hacks you can try at home that’ll help you save money in the long run.

Stay in the know

Keep up-to-date with Consumer's latest news, investigations and product and service reviews, plus join the Consumer panel with invitations to take part in surveys.

Member comments

Get access to comment

R K S.
01 Jul 2020
Power drawn

Perhaps that particular heater was faulty? Although, the member review by Gavin S. says "was this heater actually rated at a lower power output than specified on the data label?", so the problem may be more widespread.
Measurement of the instantaneous load over the course of the 120 min test would indicate just how often it's drawing 2.4 kW, then we'd know what's really going on.

N & M B.
27 Jun 2020
Power drawn?

Is sounds like the heater was not drawing the rated 2400W, as all power consumed by resistance heaters is converted into heat and then transferred to the air. Was the power consumption measured?

Consumer staff
29 Jun 2020
Power drawn

Hi N & M B.

You are correct in assuming that. We do measure power consumption and this heater was way below the expected 4.8kWh after 120 minutes. It's a pattern we see in most oil-columns but this one was particularly low.

A simple resistance element will consume electricity at this rate, but a heater can slow down consumption with the thermostat or the built-in safety devices.

We believe that the overall diminished performance of oil-columns comes down to the fact that the upper limits for the temperature of the device itself are much lower than other heater types (probably to lessen the risk of too much pressure building inside the fins). You've probably found you can touch an oil-column when it's on its highest setting but wouldn't dream of it with another heater. Stopping the unit from getting too hot impacts the speed of heating up a room, but the room should eventually reach your set temperature.

Kind regards
James le Page - Technical writer