Plug-in heater features: what’s hot and what’s not?

From timers to smartphone apps, we check out what bells and whistles are worth your dough.

15may electric heaters hero1

Some $40 convector heaters heat a room as well as those costing 10 times the price. So why pay a premium? Pricier models have useful extra functions, but some of them leave us cold.

We compared two Goldair panel heaters with identical 1500W “bones”. The GPH350 model (left) costs $150 and should heat your room as well as the GPPH620 (right), which costs $90 more. That extra cash gets you a digital thermostat with inverter technology, some additional bells and whistles and an extra year on the warranty. Are these worth digging deeper for?

Timer

A timer can make using a heater more convenient and save you money. The best are easy to programme, so you can set the heat to come on at different times on different days of the week.

The GPPH620 panel’s auto-off timer is of limited value. When the heater is on, you can set it to turn off between one and 24 hours later. However, you can’t programme its off time, and the timer won’t turn the heater back on.

Don’t pay a premium for a heater with a built-in timer. You can plug any heater into a mechanical or digital timer, which you can get for about $10-15 from hardware and electrical stores.

Smarts

Pairing a heater with your phone could whisk you into a “smart” future, where your heater wakes before your morning alarm to warm your bathroom before you rise.

Unfortunately, the GPPH620 is nowhere near this smart. The panel pairs with your phone to offer “WiFi enabled controls”. Your phone becomes a remote control – a duplicate of the functions on the heater. Using the app means you can operate your heater when you’re not at home, and you can control multiple Goldair heaters.

Filter

A coarse plastic mesh on the base of the GPPH620 panel covers most of the lower vents – it won’t filter dust or pollen from the incoming air, but it should keep small rodents out of the heater. This “Bio Filter System” also comes with three pairs of 2x7cm inserts that Goldair claims will “absorb unpleasant smells”, “kill germs”, or “help to reduce stress”. It’s unlikely these tiny inserts will have any effect on your air quality.

While the GPPH620 filter system is worthless, HEPA and activated carbon filters are valuable. However, we’ve only found those fitted to a few combined heater and air purifier models.

Life

In our appliance reliability survey, only 7% of plug-in heaters developed a fault within five years. We’d expect these Goldair panels to last much longer than the two- and three-year warranty periods they come with – if either of them gave up the ghost in less than 10 years, we’d be asking the retailer for a repair, refund or replacement.

Faux fire

James le Page, Consumer NZ technical writer. James le Page, Consumer technical writer

The flaming tower of pointless

The Dimplex DHCER20FE ($229) is a tower heater with a trick up its sleeve – the lower third lights up in “flames” at the press of a button.

20jun plug in heater dimplex

I get that people covet the comforting effect of staring into a fire. It’s a nice thing to do. I grew up with a woodburner and scores of people still buy gas or electric fireplaces with fake logs to fake burn.

However, at some point, the fake fireplace will be pushed too far – and I reckon this is it.

While the flames are horribly unrealistic looking, the glowing ember looks quite good. The feature can be used independently of the heater to deliver a warm heart (but no actual heat). It’s all rather strange.

The romance is dead

I labelled it as having a “romance package” to get it across the threshold of my house, but as soon as my partner saw it, she said “it looks like something the Tiger King would pose in front of”. That killed the mood.

We used it while watching the telly at night and it warmed the room, but the flames were only ever put on a couple of times before never being used again.

I say save yourself some money and put the fireplace programme on Netflix instead. It certainly looks better.

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