Cheap devices, expensive use: fan heaters are not a good alternative to gas heating

Gas prices have already risen enormously in recent months and will continue to rise significantly.

Cheap devices, expensive use: fan heaters are not a good alternative to gas heating

Gas prices have already risen enormously in recent months and will continue to rise significantly. Many consumers therefore create electric fan heaters as an alternative. But the calculation does not add up, the devices burn even more money than gas heaters.

Actually intended more as an emergency solution or for mobile use, electric fan heaters are currently in high demand - and that in the middle of summer. From January to June 2022, around 600,000 units were sold in Germany, almost 35 percent more than in the same period last year. The reason for this is obvious: consumers are looking for alternatives to their increasingly expensive gas heating systems. Some also fear that the tap could be turned off - at least temporarily.

Gas prices more than doubled from 6 to over 15 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) last autumn and winter. After a temporary decline, they have been rising sharply again since the end of May due to reduced Russian deliveries and continued high global demand.

According to the comparison portal Verivox, new customers with an annual consumption of 20,000 kWh currently have to pay more than 26 cents/kWh. There is no end in sight, several suppliers have already announced price increases of more than 100 percent for the fall and the planned gas surcharge could make the kilowatt hour more expensive by a further 1.5 to 5 cents.

But fan heaters are no way out of the price spiral. The acquisition costs of around 50 to 200 euros, depending on the performance, are manageable. However, buyers underestimate the operating costs of the devices, even if their efficiency is close to 100 percent.

Fan heaters are technically very simple devices. In principle, they work like a fan that blows electrically heated air into the room. According to the heating experts at Thermondo, the rule of thumb is that you need an output of 100 watts (W) per square meter (m²) to heat a room sufficiently. This means that for a 20 square meter room you need a device with a nominal output of 2000 W.

This in turn means that the fan heater consumes two kWh of electricity in one hour. Based on the average price of 37.3 cents determined by the Federal Association of Energy and Water Industries (BDEW) in July, it costs around 75 cents. If you want to heat the room for eight hours a day, it costs 6 euros. For a single room, you already have electricity costs of 180 euros per month.

According to tenancy law, the heating phase in Germany runs from October 1st to April 30th, i.e. seven months. If the heating requirement remained the same, this would mean 1260 euros for the 20 square meter room. If there are more mild days at the beginning and end of the heating period, you might end up with 1000 euros.

When the price of electricity was three times higher than the price of gas, there was no doubt which heating method was cheaper. The difference isn't quite as big anymore, but it's still significant. According to Eon, the average heating gas consumption per square meter of living space is around 140 kWh per year. For a room with 20 m² that is 2800 kWh.

According to the current BDEW analysis, existing customers pay just under 14 cents/kWh, which means that gas heating for 20 m² costs 392 euros a year. At the current price for new customers of 27 cents, you get 756 euros; if you add 5 cents to the surcharge, the bill rises to 896 euros. Only at 36 cents/kWh does one reach the electricity costs of the fan heater with 1008 euros.

However, the prerequisite for a tie would be an unchanged electricity price. But that is not to be expected. Although not as extreme as with gas, electricity has also become more expensive in recent months. Last year, a kilowatt hour cost an average of just under 32 cents, now it's around 37 cents.

According to Forbes, new customers are currently paying an average of 41 cents, and the announcement by the Baden-Württemberg utility company EnBW that it will raise electricity prices in the basic supply tariff by an average of 31 percent from October shows how things will continue.

Federal citizens hardly have to fear that the gas will be cut off for them due to shortages. Private households are among the protected consumers, whose supply has legal priority even in the event of an acute gas shortage and, according to the Ministry of Economic Affairs, should be maintained "as long as possible".

According to "Bild", the chancellor's office is said to have recently discussed the danger that the pressure in the network could drop so much due to a lack of gas that numerous heating systems could switch off for safety reasons. Even if the pressure returns to normal, they stayed away until professionals put them back into service.

BDEW general manager Kerstin Andreae calls such speculation "scaremongering". It is true that a technician is needed to get heaters going again after a failure, she said on the ntv program "Frühstart", but there are precautions for a possible pressure drop in the lines. "If such problems occur in a street, in a gas pipeline, then the network operators and the players know this very well and can act very early on."

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