How the Oil Filled Heater Does It’s Job?

Oil heaterA typical oil filled heater is also often referred to as a column heater, due to the columnar structure of the heating columns, often referred to as fins. These are a very common form of convection heating found in many homes and households, where they do a fairly good job of heating up a room.

They are referred to as oil filled heaters precisely because oil flows freely through the empty columns of the heater. There is a heating element at the bottom of the heater, and as the oil flows over it, it is heated up and then it carries this heat around the heater. The oil itself retains the heat for a long time, thus making it fairly efficient at transferring heat around the heater, and then out into the room.

The design of the columns on the oil filled heater is deliberately shaped to give a lot of surface area, thus transferring the heat from the heated oil much more readily through all the increased area the heat can emanate from.

Oil filled heaters are powered by electricity, thus making them slightly more expensive to run than a reciprocally sized gas heater. They are normally used in rooms where it is not safe to run a gas heater, especially an unflued one, such as in bedrooms or studies.

Useful to know:

  • Due to the very nature of the oil heater and the lower surface temperatures of the heater itself, they are usually considered quite a bit safer than electric fan heaters or radiant bar heaters, and as such are also a great heater to put into a children’s room or a nursery.
  • Even though they are fairly safe to operate, care must still be taken not to dry laundry by hanging it over the heater as the temperature can sometimes be hot enough to damage certain synthetic materials, or have them catch on fire.
  • A thermostat monitors the current temperature in the room, and shuts off the heating element whenever the temperature reaches the desired degree, thus minimizing extra running costs.


Typical oil heaters range in size from 300 watts to 2400 watts. The larger units cost more initially to buy and also to run, though they are quite adept at heating up larger spaces of course. They are moderately cheap to buy, with typical costs for a 2400 watt heater anywhere from $50 to $75. It is often fairly easy to pick up second hand units as well, and surprisingly enough because of the hardiness of the heaters they are usually a pretty good buy.

Is it Safe to Leave an Oil Filled Radiator On All the Time?

This is a question that I am asked a lot. I am always happy to hear people asking this because it shows me that people are concerned about safety issues, and that is important. While heaters do not, “cause more deaths than anything else in the United States”, they can be a very real danger risk. Many people underestimate the damage that an improperly attended heater, or a damaged heater can do. This question addresses a very important question, one which I am more than happy to discuss.

Many people wonder if it is safe to leave a heater on all the time or just when in the room. It all depends on the heater. I would not leave a small portable electric space heater on in the room if I was going to be gone for any length of time. Modern space heaters will turn off if they are tipped over, for example. But they do not have the necessary safety measures built in, which would help should a heater over-heat. I don’t know if there are any space heater safe to leave on when you are gone. Definitely, the small bar heaters or other electric heaters should be turned off if you are not going to be in the house. They should also be turned off at night, when you are sleeping.

House on fireI have been asked often, “How fast can electric heaters catch fire?” It all depends on the heater, and what is around it. Normally an electric heater will not just ‘catch fire’. Reasons that electric heaters catch fire are usually because of improper and inadequate wiring. Or, they are positioned too close to curtains or other flammable materials that catch fire, and then cause the heater to catch on fire.

If you want a heater that you can leave on, even when sleeping, and you do not have central heating, I would recommend the oil filled radiator. If you are wondering, “Is it ok to use electric heater when sleeping?” I would have to say that it depends on the heater. Small portable space heaters–no. Electric oil filled radiators?–Yes!

Generally, oil filled radiators are safe heaters to leave on when no-one is there. Using that type of heater is one occasion when it is fine to be sleeping with an electric heater on. You can even leave oil filled radiators on all day without causing any danger.

Normally I would suggest that you unplug unattended electric heaters. If you are wondering, ‘can I leave an oil filled radiator on all the time?’ The same would apply. If your oil filled radiator will be unattended for long periods of time, while you are at work for example, then you should turn it off. One great thing about oil filled radiators is that they often come with not only a thermostat that will regulate temperature within a room, but they also have a timer.

Cosy living room

So, you can turn your radiator off in the morning when you leave for work but program it so that it will turn on an hour or so before you arrive back home from work. This way you will have the security of knowing that your home is protected during the day and you do not have electric heaters running, but you will also know that your home will be warm when you step through the door as the timer will have turned your heater on in enough time to warm up your living quarters.

An oil filled radiator is one electric heater that is safe for children and pets. Last winter my cat rubbed up too close to a portable electric heater, the bar kind, and she ended up singeing her fur. While I did feel sorry for her, I also had to laugh as it was not a bad burn by any means but it must have given her a bit of a shock and she had a patch of fur that was slightly brownish rather than gray for quite a few weeks! She has since learned to respect heaters!


  • Some of the main oil filled radiator tips are to plug your heater directly into the wall socket, and not an extension cord.
  • Do not lay towels or other clothes over the heater when it is turned on.
  • Set the heater on a timer if you are going to be out of the house for any length of time.

Aside from those few considerations, I think that oil filled radiators are some of the safest heaters to use in your home.

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