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Best Electric Plinth Heaters (Reviews) in 2021: BUYING GUIDE
Whether you’re looking to renovate your kitchen or just need a sleek heating solution for your new house extension, an electric plinth heater can tick quite a few boxes off your search. But how do they work, are they better than the alternatives, and which one offers the best value for money?
Today, we answer these questions and more in our review of the top electric plinth heaters.
Table of Contents
What are electric plinth heaters?
If you’re asking this question, chances are good you’re not 100% certain what a plinth is. That’s okay, as most people actually get the definition wrong.
A plinth is a sort of hollow base that exists beneath your cabinetry. They were first put into use in order to form a barrier keeping rodents and bugs from ransacking your cupboard. But in modern times, a plinth also doubles as a convenient hidden space within which you can run electric cables throughout the kitchen.
An electric plinth heater takes full advantage of this second use-case, installing directly into the side of your plinth, then drawing power from your mains without any messy cables showing. It’s a compact warming solution that confers several advantages unavailable in other categories of heaters.
So, why shouldn’t I just use a plug-in space heater or panel radiator?
Indeed, plug-in electric space heaters abound on the market in all shapes, sizes and price points. But they all share a common inconvenience: they take up space that could otherwise be put to other (better) uses.
Even the most compact column heaters have an unavoidable footprint, and pose a tripping hazard with their electric cables. Meanwhile, panel heaters can monopolise entire walls, severely limiting your options for décor and cabinetry.
Electric plinth heaters, on the other hand, have none of these problems. They hide away mostly out of sight, occupying space that would otherwise go to waste beneath your cupboards. There’s no tripping hazard, and you don’t have to sacrifice precious space in order to stave off the wintry weather.
But that’s really only the half of it! The other main advantage of electric plinth heaters is based in physics. You may remember from your science lessons in primary school that warm air tends to rise; installing a heater at foot-level is thus the idea vantage point for really circulating warm air throughout the room.
What’s more, tile, stone, and wood floors all tend to get uncomfortably cold much quicker than the rest of the room. By producing warmth at foot-level, plinth heaters get immediately to work heating up the area that needs it most.
What are the best electric plinth heaters for my kitchen?
So now you’ve got a good understanding of what makes plinth heaters tick, and you’re ready to take the dive. Here, we present the results of our own comparison shopping to help you suss out which is the best electric plinth heater for you:
Glen Dimplex are a household brand with high-quality heating solutions for virtually any application, so it should come as no surprise their electric plinth heaters are some of the best in class. The WWFH20E is their best-seller, and it’s easy to see why with its stylish good looks, powerful heating element, and quality of life provisions.
The Winterwarm electric plinth heater features a generous 2000W heating element, producing more than enough heat turn frigid feet into toasty toes in kitchens as large as 2000ft3. Of course, if you don’t need all that power, you can simple dial it back on the thermostat.
But don’t think you’ll be getting on your hands and knees to fiddle with a small dial on your plinth heater; the WWFH20E exists for 21st century homes with its Bluetooth remote control. Not only can you change the temperature settings, you can programme them to operate on a seven-day timing schedule.
While the Winterwarm plinth heater is all about “set it and forget it”, you always have manual control turning it on and off with a simple switch set upon the device itself. Better yet, the switch illuminates with a red neon to indicate the heating element is indeed on and producing heat.
Worried about safety? Don’t be, as there are both thermal and electrical overload cut-out switches. Moreover, you never have to worry about burning your toes on the grille–the WWFH20E uses clever design and modern materials to ensure the surface never gets to scalding.
Finally, whilst looks are mostly up to subjective taste, we rather like the simple horizontal vent patterning adorning the clean-white grille. The switches are large enough to handle, but slight enough so as not to present an eyesore.
WWFH20E at a glance:
- 2000W Electric heating element good for up to 250 sq. ft.
- Bluetooth remote-controlled programmable thermostat and 7-day timer
- 1-year manufacturer guarantee
- 41 x 11 x 21.5 cm
Most electric plinth heaters lie politely out of sight, and out of mind by design. And at first glance, the austere stainless steel grille of the Space Saver SS2EW fits this mould perfectly. However, UK-based manufacturer Smith’s allows you to accent your décor, providing six different coloured overlay grilles to choose from (brown, chrome, brushed steel, gold, black, aluminium).
But of course, in heating form must always follow function, and the SS2EW delivers performance in spade. By default, its heating element runs at 2000W for an output of 6280 BTU/hr. However, you can also cut the power in half (1000W @ 3410 BTU/hr) to save energy or better fit smaller spaces.
Need more control? Smith’s ships their SS2EW with a programmable thermostat unit, which installs semi-permanently nearby the plinth heater for convenient access. Set it between 15 and 35° during the Winter, or kill the heat altogether and use the fan to circulate cool air during Summer.
Unless you really know what you’re doing, you’ll probably want to hire an electrician to get this (or any) electric plinth heater installed properly. But that’s the only prerequisite, as the Space Saver neatly slots into any standard electric mains.
The only possible knock against this unit is the lack of a neon power indicator. Then again, the heating control module will doubtless sit in a visible area, readily displaying the current operational setting.
SS2EW at a glance:
- Three modes of operation: 1kW, 2kW, or fan-only for cool air
- Semi-permanent thermostatic control unit included
- Amazing 5-year warranty
- 6 grille colours available
- Quiet fan at just 42 dBA
- 50 x 10 x 14 cm
Last but not least is another best-selling electric plinth heater in the form of CDA’s APH01SS. Many people opt for this one because of how easy it is to install; while it can indeed be wired directly into the mains via fused spur, it is also easy to swap out the leads for a standard 3-pin plug (not included).
That means all you’ve got to do is cut the hole in your plinth, run the cable through to a receiver, plug it in, then screw the fascia into place. There’s virtually no reason to ever opt for a plug-in space heater, which will hog your floor space in exchange for ease of use.
On its own merits, the APH01SS is an exception electric plinth heater through and through. It boasts superior utility, with three operation settings: 1kW standard, a 2kW boosted setting for warming your frigid tile or wooden flooring quick, and finally a warm-weather mode which blows a refreshingly cool breeze.
Indeed, the APH01SS performs as well as any plinth heater recommended thus far, but it lacks any form of thermostatic control. Instead, there’s a single illuminated power switch that controls the fan, plus two power toggles for activating the heating element. It’s not as convenient to control as other plinth heaters, but then again you may find you appreciate the elegant simplicity.
In terms of aesthetics, the APH01SS is a bit of a Plain Jane. While its grille design is entirely inoffensive, it will mostly be hiding out of sight anyway.
True to form for an appliance that demands little interaction from its owner, the APH01SS features excellent automated safety measures. It cuts the power if it detects a surge in power or temperatures approaching unsafe levels.
APH01SS at a glance:
- 5-year guarantee on parts, 2 years on labour (just make sure to register with 28 days of purchase!)
- Automatic safety switch
- Simple three-switch operation for normal and high heat, plus cool-blown air
- 50 x 10 x 22.5 cm
Electric Plinth Heaters: FAQ
What’s the difference between hydronic and electric plinth heaters?
Complicating what might otherwise be an easy choice is the split between electric and hydronic plinth heaters. Sure, both hide under your cabinetry, pointing heat at your feet–but there are important differences to consider.
Let’s get the obvious out of the way
Electric plinth heaters draw power from your mains to operate an internal heating element, then blow the heat with a fan through the grille into your kitchen.
Hydronic heaters still use electricity to power their fans, but they lack a powered heating element. Instead, they tap into your central heating system, which pipes hot water through an array of coils inside the heater. These tubes are long, narrow, and manifold to maximise surface area through which the fan may blow convected heat into your living area.
Overall, hydronic heaters are more energy efficient than their electric counterparts, but less flexible in where you can deploy them. After all, if you’ve got a room that the combi-boiler can’t reach, such as an add-on or workshop, then a hydronic heater is of exactly zero value to you as a heating solution.
Electric plinth heaters have no such restrictions. So long as there’s access to the electric mains in relatively close proximity, you can complete installation with relative ease.
Be advised, however, that most electric plinth heaters don’t ship with 3-pin plugs, and instead require installation via a fused spur. While this is easy enough for DIY installation, it’s a lot safer to hire a technician. (Though, it is relatively simple to swap out the lead with a pronged cable on your own.) Hydronic heaters, on the other hand, pretty much require the services of a licensed professional to complete installation safely.
Electric plinth heaters produce a drier, more immediate heat, whilst hydronics produce a gentler, slower heat.
Is it difficult to fit an electric plinth heater?
With the right tools and a modicum of DIY experience, not at all! But there are a few pitfalls to be aware of.
First, there are really two sets of product dimensions: one for the area of the grille, and one for the volume of the heater overall. Remember that the heater will slot into a hole you cut into the plinth, while the grille will overlay a margin around that hole.
You’ll want to make sure that your plinth is overall tall enough to accommodate the height of the grille, plus a small margin to allow clearance above the floor and below the cabinet doors.
The clearance of the unit inside the plinth is much more important. Depending on the model, you’ll need anywhere from 2-5cm between the heater and the drawers above/the floor below to allow for sufficient air flow.
From there, it’s a matter of hooking the electric cable up to the mains via a fused spur. You can look up tutorials on how to do this safely, but we’re quicker to recommend you hire an electrician if you’re not extremely confident working with electrical wiring.
The consequences of a botched job include electrocution and fire–neither of which are worth the money saved on a haphazard DIY attempt. What’s more, many manufacturers only honour warranties based on proper installations, so having a receipt from your electrician will be key to getting service down the line.
But if you’re at all competent with electricity and have the tools for cutting into the plinth, it’s really quite an easy matter to install an electric plinth heater. Otherwise, the safest and most cost-effective course of action would be to cut the hole yourself, then hire someone for the rest.
How much do electric plinth heaters cost to run?
This is a tricky question to answer definitively, as power costs vary across the country, some units are more efficient than others, and your home may or may not have top-notch insulation.
But doing some general maths, we’ll start with the average cost of electricity in the UK, which is 14.37p per kWh. Assuming you run your 2kW heater at full tilt for 5 hours a day, you’re looking at around £0.72 per day, or just over £5 per week.
Of course, electric plinth heaters with thermostatic control are designed to cut off when nominal temperatures have been reached, allowing for significant savings under that £5/week number. Additionally, many models feature allow you to cut the power, usually to 1kW, which effectively halves the power usage over the same time period.
So, on paper, electric plinth heaters run at a similar efficiency to plug-in space heaters. However, you also need to factor in the floor-level heating of the plinth heater, which more evenly distributes the heat relative to a taller radiator. You will likely require less “on” time with a plinth heater to achieve a similar feeling of warmth, and thus lower costs.
How much power do I need to heat my kitchen/workshop/space adequately?
While most product listings and reviews for electric plinth heaters make primary mention of the wattage drawn to power the heating element, the real-life heat output is measured in BTU. You thus want to match the size of the room you’re heating to the BTU capability of your chosen heater.
There are many dedicated BTU/m3 calculators out there, but we’ll give you some back-of-envelope calculations to help your comparison shopping. Say your kitchen is 1000ft3; you can multiply that by 3 to yield a 3000BTU requirement. Your average 1000W heater is capable of producing somewhere around 3400BTU, so with some thermostatic control you should be able to hit the sweet spot.
Again, this is only a rough estimate, but it allows you to categorically strike off heaters which are clearly too powerful or not powerful enough. Too much power will end up triggering the overheat protection switch, while an underpowered heater will waste energy to give you subpar results.
If you’re sick of dealing with that massive radiator or space heater taking up your precious floor or wall space, consider an electric plinth heater. Not only do they offer superior heating characteristics to many of their larger, lumbering cousins, they can be installed completely independently of your central heating system.
We’ve gone through the ins and outs of what makes electric plinth heaters an attractive option, plus reviewed three of the best models on the market.
That means it’s time to take the plunge on that kitchen renovation you’ve always dreamed of! Get rid of that old panel rad, and install some exciting new cabinetry to house your prized china dishes and plinth heater alike.
If you’ve got the DIY experience and tools handy, this is something you can do yourself to save big time. Otherwise, the job is trivially easy for a licensed professional, and shouldn’t cost you too much to install safely at all.
Do you see yourself upgrading to a plinth heater? If so, what are your specific requirements? Or, do you have experience with our recommended electric plinth heaters? In any case, sound off in a comment below!