How to Choose the Best Space Heater [Buyer’s Guide]

It’s that time of year again. The holidays are approaching, the weather’s gotten colder, and you once again have to decide whether the cost of saving energy is worth being cold in your own home. Space heaters help many find a happy medium between high energy bills at the end of each month and being nice and cozy in your home (or office).

Since a space heater is specifically designed to heat only the space you’re in, they’re a more efficient option than heating the whole house. They’re also useful in households where people have different ideas about what temperature is most comfortable – spouses at war over the thermostat can alleviate their troubles with the help of a space heater. Also, they’re just cozy: sitting next to a heat source on a cold night feels good.

3 Types of Space Heaters

Different types of space heaters make use of different types of technology to heat the space around them. In your search for the best space heater, these are some of the common types you’ll encounter and what you should know about each.

1. Convection Space Heaters

Convection space heaters are a good choice for if you want to add consistent heat to a whole room. They work by heating an interior element which then heats the air around it. That air is then blown into a space by a fan, effectively heating up the ambient air temperature of a room. They can be slow to heat up, but once they get going they can provide even heat to a relatively large space. Most models are energy efficient, so they’re an affordable choice for the amount of space they can heat.

Convection space heaters come in two main models: ceramic convection heaters and oil-filled radiators. Ceramic convection heaters heat up a space more quickly than oil-filled radiators and are safer because their surface stays cooler to the touch. Oil-filled radiators take longer to heat up, but they’re quieter since they typically don’t use a fan and they continue to emit heat for longer once turned off.

Benefits:

  • Affordable
  • Energy efficient
  • Good for heating rooms consistently
  • Relatively safe

To Keep in Mind:

  • As with all heaters, must be used cautiously to avoid risk of fires
  • Models with fans can get loud
  • Slower to heat up than some other technologies

2. Radiant Space Heaters

Radiant space heaters warm up very quickly and heat things in their path more than the space around them. While convection heaters heat air, radiant heaters act more like a campfire, heating objects or people nearby. That means they can be very efficient for situations where you only need the heat to extend to a specific spot – like when you’re sitting at your desk – but less useful if you want to heat a space for multiple people in a room.

One significant benefit of radiant heaters is that they don’t use fans to move air around, making them a good choice for allergy sufferers who want to avoid particles and allergens kicked up by moving parts. They’re also very energy efficient since they excel on heating only the specific space you need warmed.

Benefits:

  • Energy efficient
  • Heat up quickly
  • Useful for when only one person in a room wants warmth
  • Good for people with allergies

To Keep in Mind:

  • As with all heaters, must be used cautiously to avoid risk of fires
  • Don’t maintain heat once turned off
  • Don’t heat space evenly – aren’t good for whole rooms

3. Micathermic Space Heaters

Micathermic space heaters use a mix of both convection and radiant heating. They heat up quickly, warm more of the space around them than radiant heaters do, and they’re good for allergy sufferers. They also get points for great energy efficiency. But, like radiant heaters, the heat won’t last beyond when you turn the heater off.

They’re a little newer on the market and still pretty hard to find. And at this point, micathermic heaters don’t yet have a great reputation for durability. Over time, they may become a more common option for consumers who want to combine the benefits of both types of heating technologies.

Benefits:

  • Energy efficient
  • Heat up quickly
  • Can heat a whole room
  • Good for allergy sufferers

To Keep in Mind:

  • Hard to find
  • Might not last long
  • Space won’t maintain heat once heater turned off

10 Factors to Consider When Buying a Space Heater

Most portable heaters you find will accomplish the main task you’re looking for: emitting heat. Even so, there’s a wide range of factors to keep in mind in finding the best space heater for your particular needs.

1. Size and Shape

Space heaters are usually designed to be portable and not take up too much space in your home. Even so, there’s a wide variety of sizes, and larger ones will often cost more but heat a larger space. Smaller ones have the benefit of being easier to move from place to place while taking up less real estate in your home.

You’ll also find a wide variety of shapes. If you’ll likely be keeping your space heater in a particular spot in your home or office most of the time, then you can choose the shape that will most conveniently fit there. Many models are tall and narrow, so they don’t take up much floor space, while others are shorter and wider.

2. Space Heated

This is one of the most important considerations to keep in mind in your search. Product reviews suggest that many consumers end up disappointed if they have unrealistic expectations for the amount of space a heater can warm. Most manufacturers will mention the space heated in their product descriptions, so make sure to check before buying.

In many cases, heating a smaller space is more efficient. If your need is as simple as one person wanting to be a little warmer, then looking for a heater that treats a large space will mean paying for more energy and heat than you may need. If you want a space heater that will cover a whole room, however, be sure to look into models designed to heat a space as large as the room you have in mind – particularly for larger areas like living rooms.

3. Cost

One of the nice benefits of space heaters is that they’re actually pretty affordable across the board. You can find a wide variety of space heaters for under $100, while models with extra features or a larger capacity usually reside in the $100-$300 range. Some extra features that add convenience or functionality will add to the cost, and some models that look especially nice will cost more. But if you want something simple and affordable, you should have no trouble finding it.

4. Energy Use

In addition to upfront costs, you should keep in mind the long-term energy costs of your space heater. One of the main reasons that people purchase space heaters is to reduce their monthly energy bill, which only works if you use your space heater efficiently. Be sure to pick a model designed specifically to heat the space you need (and no more) and only use it to heat spaces that you’re in. If you buy space heaters for every room or leave them on all day to heat unoccupied spaces, you’ll end up spending more.

Energy Star doesn’t provide ratings for space heaters, so you’re best off looking over reviews of the models you’re interested in to get a feel for what kind of energy savings and costs they offer. How you use them will ultimately be as important as the model you choose in accomplishing energy savings though.

5. Style

For many consumers, any new item added to a room needs to have the right look to fit in with the rest of the design, or at least have a nice enough aesthetic not to be an eyesore. As such, many manufacturers have designed their space heaters to be stylish– some have a sleek, modern look, while others have a classic aesthetic, and some are fun and colorful. If you spend a little time browsing your options, you should have little trouble honing in on one that has a design you like.

6. Safety

Keep safety in mind with any heat source. Space heaters cause tens of thousands of fires each year, so it’s best to use them with caution. Some models come with more safety features than others, but preemptive steps can help minimize risk. Some key safety questions to consider are:

  • How hot to the touch does the surface get?
  • How long is the cord? Will you be able to place the space heater safely out of the way?
  • Is it CSA or UL certified?
  • Will it automatically shut off if it falls or starts to overheat?

Make sure when you’re using your heater that you keep flammable items, like clothes and bedding, a safe distance (at least 3 feet) away from it. Try to find a spot for your heater that’s out of the way – you don’t want it to get knocked over. Additionally, always plug it directly into an outlet rather than a power strip or extension cord.

7. Noise

Since convection heaters typically use a fan to help spread the heat through a room, they can sometimes get loud. If you’re sensitive to noise or if you plan to use your space heater somewhere quiet, then you should either consider a radiant heater or specifically seek out quieter types of convection heaters.

Many manufacturers will emphasize if a space heater they sell is quiet and, since many other consumers dislike loud appliances, you can count on user reviews to let you know what to expect in terms of noise.

8. Time to Heat Up

Radiant heaters will start heating a space within moments of turning them on, whereas convection heaters take some time. Coming home to instant heat on a cold day is a nice benefit for many people, so finding a space heater that offers a fast heat-up time may be important to you. Some convection heaters do include programmable timers, so you have the option of setting them to turn on before you typically come home.

9. Portability

If you expect your space heater will mostly live in one spot, then portability doesn’t have to be much of a concern. If you want to be able to take it with you from room to room, then you should prioritize models that are lightweight and have a handle, making them easier to safely take from one spot to another.

10. Features:

  • Thermostat – A thermostat is an important feature to help you track and control the temperature of your space heater.
  • Auto shutoff – As mentioned in our safety section, an auto-shutoff feature helps minimize the risk of fires by immediately shutting the heater off if it gets too hot or falls over.
  • Programmable timer – A programmable timer makes it easy to set your space heater to turn on at the times you know you’ll need the heat. It’s especially useful for heaters that are slow to heat up, since you can program it to make sure you’ll come home to a well-warmed room. Be careful, however, since most experts recommend only using your space heater when you’re in the room and able to keep an eye on it.
  • Automatic Fan Adjustment – Some space heaters that have fans are designed to automatically adjust the level the fan’s at based on the need in the room – so if it gets colder in the room, the fan will go faster, then slow down again once the room warms up.

8 Popular Brands of Space Heaters

One of the last factors it’s important to consider when choosing the best space heater for you is what brand you go with. If you stick with a brand that has a strong reputation, you’re more likely to end up with a space heater that works well from day one and in the years to come. To give you an idea of what customers think of the most common space heater brands, we took a look at what users had to say about their different models online. Here’s what we found.

1. Crane

Crane sells a wide range of portable space heaters that largely get positive reviews from customers. Their space heaters come in a number of different types and styles, many of them stylish enough to add an extra visual element to your room. While there’s enough variety in their heaters that the specific things reviewers comment on vary, the vast majority of reviews we came across were positive.

2. DeLonghi

DeLonghi makes a number of different portable space heaters in a variety of types. Most of the reviews we saw for their different models were positive. Customers seem to be reliably happy with the quality of their heater and how well it works. The complaints we came across were often model-specific or temporary, such as a heater that lets off an odor for the first few days of use. The brand on the whole seems to have a pretty solid reputation.

3. Duraflame

Duraflame has a line of portable space heaters in a classic style with faux-wood exteriors. Their heaters get strong reviews from customers for producing a good amount of heat for their size and looking good while doing so. They also get praise for using infrared heat that keeps the air from drying out. For a classic style and reliable warmth, Duraflame appears to be a solid choice.

4. HeatStorm

HeatStorm also makes a number of space heaters in a classic style similar to DuraFlame’s, as well as a few in a more modern style. The reviews we found of their heaters are to the point and positive: they work well and they look good.

5. Honeywell

Honeywell sells different types of space heaters that all get fairly solid reviews from consumers. They’re praised for being reliable, compact, and quiet. We did encounter a few complaints about durability issues, but those seemed to occur more with some specific models than others. Take a look at the reviews of the particular model you’re interested in to see what customers have to say. On the whole, far more of their customers were happy than not.

6. Lasko

Lasko’s heaters get solidly positive reviews from customers for being powerful for their size, working quietly and being a good value for the cost. They have a large number of reviews online, almost all of them positive, suggesting their reputation is strong across the board.

7. Stadler Form

Stadler Form sells a line of portable space heaters that have sleek, modern designs that are popular with customers. Reviewers rave about the look of their models and say they work fine, but aren’t especially powerful for heating larger spaces. If you want a great looking heater that warms a smaller space, Stadler Form may be a good choice.

8. Vornado

Vornado offers stylish portable space heaters that get great reviews from customers. Reviewers say they’re powerful for their size and a great value for the cost. Many also praise how easy they are to use, especially with the added convenience of a remote control. All reviews point toward Vornado being a reliable brand.

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