Space heaters are the tool of choice for consumers looking to fight rising energy costs and lower their carbon footprints. Many consumers choose a space heater that is inadequate for their needs or expect more from a space heater than it can deliver. Understanding the types of space heaters—and what a space heater can and cannot do—will help you find the space heater that’s right for you and Pronto’s Space Heater Buying Guide make that process even easier.
Room size can affect the efficiency and performance of space heaters, particularly convective space heaters. Know the size of the room you wish to heat, and choose a space heater built to handle a slightly larger space, if available.
Radiant space heaters provide directional warmth that’s ideal for personal use. To warm a room, choose a convective space heater. Parabolic space heaters are best for providing directional heat in an unheated area.
Automatic shutoff is important if you’ll be using a space heater in a bedroom. Look for solid bases that don’t tip easily and tight grills that keep flammable materials, paws, and hands out. Check the surface temperatures on different space heaters to find the one that’s best for your lifestyle.
Spending more on space heaters with thermostats and variable wattage will save you money on fuel in the long run. These space heaters give you greater control over temperature and electricity use, providing the most flexibility in variable climates. Newer ceramic and mica space heaters are among the most energy-efficient space heaters available.
Space heaters provide warmth in a small area, which can help you lower your fuel bill. Space heaters will do the work of a furnace on chilly nights and will let you keep the heating system lower in deeper cold.
A new space heater technology that generates warmth by passing an electric current through a ceramic plate. These space heaters are lighter and smaller than other models and deliver excellent energy efficiency.
A space heater that warms the air in a room through direct contact with exposed heating elements. Convective space heaters may include fans for greater air circulation.
A space heater that burns kerosene fuel with an open flame to generate warmth. Kerosene space heaters must be refueled periodically and are best suited to outdoor use.
A radiant space heater shaped like a fan that delivers strong and highly directional heat to a small area.
An electric space heater that generates warmth by passing an electric current through quartz tubes. The tubes in these space heaters must be replaced periodically, so you should include the cost of replacement tubes over three years to calculate the lifetime cost of ownership.
A space heater that provides directional heat by warming a heat-conducting surface, typically a sheet of metal. These space heaters are best for personal use or warming a small area.
A convective space heater that generates warmth by heating oil stored in metal tubes. These space heaters take more time to work but are best for heating a room.
An electric space heater with a tall, thin rectangular case. These radiant space heaters provide directional heat and are better suited for personal use than for warming a room.
A space heater is an electric or fuel-based device that warms the air in a small area, with “small area” being the key to estimating a space heater’s value. Space heaters are meant to provide localized warmth, not to heat your whole home. Many consumers believe a space heater can lower fuel bills. Used correctly, they can.
In temperate climates or the changeable seasons of autumn and spring, a space heater may help you get through the day without turning on the furnace. In colder climates and wintertime, you may be able to keep the thermostat lower by using a space heater in a living room or bedroom.
Indoor space heaters use electricity, and some high-wattage electric space heaters can add a lot to your electric bill and environmental impact. When you invest in a space heater, make sure your home is properly insulated and that your furnace is clean and working efficiently.
If you need localized warmth, choose a radiant space heater, which turns electricity into heat by warming a heat-conductive surface, usually a metal plate. These space heaters give off highly directional heat and make for cozy friends near a favorite chair.
Parabolic space heaters offer the most directional heat. They look a bit like an electric pedestal fan and put heat precisely where they’re pointed. Pedestal space heaters won’t warm a room efficiently, but they’re excellent for cold sheds and garage workshops where you just need to keep yourself warm while you work.
Tower or kicker space heaters are best at providing a small circle of warmth. These space heaters can raise the temperature in a whole room, but they’ll consume a lot more electricity than a convective space heater.
Convective space heaters warm all the air in a room through natural convection. Warm air near the space heater rises to the ceiling, then falls as it cools, creating a natural current. Convective space heaters take more time to warm up, but they’re the most energy-efficient choice for whole-room heating. If you’re looking to reduce your fossil fuel consumption, choose a convective space heater and turn the thermostat down 10 degrees.
Since heat can cause fire, all space heaters must be handled with care to avoid the threat of fire-related mishaps. Manufacturers have responded to these threats by adding numerous safety features to space heaters.
Automatic shutoff is a good example, and a recommended feature on any space heater you buy. This function turns the space heater off if it tips over or if cloth or paper comes in contact with hot surfaces. Some space heaters also feature motion alarms that sound if the space heater is tipped or gets too hot. These safety features are a great idea for any space heater and they’re a must if you’ll be using the space heater in a bedroom.
If you’re buying a radiant space heater, look for a model with outer grill openings small enough to keep out hands and paws. Tower space heaters should have heavy, solid bases that resist tipping. If you have small children or rambunctious pets, consider one of the smaller ceramic space heaters that have a much lower risk of tipping.
Convective space heaters work best when they’re placed near a wall but still present a tipping hazard. Again, make sure these space heaters have solid bases or feet, and compare the surface temperature between space heater models to find the one that’s the best fit for your home.
Before you start shopping for a space heater, know the size of the room where it will be used. Measure the length and width of the room and multiply these numbers to get the room’s square footage.
Most space heaters are rated for a certain room size. This is more of a concern with convective space heaters because it will take them much longer to heat a larger room. For a very small room that’s 70 square feet or less, a radiant space heater may be sufficient, but you’ll still get a warmer room with a convective space heater on a lower setting.
Space heaters with thermostats and variable wattage settings give you the greatest control over your energy consumption. Thermostats allow you to control how much heat the space heater produces. Variable wattage lets you control how much electricity the space heater consumes. It takes more wattage to generate more heat, so a space heater that gets a lot of use in a variable climate will cost less to operate in the long run if it has variable wattage and a thermostat. If you only use a space heater on the coldest days of the year, you can save by foregoing these features.
Ceramic radiant and mica convective space heaters are the most energy efficient space heaters available. These technologies use materials that hold heat better than metal conductors, so it takes these space heaters less energy to get warm and much less energy to maintain temperature. These space heaters are the best way to reduce your carbon footprint and your fossil fuel consumption.
Kerosene space heaters use electricity to burn kerosene fuel with an open flame, and some models work without electricity, which can be handy during a power outage. Kerosene space heaters provide both radiant and convective heat.
In general, it’s best to avoid using kerosene space heaters indoors. These space heaters give off carbon monoxide, which can be fatal in large quantities, and a small amount of acidic smoke can damage papers and linens. Kerosene space heaters also have a higher lifetime ownership cost because they periodically need to be refueled.
If you need a kerosene space heater, check the base thoroughly to make sure it won’t tip over. Look for kerosene space heaters with sealed tanks that will prevent the kerosene from spilling in case of a tip and tight grills that will prevent paper or cloth from getting near the flame. Automatic shutoff and motion alarms offer the best safety with these space heaters.