How to Choose the Best Space Heater – A Buyer’s Guide

buyers guideA space heater is a device that can be used to heat small areas.  These machines generally are not designed to be a primary source of heat (especially in colder areas), but rather supplement an existing heating scheme. Space heaters usually use convection or radiant heat to warm the air around them, and are powered either by electricity or gas.  Many heaters come with features like adjustable thermostats and timers to allow an area to be heated as efficiently as possible.  Space heaters range greatly in size and shape.

Types of Space Heaters Available:

There are two ways space heaters warm the air:

  • Convection Space Heaters: This type of space heater uses a heating element that warms the air or heats oil.  A fan may be used to move this heated air into the room.  The heater may also oscillate to spread the heated air around.  Oil based convection heaters take a while to heat up, but their surface temperatures stay much lower than heaters that warm the air.
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  • Radiative Heaters: Radiative heaters operate like a halogen light bulb, but give off heat in the infrared spectrum.  This means that instead of heating the air in a room, it is able to heat the objects around it.  These heaters are very efficient since they heat objects directly, but often do not look as attractive as convection heaters.

There are two ways of powering a space heater:

  • Electric Space Heaters: There is a huge array of electric powered space heaters available.  These machines simply plug into any standard electrical outlet.  This makes them ideal to use in the home.  These heaters have a wide array of sizes, styles, and output levels available.
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  • Gas Heaters: These heaters are powered by gas, usually propane or butane.  Because this type of power produces carbon dioxide it can be dangerous to use them in poorly ventilated areas.  Instead, they’re best used outside in work areas or on back porches.  In this environment they are superior to electric since they’re able to be moved from place to place easily and can give off more heat.

Factors to Consider When Deciding to Purchase a Space Heater:

  • Physical Size: There’s a huge range of space heater sizes available.  Depending on the size of the room or area you’re planning to use it in, a smaller heater may be a good choice.
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  • Ease of Setup: Electric heaters generally come ready to use out of the package (or at least require a minimum of effort to set up), but gas heaters often require the purchase of additional fixtures to make it work.
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  • Ability to be Mounted: Some heaters come with fixtures that allow it to be mounted on the wall or ceiling, something that can be useful in small spaces.
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  • Temperature Controls: A huge spectrum of control levels can be found in different space heaters.  Determine whether you just want low and high comfort settings or are interested in specific degree levels.
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  • Thermostat: Some heaters include a built-in thermostat that will keep track of the temperature in the room and adjust its output levels accordingly.
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  • Safety Features: Safety features like an automatic shut-off if the machine gets tipped over or overheat prevention are important for stress-free use.
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  • Heat Level of Casing: Sometimes the outer casing of a heater can get very hot to the touch while it is in use.  If you have pets or small children it is important to know which models this is a problem with before making a purchase.
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  • Timer: If you often forget to turn off appliances when you’re done, find a heater with a built-in timer that will turn the machine off for you in case you forget.
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  • Noise Level: If you are sensitive to noise, try to find a heater that doesn’t have a fan.  Radiative heaters often run this way and are much quieter for it.
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  • Remote Control: Some models include a remote control that allows you to adjust temperature settings from across the room.  On a chilly night this can be especially convenient.
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  • Aesthetics: There is a huge range of choice available in the shape and color of space heaters.  Propane burning devices are generally less attractive than their electric cousins.  Tower shaped heaters are popular, and you’ll also find some that look like fire places or old-fashioned radiators.

Popular Brands of Space Heaters:

  • Lasko: Lasko is a huge name in the world of space heaters.  Among their selection you’ll find a huge variety of shape, styles, power levels, and prices.  Many of their machines have extra features like oscillation and digital thermostat displays.  They’re a standard in the industry and a good place to start when shopping.
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  • DeLonghi: This is another popular name in space heaters.  DeLonghi offers a different selection that Lasko.  They specialize in oil-filled heaters.  These heaters are sealed, which means you don’t have to worry about changing the oil, and usually keep a cooler surface temperature than other electric heaters.  You’ll find some interesting casings here, including a selection that harkens back to classic radiator designs.
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  • Dimplex: Dimplex caters to two different audiences.  On one hand they have a line of utilitarian fan-blown wall and workshop heaters.  They’re subtle but powerful and blend into almost any area.  On the other hand, if you’re looking for something that will stand out they also have a number of fireplace recreations.  These models include fire effects that will make you think you’re sitting in front of a roaring fireplace.
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  • Mr. Heater: This line of gas powered heaters are designed to be used outside the home.  Their heaters put off much more power than the average electric heater, but they also pose a risk for anyone using them in an enclosed space.  If you’re looking to heat a work area or a back porch, you’ll likely find a model that works for you here.

Whether you live in a warm or cold climate, space heaters are a great way to heat your home.  If you need only occasional heat they can be your sole heating device.  They’re also an efficient way to supplement a furnace or other heating scheme.  The huge array of sizes, styles, and power levels ensures that there’s a perfect hearer for any situation. They’re a great tool to have on hand to make sure you and your family are able to stay warm and comfortable.

Click here to see all my detailed space heater reviews.