Cold weather can seep through the walls, linger in the floors, and make your home uncomfortable, but with an electric heater, you can battle the cold by warming your bedroom, office space, or even your garage. Electric heaters can be plugged into an existing electrical outlet for easy setup or they can be hardwired into your electrical system, depending on the type of heater and the specific product.
Electric heaters have many factors to consider including space requirements, the type of heater, safety features, and whether you want it to be portable. Take a look at these top products and keep reading to find out how to choose the best electric heater for your home.
- BEST OVERALL: TaoTronics PTC Space Heater
- BEST BASEBOARD: Cadet 120-Volt Baseboard Electric Zone Heater
- BEST PANEL: Cozy Products Cozy Legs Flat Panel Desk Heater
- BEST FOR MOUNTING: Heat Storm HS-1500-PHX-WIFI Infrared Heater
- BEST FOR RECESSING: Broan-NuTone 198 High Capacity Wall Heater
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: GiveBest Portable Electric Space Heater
Popular Types of Electric Heaters
Electric heaters are available in five main styles: fan, infrared, baseboard, panel, and electric fireplaces.
Electric Fan Heaters
Electric fan heaters also are called fan-forced heaters because they use an electric heating element to rapidly heat the surrounding air that is then forced out of the heater by a fan. The fan is located in the back of the heater, which allows it to push the air in a single direction. The heated air gradually warms the ambient temperature of the room.
Since this style of electric heater takes time to heat up, these are best used as space heaters in smaller rooms and workspaces where the increase in heat will be more noticeable. Electric fan heaters are one of the more affordable types available.
Electric Infrared Heaters
Electric infrared heaters also are known as radiant or quartz heaters. They generate radiant infrared heat that can be used for small or large spaces. These heaters provide a higher heat intensity when compared to fan-forced electric heaters.
However, the heat generated by infrared heaters does not warm the air within the space. Rather, infrared heaters use infrared waves to warm physical objects, like a person or vehicle. This means that while you will feel warm with the heater on, the ambient air has not changed temperature. When the heater is switched off, the temperature of the objects and people in the room may drop depending on the temperature in the home. This feature makes electric infrared heaters a great option for a garage or an enclosed patio where it would be a waste of energy to try to heat the cold air.
Electric Baseboard Heaters
Electric baseboard heaters are one of the more basic styles of whole-home heating. Each room or major living space has a dedicated baseboard heater that can be adjusted with a temperature dial. These electric heaters also can be portable, with a stand and a regular power cord. When the element within the baseboard heater is turned on, it will heat the air around it. The heated air expands and lifts into the air, moving away from the floor and allowing more cold air to circulate to the exposed elements. These heaters can be inexpensive to buy, but if you are using only baseboard heaters for your home, it’s likely that you are paying a high electric bill.
Electric Panel Heaters
Electrical panel heaters typically use infrared heating technology to provide heat to the people in the room without heating up the air within the room. The difference is that these heaters are designed to be completely flat so that you can mount them on the wall like a poster or picture frame. They also are a great option for mounting on the ceiling so that the entire room can feel the warmth without obstacles impeding the flow of infrared heating. If you don’t want to mount the electric panel heater, you can just stand it up on the floor or even on your desk to keep you warm throughout the day. Panel heaters also come in a range of sizes, so you can customize the heater to the size of the space it will be heating.
Electric Fireplace Heaters
This style of electric heater gives you the look and aesthetic appeal of a fireplace while providing you with the safe heat of an electric heater. Electric fireplaces will typically have a traditional appearance with a decorative mantel and a light effect that is designed to mimic flames flickering in a classic fireplace. These fireplace heaters may use radiant heating or fan-forced heating, although infrared is the most commonly seen style. Electric fireplace heaters are a great option for a den, living room, or dining room where they can heat the entire space while accenting your interior decorating choices.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Electric Heater
Before choosing the best electric heater for your home, learn about some of the most important shopping considerations and reasons to consider using an electric heater.
Before choosing an electric heater, measure the size of the room where you will be using the heater. Knowing the size of the space will ensure that you find a heater with enough power to produce substantial heat for your room. Otherwise, you may end up with a heater that isn’t sufficient, causing you to huddle close to it in order to get any benefit.
Smaller rooms, like bedrooms, bathrooms, and home offices, usually can be heated relatively easily with any type of electric heater. Larger rooms, like the living room, dining room, kitchen, or basement, require a more powerful electric heater and would benefit from a baseboard heater, an electric fireplace, and even a powerful fan-forced heater.
After you determine the size of the room, you can begin to look at electric heaters that would be suitable for the space. A good estimate to follow is that for every 10 watts of output, you can heat 1 square foot of space, which means that a 100-square-foot room will require a heater with 1,000-watt output to fully heat the space. However, if your home is also heated by a furnace you will be able to add noticeable warmth with a much smaller electric heater.
Another important aspect of power is that not all electric heaters have the same power requirements. Some portable heaters run on batteries, while other heaters plug directly into a wall outlet. You also can find electric heaters that need to be hardwired into your home’s 120-volt electrical system and even some that require a hardwired 240-volt connection. To ensure that your electrical box and your skills are compatible with your electric heater, always verify the power requirements before purchase.
Though there are some baseboard heaters that come without a thermostat control, an electric heater isn’t typically just the heating elements. You also may get a programmable or adjustable thermostat that has a variety of heat settings, oscillation control, or even a remote control.
- Programmable thermostats allow you to set a specific temperature for the heater and can allow you to set a heating schedule so that the electric heating will increase or decrease according to the programmed settings.
- Adjustable thermostats can be changed with the touch of a button or the turn of a dial to change the current desired temperature, but without the programmable feature included, they are manually adjusted. If you want the heat changed or turned off, you need to do it yourself.
- Heat settings on an electric heater can vary. Some heaters don’t come with a control, which means that they produce constant heat no matter the situation. However, most electric heaters have at least two or three different heat levels so that you can adjust the output to the size of the room or the proximity of the heater for your ideal comfort.
- Automatic oscillation will help properly distribute heated air and infrared heating to a much wider area of the room. It turns the heater in an almost 180-degree rotation before turning back to the other side.
- Remote controls make it easier to operate your electric heater without the need to walk over to it. Not only is this an excellent option for just about anyone who prefers the convenience of a remote to adjust the heat in the room, but a remote also can be an important feature for a wall- or ceiling-mounted heater that may not be accessible to everyone.
One main benefit of adding an electric heater to your home is that you won’t need to turn up the temperature in the entire house just to heat one small space. This lets you relax at the perfect temperature while saving money on your heating bill. However, you also may want to look for an electric heater that is energy efficient so that you can continue to conserve energy and your hard-earned money.
Another way to save energy is to consider the size of the room and the output of the heater so that you find a product that is appropriate for the space. You also can look for special features that can save energy, like a programmable thermostat, energy-saving mode, and a simple timer that will turn the heater off after the indicated time period.
Safety is a factor when it comes to any type of heating device, and electrical heaters aren’t an exception. For this reason, there are many heaters that have built-in safety features like cool-touch exteriors, tip-over protection, and overheating protection. You also can look for the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) certification that indicates that a heater has undergone extensive testing to confirm the safety and reliability of the product.
- Cool-touch exteriors are typically made of fiberglass or plastic that is safe to the touch, making them a great option for wall-mounted and portable electric heaters because they are often set up or installed in locations where passing children or adults can come into contact with the sides of the heater.
- Tip-over mechanisms protect you from the risk of fire if the heater falls over. The impact activates this safety feature, turning off the heater so that it cannot start a fire by igniting any nearby items, like carpeting or curtains.
- Overheating protection keeps the electric heater from burning out if it becomes too hot. The overheating protection feature senses the rising temperature and shuts down the heater to prevent external damage to the room or any flammable objects and to stop internal damage to the heater.
Some electric heaters are fixed units that are installed in the ceiling or walls. Semiportable units typically sit in one place but can be moved with some effort, and fully portable heaters are lightweight and may have features that make them easier to move, such as a compact size, wheels, or a built-in handle.
Electric heaters can range from industrial units that weigh more than 100 pounds to small desktop heaters that you can hold in one hand. The smaller a heater is, the more portable it tends to be, but larger electric heaters can use a set of wheels to achieve similar portability. These electric heaters may also have a built-in handle that helps you lift, support, or pull the heater from place to place.
The noise level produced by an electric heater isn’t normally any louder than a portable fan or the forced airflow from a furnace. However, if noise is a concern you should avoid fan-forced electric heaters as the fan they rely on to push heated air out into the room can greatly increase the amount of noise produced by the heater. For a more silent operation in your home, you can use a fireplace heater, an infrared heater, a panel heater, or a baseboard heater, all of which are capable of operating without a fan.
Our Top Picks
These recommended electric heaters were selected for quality and price with an eye toward the important considerations outlined above.
The sturdy base and sleek appearance of this electric heater help it fit with the design of most rooms. It has a maximum output of 1,500 watts and it’s able to heat up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in just three seconds due to the high-quality ceramic heating element. The electric heater has a digital display screen on the top of the heater that can be used to change the temperature between 41 and 95 degrees, adjust the working mode, set a timer, or turn on the 65-degree oscillation function.
This electric heater comes with a hidden handle to make carrying it easier and a remote control for convenient operation from across the room. It also features three operating modes: high, low, and eco. Safety isn’t a concern with this heater because it has a fire-retardant shell, a tip-over shutoff switch, overheating protection, and a 24-hour automatic shutdown function that turns off the heater after 24 hours of continuous use.
The electric baseboard heater is rated for use with a 120-volt connection, but it must be hardwired into your home’s electrical system. You will also need to get an external thermostat to control the baseboard heater if you don’t already have one installed in your home. The heater comes with clear installation instructions, including a detailed wiring diagram. The frame of the heater is prepunched, so it’s easy to securely fasten it to the wall.
This electric heater is 36 inches long and has a maximum energy output of 750 watts, making it a great option for a bedroom or an office space. It has a UL certification so you know you can rely on the durability and quality of the product. The radiant baseboard heater is made of 25 gauge steel so you won’t have to worry about nicks or scratches.
Save money on your electric bill with this compact electric panel heater that has a low energy output of just 150 watts. This electric heater isn’t the best option for trying to heat an entire room, but it’s ideal for small spaces where you will spend a lot of time. The panel design can be mounted on the wall or it can be placed in a stand that is sold separately.
This panel heater uses radiant heating similar to a baseboard heater except that it doesn’t have exposed coils so you won’t have to worry about a potential fire hazard. It’s also very quiet, making it a good option for a bedroom workspace that you may use when other people are sleeping. The electric panel heater measures 22.5 inches by 16 inches and has a depth of just 0.75 inches. It plugs into a standard wall outlet for power.
Wall-mount the heater to provide continuous heat to your area without taking up floor space. The heater doesn’t need to be hardwired into your electrical system, so setup is easy. You can even hide the power cable if you position the heater over an available outlet. The heater stays cool to the touch and keeps the material around it cool as well.
If the heater overheats or somehow falls from the wall, it has both a tip-over mechanism and overheating protection to shut down the heater and prevent further damage. The Heat Storm Electric Heater is an infrared heater that has 1,500 watts of power and is Wi-Fi-enabled so you can access and control it from your phone. Just set the built-in thermostat to your desired room temperature, and let the heater do the work. You also can set a heating schedule or activate the child lock to prevent changes to the heater settings.
If you prefer to keep your heater off the floor and out of the way, then an in-wall electric heater, like the Broan-NuTone 198 High Capacity, is a great option. You can choose between a 240-volt direct-wired connection that has a maximum output of 4,000 watts or a 120-volt outlet connection with a 2,000-watt maximum output. The electric heater may be installed inside a custom-cut wall cavity so that it doesn’t stick out into the room, though it also can be wall-mounted.
A built-in fan delay prevents the fan from operating until the element has reached a high enough temperature so the fan will push out only heated air. The fan-forced electric heater has a heavy-duty 18-gauge steel grill and an adjustable thermostat that is located on the front of the heater. Downflow ventilation sliders in the grill direct the airflow toward the ground, so it may be best to install this heater higher up on the wall.
Some heaters can come at the cost of a hefty investment, but this portable electric heater is an inexpensive option that boasts a maximum 1,500-watt output and an adjustable dial thermostat that can be used to set the temperature from 0 to 158 degrees Fahrenheit. This heater has a high heat setting, a low heat setting, and a fan setting that can be used on warmer days to help air out a room or keep you cool.
You won’t have to shout to be heard over this ceramic space heater while it’s running because it operates at a near-silent volume. The heater only weighs just under 3.5 pounds and measures just 10 inches tall. With the built-in handle, it’s a heater that is designed for portability, allowing you to carry it around the house to wherever it’s needed most. The heater also has overheating protection and an automatic tip-over shutoff to keep you safe.
FAQs About Electric Heaters
If you still have questions about electric heaters, read on to find the answers to some commonly asked questions about electric heaters.
Q. How much do electric heaters cost to run?
The cost of running an electric heater depends on your local electrical costs, the wattage of the electric heater, and how long the heater is used. However, on average, a 1,500-watt electric space heater will cost between 18 cents and 25 cents per hour to use.
Q. Do electric heaters need ventilation?
Electric heaters don’t need ventilation because they don’t burn fuel, so they don’t give off a combustion by-product that would require ventilation.
Q. Is it OK to sleep with an electric heater on?
It isn’t a good idea to sleep with your electric heater on, even if it has an automatic shutoff function to keep you safe. This is because the heater can significantly dry out the air, causing you to wake up with a dry mouth, a headache, or feeling dehydrated. Another reason for not leaving an electric heater on all night is that safety features can fail. If you are asleep you will not be able to deal with or recognize an emergency until it wakes you up.
Q. Do electric room heaters reduce oxygen?
An electric room heater won’t reduce the oxygen in your home, though extended use could cause the air to become dry, making it feel as though it is more difficult to breathe. If you plan on using the heater in an enclosed space for a long period of time, consider adding a small bucket of water that can evaporate and increase the humidity in the air.
Q. Do electric heaters give off carbon monoxide?
No, electric heaters don’t give off carbon monoxide (CO), though CO can be produced by fuel-burning heaters and appliances.