Buyer’s Guide: Space Heaters
Understand which features matter most in a space heater, so you can find the unit that works best for your needs and budget.
Ever-rising utility costs can make it difficult to heat an entire house. To save money but still keep occupied areas comfortable—say, the living room during a movie marathon—many renters and homeowners take advantage of space heaters.
If it’s been a while since you last shopped for a space heater, you are in for a pleasant surprise. Today’s models offer basic heating features at more affordable prices than in years past, and newer bells and whistles (including upgraded safety features) abound.
Ahead, learn how to navigate all of the options in the market, and find out why the below are top favorites:
- BEST ALL AROUND: GiveBest Ceramic Space Heater
- BEST FOR BATHROOMS: OPOLAR Ceramic Bathroom Space Heater
- DESIGN PICK: Lasko Designer Series Space Heater
Key Considerations for Choosing the Best Space Heater
Consider safety first.
Space heaters are a leading cause of house fires, so it’s smart to pick one that boasts additional safety features that reduce risk. Manufacturers have introduced automatic shut-offs that kick in when a unit overheats or gets inadvertently knocked over, as well as exterior cases that keep units cool to the touch at all times. Some models even come equipped with motion sensors that automatically turn the heater off when a pet or child comes too close. For extra peace of mind in your purchase, look for the letters “NTRL” on the space heater packaging; these indicate that the model has been tested for safety by the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.
Note: Before heading out to buy a space heater, call your homeowner’s insurance agent. Some insurance policies will not cover damages from a fire caused by a space heater.
Know your heating needs.
As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to select a space heater that will produce 10 watts of power for every square foot you want to make comfortable. For instance, to heat a 10-foot by 12-foot room, you’d need to purchase a 1200-watt space heater. A very large room may require more than one space heater to maintain a comfortable temperature throughout.
Other factors that affect a space heater’s efficiency include ceiling height, the insulating factor of the exterior walls, the number of windows, and the available outlets. While high-wattage heaters offer more heat than lower-wattage models, they’re limited to the capacity of the electrical outlets they plug into. Since a home’s standard 110-volt electrical outlet can only provide 1,500 watts of power, that’s what the wattage would cap at for any machine plugged into it.
Find the right type.
- Fan space heaters are among the least expensive models on the market, but the design—one that heats the air around an electric coil or wire elements and disperses the heat with a fan—does not offer the same efficiency as other space heater types. Plus, the fan motor can be quite noisy. They’re best saved for rooms without drafts and for when you need to heat up a small space quickly.
- Convection space heaters warm air over ceramic plates or disks and allow it to flow naturally back into the room. Some models do include fans for quicker heating, and, like plain fan heaters, they work best in rooms without drafts. Convection heaters come in compact or tower models, often with exterior cases that are cooler to the touch. Prices range depending on wattage and added features.
- Infrared space heaters are among the quietest options for the home. They generate heat quickly, not by heating the air in the room but by radiating heat to the objects in front of them. Because this type of heater heats you—not the air—it’s a good choice for use in drafty rooms. Just aim it at your chair and enjoy.
- Micathermic space heaters combine convection and radiant heating processes. Designed as a panel to stand or hang on a wall as you would a picture, they create a welcoming ambiance for all of the senses by mimicking the look of a real fire and radiating heat. Some models include fans for greater efficiency and remote controls for extra convenience. These advanced heaters range vary widely in price.
Our Top Picks
BEST ALL AROUND: GiveBest Ceramic Space Heater
You won’t have to shout to be heard over this Ceramic Space Heater while it’s running. Customers praise the product for its quiet operation and its ability to quickly heat rooms up to 150 sq. ft. It comes with an adjustable thermostat, an over-heat shutoff, and a tip-over shutoff as well. At less than 10 inches tall, and weighing just over 3 lbs., GiveBest’s heater is small on size but big on heat output. It comes with a built-in, easy-carry handle for moving from room to room as needed.
BEST FOR BATHROOMS: OPOLAR Ceramic Bathroom Space Heater
Most space heaters are not recommended for use in steamy bathrooms due to the risk of condensation forming on the heater. But you don’t have to worry about that with the OPOLAR Ceramic Bathroom Space Heater, as it features a waterproof housing and a circuit protection plug. Further safety features include over-heat and tip-over shutoff protection. Weighing in at just over 4 lbs., while measuring less than 14 inches high and 9 inches wide, the OPOLAR is easy to move (its built-in handle helps with that too). And thanks to its adjustable thermostat, as well its ability to oscillate 80 degrees, the unit puts out just the right amount of heat, distributing it evenly throughout the space.
DESIGN PICK: Lasko Designer Series Space Heater
The Lasko Designer Series Space Heater comes in an attractive soft tan color, features a smooth contoured shape, and rests on an ornate base, making it look more like a work of art than a space heater. Visitors to your home won’t even know it’s a space heater! It’s not just for looks, however; it effectively heats rooms up to 150 sq. ft. Switch between its adjustable heat settings via the remote—even program it in advance to turn on and off when desired—and the Lasko fan oscillates smoothly from side to side for uniform heat distribution.