Buyer’s Guide: Space Heaters
Understand which features matter most so that you can find the space heater that works best to warm up your home.
Ever-rising utility costs can make it difficult to heat an entire house during the coldest months of the year. To keep occupied areas comfortable—say, the home office from 9 to 5 or the living room during a movie marathon—while the rest of the house remains heated just enough, many homeowners turn to space heaters as a means of conserving energy. Those in the market for a replacement or addition 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. Start your own shopping trip for the best space heater with this guide on what features matter most—and which models have them.
Consider safety first. Space heaters are a leading cause of house fires in winter, so it’s smart to stock one that boasts additional safety features that reduce the risk of burns and fires. Manufacturers have introduced automatic shut-offs that kick in when a unit overheats or gets inadvertently knocked over, and exterior cases keep a unit cool to the touch while the heater runs. Some models even come equipped with motion sensors that detect and 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 homeowners insurance agent. Some insurance policies will not cover damages from fire caused by a space heater.
Know your heating needs. A common consumer complaint about any space heater is that the unit does not warm the room adequately. Assessing your needs—as well as a room’s limitations—will help ensure you find the best space heater to meet your needs. As a general rule of thumb, select a space heater that will produce 10 watts of power for every square foot of floor space. 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, ranging in price from $25 to $80, but the design 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 from $30 to $80, depending on wattage and added features.
Infrared space heaters are among the quietest options for the home, starting at $60 per unit. 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.
Oil-filled space heaters take a while to heat up but, when they do, radiate continuous warm heat. These units are particularly well suited for larger rooms where they’re left on for long periods. Due to the weight of the oil and steel casing, many of these heavy heaters utilize wheels for easy relocation. Prices start around $65 for small units and run into the hundreds for larger models.
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 in price from $300 to over $1,000 for designer models.
More Than Just Hot Air
After comparing space heater reviews from consumers and publishers alike, we’ve rounded up three of the most highly rated models available today to help you find one that fits your home’s needs and your wallet’s budget. Start your shopping for the best space heater with the picks below.
Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater ($30)
A compact choice for small spaces, the 9.2″-tall Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater makes it a good choice for an under-the-table heater with a stay-cool carry handle to move with you during the day. This little powerhouse features a manual High/Low temperature control, a fan-only option, and an automatic shut-off to prevent overheating, all for one of the most affordable prices on the market. Wirecutter recommends it for its “proven reliability, affordability, and excellent heating ability,” and Amazon buyers agree, awarding the Lasko heater a resounding 4.1 stars! Available from Amazon.
Honeywell’s Digital Motion Sensor Room Heater ($60)
The 23″-tall Honeywell Digital Motion Sensor Room Heater oscillates to distribute “Max Heat” or “Energy Saver” temperatures evenly in small to mid-size rooms (up to 12 feet by 12 feet). Good Housekeeping recognizes the tower not only as a quick-heating option, but a very safe one, to boot. This unit includes many extra precautions: a motion sensor that prompts a shut-off when it detects movement, an auto shut-off when tipped over, and cool-touch housing and handle. The model’s safety features and ease of operation—thanks to a large LCD display, programmable thermostat, adjustable timer, and remote control—ultimately outweigh the low fan noise for its Amazon customers and fans. Available from Amazon.
DeLonghi EW7507EB Oil Filled Radiator Heater Black 1500W ($70)
For larger rooms with constant supplemental heating needs, Consumersearch recommends a unit with superior ability to retain and radiate heat, even after you turn it off: the DeLonghi EW7507EB Oil Filled Radiator Heater. Though it takes a while to get warm, once its sealed oil-filled reservoir heats up, the DeLonghi operates silently. Amazon customers, who gave it 4.1 stars, rave about its three adjustable heat settings and a “climate control” feature that allows users to select and maintain a desired room temperature between 41 and 95 degrees. Its energy-saving timer even allows homeowners to program on-and-off cycles for a 24-hour period, meaning that you can wake up to a warmed bedroom without needing to leave the heater running all night. Available from Amazon.