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Cheapism: Best budget space heaters

Nov. 20, 2013 at 2:41 PM ET

The Holmes HCH5250B-TG (starting at $30) oscillates to spread heat throughout a space.
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The Holmes HCH5250B-TG (starting at $30) oscillates to spread heat throughout a space.

As winter weather descends, setting the thermostat can turn into a tug of war. Often it divides households, as one person tries to discreetly raise the temperature and another disapprovingly dials it back down. With an electric space heater, you can be frugal without freezing. Turn down the central heating as low as you like and use the space heater wherever you need it to stay warm. Some of the cheapest models are portable enough to carry from room to room.

Here are four top picks from Cheapism.com that provide 1500 watts of warmth and cost $30 or less. Even the “Put on a sweater” person can’t argue with that.

The Lasko 754200 (starting at $25) has accumulated hundreds of enthusiastic reviews from consumers who use it to heat up cubicles and home offices, garages and bathrooms (although experts and manufacturers warn against operating an electric space heater near water). Users can pick up this heater by a handle at the back to move it around. (Where to buy

The Holmes HCH5250B-TG (starting at $30) oscillates to spread heat throughout a space. One reviewer marvels that turning off the central heating at night and just using this space heater in the bedroom cut the household heating bill to about a third of its normal winter total. (Where to buy

The DeLonghi DCH1030 (starting at $30) impresses reviewers with how quickly it heats up a room, especially given the unit’s compact footprint. One notable feature is an antifreeze mode that keeps the room temperature above 40 degrees. This could come in handy in a garage or basement, perhaps to keep pipes from freezing. (Where to buy)

The Honeywell HZ-0360 (starting at $30) has a 360-degree design and stands a little taller than the others. It includes a safety feature that automatically shuts off the unit if it tips over. Reviewers say this model is best suited to small rooms and users who don’t mind some white noise. (Where to buy

These are all convection space heaters that use a fan to circulate heat and warm up an entire room. That makes them an ideal complement to a central heating system. Consumers on a budget can also find radiant space heaters, which are more akin to a campfire — you have to sit directly in front of them to feel the warmth. The four convection space heaters listed here also have a fan-only setting, so they won’t sit dormant over the summer. Adjustable thermostats help these models save energy by kicking on the heat only when necessary to maintain a set temperature.

Keep in mind that any space heater presents safety concerns. The National Fire Protection Association blames space heaters for thousands of house fires each year. Choose a model with automatic shutoff to prevent the unit from overheating, a feature found on all the space heaters listed above. Look for a UL, ETL or CSA label to indicate that the heater has been tested by an independent organization. Finally, take some common-sense precautions: Keep a space heater out of the reach of children and pets, for example, and at least 3 feet away from combustible items such as furniture.

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