To learn more about space heaters — and get recommendations for the best models for every home —we turned to Lou Manfredini, host of “HouseSmarts,” and Randy Light and Chad Hyland, portable heating merchants at Home Depot.
What is a space heater?
"A space heater is an appliance used for heating an enclosed place. There are many styles and types of portable space heaters to choose from including floor heaters, personal space heaters, baseboard heaters and wall heaters," Hyland told Shop TODAY.
What does a space heater do?
At a base level, all space heaters heat the space they are placed in. However, each type will help heat the space in a different way, according to Hyland. He broke down the four different types and how they work.
- Ceramic space heaters: "A type of convection heater, ceramic space heaters warm the air as it blows over a hot ceramic plate or coils inside the unit. The body of the heater stays cool to the touch, which makes it popular for homes with kids and pets," said Hyland.
- Forced-air heaters: "Also called fan-forced heaters, these convection heaters warm the air and circulate it around the room by fan. The fan allows the heat to be distributed quickly. Forced-air heaters are popular in offices or small workspaces," said Hyland.
- Radiant heaters: "Radiant heaters are directional and heat the objects near it or in its path. These are ideal for a living room, bedroom or den and tend to retain heat for longer, even when the power is turned off," said Hyland.
- Infrared heaters: "A type of radiant heater, infrared space heaters are generally more effective in warming a person or a small area, rather than a larger space. You might see these in a bedroom or even under your desk, if you’re always cold in the office," said Hyland.
What are the benefits of a space heater?
Hyland shared that "a space heater can save you money and energy, because it heats only the room or the space that is being used."
How do you choose a safe space heater?
Now that you know all about what space heaters are and what they do, how do you pick a safe yet powerful space heater? Manfredini, Light and Hyland outlined a few of the most important things to look for when picking a space heater.
- Think about what type of room you're trying to heat. Light and Hyland explained that space heaters come in a variety of sizes for different spaces — including large room heaters, desk heaters and outdoor heaters. Narrow your options down for the space you're looking to heat to find a product specifically for your needs.
- Consider the amount of energy it uses. Look for a heater that uses 750 to 1,000 watts. “All heaters claim to be the most efficient, but most all use the same amount of energy,” Manfredini cautioned.
- Settle on a style for your heater. Do you want the heater to fit in nicely with the room's decor, or are you buying it purely as a functional appliance? Light said style has become more important as a decision-making factor in the past few years, and many heater brands have updated their looks.
- Choose which extra features you must have. Hylands says that certain units come with remote controls, thermostats and the ability to oscillate.
- Keep fire safety in mind. If used incorrectly, heaters can pose a fire-safety risk. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission advises to always keep heaters at least three feet away from flammable objects such as curtains or bedding. You should also refrain from plugging portable heaters into an extension cord or power strip to reduce fire risks. Also, make sure units have either a safety rating from UL or ETL, Manfredini said.
Here are a few of the best indoor and outdoor space heaters, according to the experts.
Best small space heater
With self-regulating thermostat controls, three settings (high heat, low heat and fan) and safety features such as automatic overheat protection, Light and Hyland suggested this nine-inch-tall heater for small rooms or a desk area.
Best baseboard heater
“Electric baseboard heaters are great supplemental units that can be placed under windows where the heat loss is the highest,” Manfredini said.
Best propane heater
Although mostpropane heaters are made to be used outside, this is one of the only gas heaters that is safe to use indoors, Hyland and Light mentioned.
It doesn't require electricity because it runs on a one-pound propane tank, so it's ideal for someone who has an indoor area to heat that doesn't have electricity. It can also serve as personal heating during outdoor fall and winter activities.
Best designed space heater
“I actually have (this heater) in my master bedroom. I think it’s the best-looking heater that we carry,” Hyland said. Not only is this heater stylish, it also offers long-range heat and even distribution throughout the room.
Best electric fireplace heater
“Crane Fireplace Heater offers electric space heat but with the realistic look of a small fireplace. [It's] the best of both worlds and can take the chill out of a living room, bedroom or family room,” Manfredini said.
Editor's note: This model is currently out of stock, though a similar version from Hampton Bay is currently available for $59.
Best oil-filled space heater
“Oil-filled space heaters offer residual heat and can actually cost less to run. They use the same wattage as most other heaters, but once the oil heats up and the temperature is reached, the unit shuts down, but the heater oil in the unit continues to give off heat,” Manfredini said.
Best heater for larger rooms
This heater uses cyclonic heat to warm up large rooms quickly. The heater first pulls cooler air in through the bottom of the device, then distributes heat further into the room from the top. Its functionality is also top-notch thanks to its touch-sensing controls and an easy-to-clean filter. Splurge on the digital version for upgraded features like Save-Smart Technology and a third thermostat-controlled heat setting.
Bestselling affordable space heaters
This ceramic floor heater from Honeywell delivers style, functionality and energy efficiency. While it produces plenty of heat, its exterior remains cool to the touch.
Amazon reviewers love this bestselling portable heater for its lightweight design and high-speed fan capable of heating a 200-square-foot room in seconds. It's also built with tip-over protection that shuts off the appliance if it's accidentally knocked over.
While this model looks more like a speaker than a space heater, it produces quiet warmth and comfort, registering at just under 45 decibels. It comes with a remote control that allows you to set your home's temperature to your ideal warmth and features built-in safety features like overheating prevention.
This personal heater operates on two different speed settings and, thanks to its small size, you can take it nearly anywhere to keep warm. Plus, safety features such as a cool-touch exterior and automatic safety shut-off help prevent any mishaps.
You can crank up the heat with the simple press of a button with this heater from Lasko. It has an adjustable thermostat and a seven-hour automatic timer that will prevent it from overheating and overworking. The discrete design is a perfect addition to any home office.
Compact, powerful and portable — this small space heater checks all of the boxes. It comes in two neutral color options and has a convenient carrying handle that helps you take it from room to room.
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