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As temperatures continue to dip across America, space heaters could be a helpful home appliance, a fast and economic way to warm things up. These portable devices allow you to bring an effective boost of heat to any room in your house, or even outdoors. Plus, dropping temperatures, as well as work from home norms and increasing cases of Covid-19 infections, are forcing more and more people indoors and more frequently this season.
SKIP AHEAD How to buy space heaters
If you’re looking to socialize safely, outdoor space heaters can make gathering outside more comfortable. Of course, any gathering — from sitting around a bonfire to going on a hike — should abide by normal social distancing guidance and safety measures otherwise, from face masks to hand sanitizers. “Outdoor space heaters are a great way to warm up areas of your yard or patio so that you can still get together with friends and family even as the days get cooler,” said Bailey Carson, head of cleaning and home improvement at Handy.
Best space heaters to shop
To help give you an idea of the best space heater options, here are some of the best ones across price points, according to the expert guidance above, which we held against some top-rated models at various major retailers.
Best combination space heater: Vornado
The Vornado VH200 is a relatively affordable space heater that delivers near-instant desired temperatures capable of evenly distributing warmth within a room. “It also offers overheating safety features, tip-over protection and the exterior plastic cover stays cool,” said Glenn Wiseman, sales manager of Top Hat Home Comfort Services. Plus, it’s compact so it can easily be tucked away when you’re not using it.
Best infrared space heater for families: Dr. Infrared Heater
Noting its energy-saving option, dual heating system and built-in thermostat that ranges from 50 to 85 degrees, Wiseman recommends this portable model. “The space heater is powered through a corded electric with 120 Volts, which can evenly heat an entire room,” he added.
Best budget-friendly space heater: Lasko
Ideal for the bedroom or other small spaces, this space heater has three quiet options — high, low and fan mode. “There are 11 different temperature settings and a convenient carry handle,” Barrett added. “The safety features are also great and already there.” Lasko's newer Electric Cyclonic Ceramic Console Heater includes a multi-function remote and two different quiet heat settings, among a sleep timer and other notable features.
Best high-end space heater: Dyson
The Dyson Hot + Cold is an effective space heater that offers all-year-round climate control. “This efficient system allows you to choose between the focused or dispersed settings to be used as a personal heater or to heat an entire room,” Wiseman said. “This portable heater is virtually silent and offers dehumidification capabilities.” Indeed, QuietMark includes this Dyson model among its awarded low-noise heaters.
Best space heater for indoor/outdoor use: Mr. Heater
Convenient for both outdoor and indoor use, this radiant option has an auto shut-off when tipped and can heat spaces that as large as 225 square feet. “It’s completely efficient and clean-burning, has an auto shut-off option — and is portable,” Barrett said.
Best space heater for bedrooms: KopBeau
Van Tuijl’s overall top pick for bedrooms goes to the KopBeau indoor propane space heater. This oil-fueled convection model has four heating modes, a remote and modern safety features. To help minimize your utility costs, it also has a smart eco mode that cycles between the highest and lowest setting to maintain your room temperature while lowering energy consumption.
Best space heater for big rooms: Lifesmart
For large spaces, Van Tuijl recommends the Lifesmart infrared space heater with a maximum 1500-watts high setting. It includes a remote, a 12-hour timer, three different heat modes and even an 'eco setting' at only 500 watts for when you want to bring it into a smaller room.
Best compact space heat: Andily
The Andily ceramic heater is a budget-friendly model that’s ideal for home or office use. “It is nice and compact, but can deliver a whopping 1500-watts on its highest setting,” Van Tuijl said.
Best panel space heater: De'Longhi
Don’t let the sleek design fool you, this lightweight space heater packs a powerful punch with 1500 watts of heat. “This space heater can easily mount on any wall, providing an adjustable thermostat with multiple heating control options that allows you to adjust to the suitable heat,” Wiseman said.
Other space heaters to consider
Rather than a traditional fan-design used in many of the options above, this Lasko space heater features a blade-less design like that of Dyson models. It's equipped with a slew of safety features, including a safe touch surface and an automatic shut-off switch, to boot. With its quiet oscillating mode, the sleek tower can evenly distribute heat in rooms up to 300 square feet.
If speed is the name of the game, TaoTronics has got you covered. This space heater can reach up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in three seconds and features side to side oscillation for increased heat distribution. Additionally, it comes with three heating modes and includes overheating protection sensors, as well as an automatic off switch.
What is a space heater and do you need one?
Space heaters are portable devices designed to heat single rooms rather than entire houses, explained Arie Van Tuijl, a licensed home inspector and founder of Home Inspector Secrets. “The great thing about space heaters is that homeowners can use them on an ‘as-needed’ basis without turning up their HVAC thermostat,” he said. “In fact, homeowners may want to lower the thermostat if you only want to heat up a single room and save on energy costs.”
Space heater benefits
In addition to their main function of heating things up, space heaters could prove their value in a variety of other ways.
Space heaters work faster. A space heater takes less time to distribute heat and warmth within an area compared to an HVAC system, explained Wiseman. “Central heating often takes some time to reach a set temperature,” he said. “It's a convenient way that you can quickly raise the room temperature and add warmth to any space needed.”
Space heaters are consistent. Space heaters can also maintain the same temperature in a space for as long as you want, allowing you to easily and quickly turn it off and cut off the heat.
They come in many options to answer many needs. From indoor and outdoor space heaters to a range of available sizes and styles available, myriad space heater models can allow you to keep warm in different ways — and at different price points.
Space heaters might save you money. Instead of paying to heat up an entire house and keep it warm, space heaters act as a supplement to your main HVAC system to increase the temperature in the specific area you’re spending time in.
“The main advantages of a space heater are that it will cut down your utility expenses and provide you with the right room temperature when you need it,” said Natalie Barrett, service quality supervisor at Nifty Cleaning Services.
Types of space heaters
There are three main types of space heaters, each designed to heat up your space through a different method. Radiant heaters are usually used to warm up people, convection heaters warm the actual air in a room and a combination heater gives you a bit of both options, explained Carson.
Radiant. Rather than warming the air in an entire room, radiant heaters quickly turn electricity into radiant energy to heat objects or people in front of it. “They are best if you want to heat an area very quickly, and are usually used as ‘spot heaters,’ meaning they would only heat a specific area [they] pointed at,” said Wiseman.
One relevant advantage of these heaters for anyone working from home is that they are silent, designed with minimal moving parts . That also means they are less likely to break down. Having said that, they can also be a fire hazard as they get hot — and they might not be the best for your sleeping situation. “Unfortunately, they usually have an orange glow and may not work well in bedrooms,” added Van Tuijl.
Convection heaters. Convection units rely on hot air rising and cold air falling to silently disperse the heat without a fan. Although these space heaters take the longest to warm a room, they are ideal if your goal is even heat distribution. Common convection models include baseboard and oil-filled heaters. “However, convection heaters may not be suitable for homes with small children because they get hot to the touch,” Van Tuijl noted. “These units also usually come with remotes and can oscillate direction.”
Combination heaters. These heaters utilize a fan to disperse heat so they work on the faster side but aren’t silent. “The nice thing about these heaters is that they don't get hot enough to become a fire or burn risk and there is no annoying orange glow,” said Van Tuijl. “ However, a big negative of fan-based space heaters is that they can dry out the skin while making a background noise.”
How to shop for a space heater
The first step when shopping for a space heater is figuring out the size of the area you plan to warm. For smaller rooms (which are typically considered 120 square feet or less), Van Tuijl generally recommends buying a space heater that is in the 500-1000 watts range, and between 1000 and 1500 watts for larger rooms. Some other key features to look out for while shopping include:
- Energy efficiency. You’ll want to compare efficiency between models to help ensure you don’t increase your electricity bill too much.
- Noise level. Some units are louder than others. If you’re shopping for a bedroom or where you’ll be working during the day, that’s something to keep in mind. One resource for finding devices that are especially quiet is Quiet Mark, which tests and awards products based on their noise output.
- Safety features. Space heaters can be potential fire hazards so don’t overlook any built-in features designed to lessen that chance. “Make sure to buy one that has protective grills as well as auto-shut off capabilities [in case] the heater tips over or overheats,” said Carson.
- Warranty. Don’t forget to look into warranty options. “This way, you can protect your investment in case anything happens,” added Wiseman.