What is the best space heater? Electric appliances are safer and more eco-friendly than gas-powered ones, however, using some of them may result in higher electric bills. For this reason, it is important to choose a space heater that consumes little energy. Another essential factor to consider is capacity or how quickly the unit will heat your space. While price determines the choice of many customers, keep in mind that it is the product's cost-efficiency that tells you how much you will eventually pay. Cost-efficiency means using the cheapest power source with the most effective methodology for your space. Also, look for safety features such as emergency shut-offs to make sure that you can run the unit unattended. We believe that Dr. Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater fits these criteria best.
With winter not far around the corner at this point, it’s time to talk about space heaters. I know, as hot as it is right now, that the last thing you’re thinking about is getting warmer. But soon enough, leaves will begin changing, temperatures will drop, and you’ll be chilling quite literally.
Now, where I live and where I am from both have fairly mild winters, comparatively speaking. I’m from LA, which isn’t really the “tropical” paradise tourists expect – it’s actually a desert kept green by constant irrigation, not unlike Vegas. So, at night, it can get chilly, especially during winter. Florida too is chilly in the winter. I’ve lived in places where blizzards rage across the land as well. So, you could say I know what it’s like to need heaters that can provide just the right amount of heat just as much as ones that can blast every BTU they can muster.
Different Types of Space Heaters
Heat can be created via a lot of different methods. Heat is actually the easiest form of energy to create, almost every kinetic process sheds waste energy as heat. Electronics get hot, wires get hot, chemical reactions get hot, friction produces heat, combustion is an easy phenomenon to tame as well.
I’ll say that we should all strive to avoid heat sources that burn fossil fuels if we can, but in some places, it’s really the only technology which you can rely on. If that’s the case, it just is what it is.
Electric heaters, as the name would suggest, are powered by electricity. Now, truth be told, there are a few kinds of electric heaters, so for the sake of simplicity, we’ll consider “electric heaters” to be conventional, old-fashioned elemental ones. But electric fireplaces look homey, nostalgic and elegant.These generate heat by passing current through a series of tungsten heating elements.
These are unsurprisingly power-hungry, and also require additional power for ventilation, unless it’s a passive baseboard heater. Central requires a ventilation system, and most portable space heaters have a fan to drive them.
Ceramic heaters are also in fact electrically-powered. However, they have the advantage of being a bit more efficient (lower voltages produce more heat), and they’re mostly safer, as the ceramics usually don’t get white hot and potentially cause fires. Ceramics work based on the principle of resistive materials.
Resistors are just that – ceramic components designed to resist voltages or amperages above certain amounts. This allows a reduced current through, and the excess energy is shed as heat. This heat is a problem for electronics, but when the ceramic resistor banks are all about heat, it works out well.
You don’t see infrared heaters very often, and there are reasons for that. Infrared is the slowest set of frequencies in the spectrum, and heat produces this frequency of light. Conversely, infrared can heat things if there’s enough energy involved. Unlike ultraviolet, which are the fastest frequencies, infrared is non-ionizing and basically harmless to people and animals.
Using infrared to produce heat is a slow affair, and not very efficient, so this technology, for now, isn’t as commonplace. It does offer one of the safest forms of heat, but at the cost of time and efficiency. In the future, this technology will probably evolve.
Oil heaters can also actually entail a few different fuel sources. Often, this is actually kerosene, though actual “oil” as a fuel source is sometimes used. Kerosene is one of the cleaner fossil fuels, but it’s still a fossil fuel, producing pollutants (you can’t use a kerosene space heater in your house, for example), and requiring ventilation of this exhaust, out into the air.
Oil and kerosene will soon be replaceable with synthetic/organic fuels of the same consistency and potency, but without the pollutants. These will be cheaper, renewable and cleaner, and should be able to work with any kerosene/oil heater.
Baseboard heaters go along your baseboards. They’re compact, rectangular affairs usually built into the walls, or attached to them. Most baseboard heaters are electrical, either controlled per room, or from a central electric heat system (nowadays sometimes IOT). There do exist ceramic variants of this, and some air duct systems for central heat can take the corm of either baseboard vents or housed release units of a similar form factor.
These are best for per-room temperature control and are very common in apartments as a result. They’re also not uncommon in hotel rooms, for similar reasons. For a family home, these are fine, but you may want something central.
Wall heaters may be window units (combined with air conditioning), or something built into the walls with vents along the walls to release the heat. These aren’t as common outside being part of a wall-mounted HVAC dual system. These are usually electrical, though if wall heat refers to central heat with wall vents, this opens the category up much more.
This is the problem with heaters, everything can mean a million different things due to how many different ways heat can be produced, and how it can be installed in a space. Again, actual wall heaters are common in apartments and hotels.
Ceiling heaters – surprise, surprise – can mean a few different things. Ceiling heat may refer to vents from central heat mounted in the ceiling (common in any place with centralized heat and air), or it may mean an actual ceiling-mounted heating system. These aren’t uncommon in large, open environments like warehouses, workshops, factory floors, some retail and foodservice spaces, etc.
These are usually electric but sometimes gas and the downside is that due to heat rising, it has to fill the room with hot air in order for the ground level to be comfortable. This isn’t as big of a drawback as it seems, it has to run less often due to how much heat it pumps out at a time.
Air curtains aren’t heaters, nor are they air conditioners. They’re something altogether different, and they can serve a couple of purposes. The general idea of the technology is to produce a thin, steady downward blast of air (which would have a curtain shape too if visible) that basically makes a thin wall of wind.
This wall of differential air can create a barrier between spaces with different temperatures and humidity. These are common in greenhouses, laboratories, industrial facilities and more.
In recent years, they’ve become commonplace over public entries to commercial structures, where they actually serve two purposes. One is to keep the heat or air conditioning contained better with the doors opening all the time, the other is to provide a refreshing blast of cool or warm air to entrants.
Portable heaters aren’t necessarily small. They may be the size of a large piece of furniture and be on wheels. Gas portables are often quite large, weighing a few hundred pounds. Electric portables can be the size of a box fan or smaller.
Portable heaters are usually either traditional electric, or they’re kerosene, though propane and butane portables (large, heavy things) are also somewhat common sights in garages and some workshops. I had one of these in my workshop when I was in Vermont.
Portables are nice for the fact you can heat any enclosed space, without having to commit to an installation in that space.
Gas may mean one of several gases, and some heaters can use several different types with little to no modification. These gases may include methane (natural gas), propane, and even butane. Given that these gases combust somewhat violently, and are pressurized, many gas heaters don’t need fans or ventilation systems to drive them, the hot air propelled by its own high-energy release.
For central gas heat, though, additional ventilation may sometimes be required, though not always. Gas is a renewable, clean-burning fuel source, and it’s reasonably affordable in most places. The downside is that it can be very dangerous.
7 Important Things to Know About Space Heaters
There are some important things to consider when choosing your heat source. With a few exceptions, choosing the wrong heat source can be a very, very expensive mistake. So, let’s look at a few of the bigger factors – there are more, but you should have enough common sense to figure the rest of them out, really.
- Power – How do you want to power your heat? Do you want to use gas, which has to be refilled periodically, and is dangerous? Do you not mind a higher electric bill, and just want to use electric heat? Electric is safer, so this comes down to the price of one or the other in your area.
- Capacity/Speed – How quickly do you need to heat a space on demand? If it’s a house, you’re maintaining temperatures and shifting them gradually. If this is a workshop, garage or another place where you only heat it when in it, then you may need something that can provide more heat quickly. Different heat sources and form factors can impact this, depending on precisely how they heat space, to begin with.
- Energy Efficiency – You need to be smart with energy efficiency, and this comes back to how power and gas can vary in price from one region to the next. Also, if you’re having to re-heat a space at random, it becomes cheaper to burn gas, though again, gas is dangerous of course.
- Cost-Efficiency – This is getting redundant now, but you get the point. Make sure that you’re using the cheapest power source with the most effective methodology for your space. Don’t hemorrhage money by just picking what seems like the most powerful and instant thing in general, it really depends a lot on your space.
- Environmental Friendliness – Here, we see what I said earlier about fossil fuels. Avoid oil/kerosene and other polluting, non-renewable resources. Gas and electric are much greener, though I did mention that kerosene and oil are going to be replaced by ethanol-based substitutes in the near future which are cheap, clean and renewable. We’re just not quite there yet technologically, unfortunately. Give it time.
- Allergy Friendliness – Some people have allergic reactions to air heated by gas, though it’s rare. Others have trouble with kerosene or oil. Make sure you take this into account, and when you insulate your central heat vents, be sure to use hypoallergenic insulation. The same should be done for your intake and vent filters as well. Why sneeze and suffer? Aren’t winter colds bad enough?
- Safety – Safety is a huge concern with heaters. Portable heaters should have emergency shut-offs that detect when they tip over or get too hot. Central gas heat requires a lot of safety measures to be taken. Even central electric can be dangerous if shorts were to happen, or other things using the gas result in a gas leak getting into the heating chamber. So, be sure to look at the safety rating and precautions with your choice of heating technology, this isn’t a mistake you can afford to make.
TOP Best Space Heaters
Below, you will find the three best space heaters at a price ranging from $45 to $110. These models have different heat sources: infrared, ceramic and an electric element. These devices can be portable, allowing you to place them wherever you want, or baseboard models that need to be screwed to the wall.
Dr. Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater, 1500-Watt
Okay, I said I was dubious about infrared, but come on, this thing is just precious. I adore the wood case on this. I think perhaps I am in the minority in missing wood grain electronics and appliances, but I do.
This is actual wood, but it’s stately, modern but timeless, and it just looks nice. Infrared like this is common for artificial fireplaces that produce heat as well, and you see these disguised as fireplaces and stoves from time to time, though the “quaint old-timey” look of the stoves isn’t for me. This, however, I like.
- Power: Electric.
- Heat Source: Infrared.
- Form Factor: Portable.
- Controls: Digital.
- Material: Wooden case. Very stately.
The downside with infrared is that it’s kind of slow, and it has a limited range, not unlike a fireplace or small gas heater. This one drives air pretty well, though, so it will keep a small or medium-sized room toasty without driving your energy bill up too awful high.
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Dr. Infrared Heater: Check the current price
Honeywell HCE840B HeatGenius Ceramic Heater
This is your bog-standard ceramic heater, which isn’t a bad thing. It exemplifies the compact, simple yet effective design of this technology. This one is a slightly budget model, but it works quite well, so there’s no reason to buy a pricier ceramic heater than this, as far as this power and heat range go.
- Power: Electric.
- Heat Source: Ceramic.
- Form Factor: Portable.
- Controls: Digital.
- Material: Plastic, metal, and ceramics. Sleek modern neutral design.
This one isn’t as cute as the previous one, I wish all space heaters went for some adorably kitsch look like that. This looks like a modern small portable appliance, generic but not awful. It’s very safe, very power-efficient and does a pretty quick, slick job of heating a small or medium room. The adjustable airflow allows for personal or room heating on multiple levels. Neat.
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Honeywell: Check the current price
Cadet Manufacturing 05532 120-Volt White Baseboard Heater
This is what you call your run of the mill, typical baseboard heater. It’s not very expensive, notice. This is why it’s a popular way to heat small private spaces like apartments and hotel rooms. It allows local control over the heat, but being cheap, multiple can be used in a building or room, for pretty efficient mostly-passive heat.
- Power: Electric.
- Heat Source: Electric element.
- Form Factor: Baseboard.
- Controls: Thermostat/manual.
- Material: Metal. Designed to just not draw attention to itself visually.
This is fairly passive heat, so it’s mostly quiet, though some baseboard heaters can force air too. The idea is that heat rises, so these just passively produce thermal energy which rises to fill the room and maintain a stable temperature. It does eat some power – it’s electric heat after all – but smaller spaces, these are very ideal and cost-effective, as well as convenient.
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Cadet: Check the current price
10 Best-Selling Space Heaters Comparative Table
Table of Content
- Different types of space heaters
- 7 important things to know about space heaters
- TOP best space heaters