What's the Best Heater for Your Space? Space Heater Buying Guide

by Team HomeServe
A person wearing bright rainbow-colored socks and warms cold feet near an electric heater. Infrared halogen heater at home.

If you don’t have a central furnace in your home, you may find that some rooms get colder than others. Even when you run your furnace, you may notice that the basement, attic, garage and some rooms just don’t seem to heat up as well. You can make these spaces cozier with a space heater that provides supplemental heat as needed.

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There are many different types of space heaters available. To choose the type that’s best for you, consider the size of the areas you wish to heat, how portable you want the heater to be and what’s most economical for your family. This guide reviews the benefits and drawbacks of each type of heater.

Ceramic Space Heaters

Ceramic space heaters use ceramic plates to heat up the surrounding area. They run on electricity and provide near-instant heat. They’re smaller and more compact, so it’s easy to move them around.

Objects in the path of the heater and someone in the room can block the heat, and you need to run the heater constantly to keep the space warm. You also need to make sure to purchase a ceramic space heater with a fan. Heaters without fans aren’t nearly as quick at warming up the space. Finally, they only cover smaller areas, so they’re not suitable for larger rooms.

infrared heater

Infrared Space Heaters

The best way to understand how an infrared space heater works is to imagine how the sun still melts the top layer of snow or ice on a cold day. An infrared space heater emits electromagnetic rays that cause objects the rays come in contact with to heat up. If you run an infrared heater in a room, it may heat the couches, chairs, walls and people sitting in the area without the need for a fan.

Infrared heaters are easy to move, as many models come with wheels. They use electricity and leave a room warm for some time after they’re turned off. You don’t need to worry about objects blocking the heat because the furniture in the room will absorb the heat. You can also find versions that blend in with your existing furniture so that the unit doesn’t seem out of place.

Infrared space heaters are more expensive than other types of space heaters, and they won’t work as well in open rooms without a lot of furniture. The heat is only channeled in a single direction and can’t be oscillated.

cool day at the office

Oil-Filled (Radiator) Space Heaters

Oil-filled space heaters look like radiators, but they use electricity and heating oil to heat the area. The oil is heated up rather quickly, and the fins stay hot for a while after the unit is turned off. You’re able to keep a space warm without continuously running the heater.

These space heaters are energy efficient and provide heat to the room quickly. In some cases, they may provide heat too quickly, and you can’t control how fast the heater warms up. Like infrared space heaters, the heat is emitted in a single direction, and you can’t oscillate the heater. Oil-filled space heaters can only heat smaller spaces, and they get very hot to the touch, so you need to be careful to avoid burning yourself.

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A pair of household space heaters warming a pair of feet

Fan Space Heaters

Fan space heaters use metal coils and a fan to disperse heat throughout a space. They’re normally very compact and easy to move from one space to another. They’re cheaper than other types of space heaters and can be oscillated.

Most of the time, you can feel the heat from a fan space heater the moment you turn it on. But like ceramic space heaters, objects can block the heat from reaching the entire room, and the space cools down right away after you turn the heater off. They aren’t as energy-efficient because they need to run constantly. This also means they may need to be replaced more frequently. Fan space heaters are ideal for smaller spaces.

Propane Space Heaters

If you’re looking for the most heat, propane space heaters will do the job for you. They use liquid propane as a fuel source and can be operated without electricity. Out of all the types of space heaters available, these have the highest output of heat and lowest operating cost. They’re also relatively inexpensive.

They use a similar type of technology that infrared space heaters use in that they emit waves to heat up objects in the area. Those objects can absorb the heat, keeping the space warmer for longer after you turn the heater off. You can get them with or without a fan to oscillate the heat throughout your space.

The drawbacks of propane space heaters are mostly safety concerns. They emit carbon dioxide and could start a fire if left unattended. They’re most appropriate for outdoor areas and well-ventilated rooms. You should avoid them if you’re looking to heat a very small room due to the impact they have on air quality and the increased risk of fire.