What to Know About Space Heaters

Interested in a space heater for your home, but find the options overwhelming? Here are four basic types of space heaters and how to choose one.

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In many parts of the world, home heating is a big deal. Sometimes built-in heat sources alone don’t cut it, and that’s why many homeowners turn to portable space heaters. If you’ve done any browsing for the best space heaters, you’ve probably noticed the massive selection available. If you’re in the market for a good space heater but aren’t sure what type makes sense for your situation, we’re here to help.

Types of Space Heaters

The first decision when choosing a space heater is whether to buy a fuel-burning or electric unit. If you’re planning to heat a room in your home rather than a garage or construction site, electric space heaters make sense.

Fuel-burning units are generally more powerful, but they also produce carbon monoxide. This makes them riskier than electric models unless they’re heating a space with ample ventilation.

Here are the different types of electric space heaters for home use:

Infrared Heaters

These use infrared bulbs to produce concentrated heat. Generally, they’re better for snuggling near and warming your hands than quickly bringing your whole living room up to 72 degrees. But some newer infrareds claim to be powerful enough to heat a room, too.

Like many electric heaters, most infrared units are 1500 watts — the maximum most standard outlets can handle. These space heaters sell for $50 to $120 or more, depending on the size and features. This well-reviewed Dr Infrared Heater has a built -in thermostat and remote control.

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Forced-Air Heaters

If you want lots of heat fast, forced-air space heaters are a good choice. They combine a heated internal element with a fan that circulates warm air around the room.

The fans can be noisy, but newer models are quieter. Most of these space heaters, including this unit from Vornado, cost between $30 and $100.

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Ceramic Heaters

Like forced-air units, ceramic space heaters work by convection. They heat internal ceramic plates, which pass the heat on to the surrounding air, gradually heating the room.

Ceramic heaters like this one from Lasko are popular because they never get hot enough to burn anything, unlike infrared and some forced-air units.

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Radiant Heaters

Most electric radiant space heaters work by heating oil inside the unit, enough to warm the nearby space and people.

Models like this PELONIS radiant heater are good for small spaces, and perfect if you want a nearly noise-free heating solution. They typically sell for $50 to $80.

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How to Choose a Space Heater

The above categories often overlap. Infrared and ceramic heaters can also be forced-air if they have a fan, which they often do. When deciding which type to buy, your first consideration should be heating speed and capacity. Don’t forget to check out our list of safe space heaters.

  • Do you only need a little heat in a particular spot, but want it fast? Go with infrared.
  • Are you okay with some noise, and want heat to circulate around a large room? Get a forced-air unit.
  • Want to avoid fire hazards? Go ceramic.
  • Need a slow, steady heat that sticks around? Then an oil-filled radiant unit is the way to go.

If you’re looking for the smartest option, these are the best energy-efficient space heaters to warm up your room.

Robert Maxwell
Robert Maxwell has been a passionate DIYer since the mid-1990s, when he received his first childhood tool set. His rural upbringing gives him a lifetime of experience in all things DIY, from carpentry and fine woodworking to welding and vehicle repair, all of which he practices regularly from his self-built cabin in the woods in Northern Ontario, Canada. Robert has been a regular contributor to Family Handyman since 2020, where he writes from firsthand experience on a surprisingly wide variety of DIY topics.