Space heaters can be a great option for homeowners or office workers looking for ways to stay warmer in the winter. There are various factors to consider when deciding which type of space heater to use, namely, heat output, efficiency, and cost. This guide aims to help you gather an understanding of different types of space heaters so that you may find the best space heater for your needs.
Space heaters are small portable heaters mostly used to heat small spaces such as individual rooms or offices. They vary in their heating capacity and come in multiple types of models, allowing for a wide range of features. Here are the most common types of space heaters:
- Convection Heaters
- Panel Space Heaters
- Fan Space Heater
- Ceramic Space Heater
- Oil Filled Radiators Space Heaters
- Infrared heaters
- Propane Space Heaters
There are quite a few options available when it comes to finding a space heater for your home. Now, we'll explore some of the features of each type of space heater.
Panel Space Heaters
Panel heaters can cost anywhere from $80 to upwards of $450. They are becoming more popular due to their convenience and modern designs. These heaters operate using convection, wherein hot elements located inside the panel produce electrical currents heating its surface. As a result, it heats the air around it, causing it to rise to the top of a room, warming it.
Panels are best used to remove the chill from a drafty room, as opposed to heating it completely. These small heaters can stand individually, be set on a stand, or easily be mounted on the wall. They can also come equipped with a fan or without one, depending on the model. While the top surface of panel heaters will become hot to the touch, the rest of the panel's surface is cool to the touch.
They are considered reasonably efficient, as they use about a third of the energy used by radiant heaters. These heaters can come in various capacities, typically starting as low as 400 watts and going as high as 1,500 watts. One of the downsides of panel heaters is that they are pretty much "plugin and forget it heaters," not offering users many options for controls or additional settings.
Fan Space Heater
Fan heaters work similarly to ceramic heaters, as they are also convection based. The main difference in their operation is the type of heating element is used. Fan heaters contain a metal coil that transfers heat into the air. The fan then blows the warmed air over the metal coil, distributing heat into the room.
Fan space heaters are compact in size and fairly inexpensive to purchase. They can typically be purchased for about $40 to $70, with wattages starting as low as 200W and going as high as 1,500W. The housing on fan heaters is usually cool to the touch, making them less of a fire hazard than other types of space heaters. These heaters offer directional heat, meaning that if you're looking to heat a large room evenly, they probably won't be the best option.
One major benefit of fan space heaters is that they offer instant heat as soon as they are turned on. They are also fairly lightweight and can be placed on the floor or mounted on the wall. Fan heaters are energy efficient options if you're looking to heat individual rooms in a home, as the electricity needed to power the fan is minimal.
One of the downsides of fan heaters is that most of them only include dial-type thermostats so that you won't achieve precise temperature settings with these heaters alone. Another disadvantage is that they can easily be blocked by nearby furniture in the room.
Ceramic Space Heater
Most ceramic space heaters can be purchased from anywhere from $40 to $120. Ceramic heaters are another type of convection-based space heater. This type of heater is equipped with ceramic plates and metal coils. When electricity flows through these coils, the plates heat up. As the plates absorb more electrical heat, the heat is forced to move somewhere, so it is released into the air as a result.
This process happens fairly quickly, and it doesn't take long for ceramic heaters to produce a warming effect in a room. Ceramic heaters can come either with a fan or without one. The heaters without a fan typically take a bit longer to heat up. These heaters are also compact in size and lightweight, though some may be taller than others (typically no more than 2-feet).
Ceramic heaters are especially energy-efficient and can be great for providing a steady flow of warm air into individual rooms in a home, such as a bathroom or a bedroom. Built for portability, they can come in wattages as low as 200W or up to 1,500W. It's advised not to leave ceramic heaters unattended as their surface temperature can get pretty hot, making them a fire hazard (especially when they're placed too close to flammable objects or furniture).
Another great benefit of recent model ceramic heaters is that they often come with a digital thermostat, allowing for accurate temperature control. On the other hand, a downside is that the ones with fans can be a bit on the noisy side.
Oil-Filled Radiators Space Heaters
Oil-filled space heaters (aka "radiant heaters") are becoming more commonplace in households as they provide long-lasting heat and are very efficient as space heaters. Typically coming with a wattage of 1,500W, they can be purchased for about $40 to $130. These small portable heaters look similar to the vintage iron cast radiators found in older homes.
These heaters usually come with wheels, and though they are small, they are a bit taller than other types of space heaters. The inside of these heaters contains what's known as diathermic oil. As the oil heats up, it circulates through the fins of the space heater. As the fins get hotter, their surface temperature rises, causing nearby air to grow warmer.
Radiant heaters do not come equipped with a blower fan (which means they're pretty quiet), as their exterior metal surface is large enough to help distribute the heat sufficiently. Radiant oil heaters are extremely efficient, diverting nearly 99% of electrical energy into heat. These heaters work best in small rooms of approximately 150-sq.ft. or less, and many new models come with a digital thermostat for easy temperature adjustment.
On the downside, these heaters can be extremely hot to the touch and are more on the heavier side than other space heaters (can weigh between 12- and 18-lbs). Also, the speed at which they provide heat can't be controlled, so they may take a bit longer than other types of heaters to warm up a room.
Radiant & Infrared Heaters
Infrared heaters are another great option for space heaters, coming in various models suitable for outdoor use, as well. They can be purchased for anywhere from $60 to $200. These heaters are powered by electricity and operate by sending electromagnetic waves through the air, which heat any physical objects close by.
Their process is very similar to how the sun uses radiation to heat the Earth's surface. These heaters technically don't heat the air but heat objects instead (such as furniture, bodies, walls, floors, etc.). Infrared heaters come with and without blower fans, as they don't require a fan for operation, though it can speed up their heat distribution process.
These heaters work great in large basements and for outdoor activities during cooler climates. One major benefit of infrared heaters is that they have long-lasting heating capabilities and can provide heat even when the unit is turned off. Their design and technology make them superb energy savers, converting 100% of their energy into heat. Their settings typically include a range of power levels (as well as a thermostat), and they usually come in wattages of 500w, 1000W, or 1500W.
Many of the newer models also come with carbon monoxide detection, which shuts down the unit if it is detected. Infrared heaters can be a bit heavier than other space heaters and typically don't have indoor mounting capabilities. The heating surface of infrared heaters can get exceptionally hot, so it's best not to place them close to furniture or flammable objects, and monitor small children when they are in operation nearby (as with most space heaters).
Propane Space Heaters
Propane space heaters can cost anywhere from $30 to $200 and are typically more expensive than other types of home space heaters. They operate similarly to infrared heaters, as they work by emitting electromagnetic waves through the air, heating any objects in close vicinity. They also are the only type of heater that doesn't require electricity to operate.
These heaters are mostly used outside, as they pose a serious fire hazard when being used indoors. They work by utilizing fuel to create heat energy and can come in small portable sizes, or larger sizes (which are often used on patios or beaches). Since they aren't restrained by the need for a power cord, you can pretty much take them anywhere with you.
Another benefit of these heaters is that they produce the hottest supply of heat as a space heater while using about 20% less energy than other types of heaters. Propane heaters can also come with the option of a fan or without one. Their heating capacity is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units), and they can come as small as 9,000BTUs, or up to 60,000BTUs.
Summing Things Up
We hope you enjoyed this guide about the various types of space heaters. Remember, the best way to choose a space heater is first to determine how many rooms you are looking to heat and how often.
Before you go, be sure to check out our other HVAC posts: