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What are the Best Space Heaters?

This article was written as a response to the question: What is the most energy-efficient space heater?
Guide to space heaters. Which are the most cheapest to operate, provide the most heat and safest to use.

With the rising costs of home heating, everyone is looking for more cost effective ways to stay warm in the winter. High efficiency heating systems, programmable thermostats, increased insulation and weatherproofing windows and doors all help in reducing your heating bill. But have you ever considered using a space heater to help lower your heating bills further?

Using space heaters as a supplement to your regular heating system can not only help lower your heating bill, but it can also help the environment as well. By lowering your thermostat by just 5 degrees and using space heaters in frequently used rooms, you can eliminate as much as 800 pounds of CO2 emissions annually.

Today’s space heaters are far safer than their predecessors. Take a look at these little heaters at your local stores and you will find that these are not your father’s space heaters. Most modern heaters are equipped with auto shut-off switches that turn the heater off when tipped over, and some are encased to prevent accidental burns. Also, many have built in thermostats that help regulate the heat and save energy. Some have blower fans and some even oscillate.

With so many choices, you may wonder which space heater is the best to use. And since the object is to reduce your overall heating bill, you might also ask which is the most energy efficient.

Coil heaters are what most of us think of when talking about space heaters. These are heaters that have a coiled heating element inside and normally use a built in blower that moves the air over the coil to heat it. Though this is old technology, they are still very popular. They do heat a space fairly quickly but from an energy consumption point of view, they are not particularly efficient. There are also space heaters that use fuel such as Kerosene or propane. The fuel to operate these heaters can become expensive and if the heater is not properly used and maintained, they can give off noxious fumes and may also pose a fire hazard. Then there is the oil heater. These look similar to the old steam radiators and use a heating element to heat oil contained in the unit. This type of space heater is slow to get hot and takes longer to heat a space. If you have young children or pets, this type of heater could pose a burn hazard, as they get very hot when in operation.

The new kid on the block is the Halogen heater. These space heaters use a halogen element to heat the air and may also have a fan built in as well. Also many of these heaters are also oscillators, meaning they swing from side to side like an oscillating fan does. A side benefit to these heaters is that they also provide a degree of light as well since the halogen element is quite bright when running. These units are sturdy and will generally outlast most other types of space heaters, making them a cost effective choice since they do not need to be replaced as often. From an efficiency standpoint, this type of heater will generally use less power to operate than most other space heaters as well. For my money, the halogen space heater is the most efficient and safest choice in space heaters.

One final note on heating your home. Putting a humidifier in you home can help with the heating process. Here in the Midwest, we have a saying about the sometimes stifling hot summer days. “It’s not the heat that gets you, it’s the humidity”. Humid air will feel warmer than dry air will. If you maintain a relative humidity level of 60% in your home, you can lower your thermostat and feel just as warm. 

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Comments (8)

Great article! We have gas heaters built into our walls, and we have two of those Amish heaters that look like little fireplaces.

This is an excellent article but I have to put my two cents worth in as usual :-). A much better way to conserve energy and still be able to control the temperature in individual rooms or groups of rooms is to install a zoned heating system. No matter what type of heating system you have-hot air, hot water, heat pump or electric-it can be zoned. The initial outlay to install or have installed a zoned system will be higher but the zoned system will also allow you to control how each room or group of rooms are cooled during the long hot summers. The latest innovation with heat pump systems is to install individual wall mounted evaporators in each room with their own individual thermostats.

It is true that zoned heating is more efficient than non-zoned systems. In fact, on average, they can be up to 30% more efficient than non-zoned systems. However, installation of these zoned heating systems can be quite expensive to install. Installation of a zoned system is beyond the skill levels of most DIYer’s as it entails the installation and calibration of multiple thermostats, computer board, ductwork and dampers. Hiring an HVAC professional to install will likely cost you between $3,500 to $5,000 or more in parts and labor. Assuming your heating/cooling bill is $200 a month, it will take nearly 5 years to recoup the cost of installation. A good space heater can cost between $50 and $100, allowing you to recoup the cost in terms of months rather than years. Additionally, according to “The Homeowners Handbook For Energy Efficiency” by John Krigger and Chris Dorsi, “Distribution of heat through pipes and ducts typically waists 10% to 35% of the heat”. This is a trait not shared by space heaters. If you are a renter rather than a homeowner, this is all a moot issue, as you will not have the ability to install such a system in your landlord’s house. So, though I agree that in a perfect world, a multi-zoned system would be beneficial and efficient, most folks lack the resources to make such an investment, especially in the tight times we are all experiencing today. But, if you are having a home built, or you do have the cash to invest, zoned systems are a great idea and a good investment.

Informative and well-written.

My mom has zoned heating.. that's where we can turn the dial in the room to make it warmer or cooler, right? She has baseboard electric heat in every room and each room has its own control dial.

George

I found that an important thing to consider when buying a space heater is not just how much heat it creates (many are 1500 watts) but what it does with the heat. I have found, heaters without some kind of circulation heat the room slowly because the heat is not being distributed, it's just slowly migrating through the space. No circulation means leaving a heater on longer in order to achieve a sense of "warmth" in a room, using more energy in the process. It's like comparing a fireplace with a blower to one without. Even if the fire's the same size, the one with the blower will heat your room more quickly and effectively.

It is the circulation of heat that originally interested me in the Vornado brand of heaters. Vornado seems to be better known for powerful fans, but when they apply their technology to heaters, it works very well. I also think highly of their attention to safety - they have tip over shutoff, they shut off if the air gets restricted in any way, and the heater's surface doesn't get hot even after hours of operation. They are a bit more expensive than standard heaters, but they seem to last a long time and work much better.

1500 watts is alot of juice- for sure- and that kind of power consumption makes many people cringe at the concept of an electric heater being "green". To me, it makes more sense to use "regional" heating to keep the room I spend the most time in warm instead of trying to keep my whole apartment at one comfortable temperature.

Thanks for the humidifier tip, I didn't know that.

audry

I tested most of the heaters on the market (since that's my job) and my recommendation would be to go with a micathermic or oil-filled heater. They are the safest and totally quiet while the heating output is fairly similar with all electric heaters. The Bionaire micathermic heater might be a good choice ( http://electric-heaters-review.com/bionaire-bh3950-micathermic-element-console-heater-review )

Great article on space heaters! Comments are also very useful.

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