Buyer’s Guide To Choosing A Portable Heater (With Examples)

When the winter chill starts to creep in, you may consider buying some space heaters for your home when you need to keep yourself and your family nice and warm. You may ask yourself what the best heater is or what you should be looking for when purchasing heaters. 

When you are looking for heaters, the main things to consider are as follows: the size of the room you want to warm up, the safety features you need, what type of heater you want or need, and what will be the most cost-effective. These are the key questions you must ask yourself when purchasing any heater, not to buy the wrong heaters for your family.

This article will go over most of everything you need to know when purchasing heaters for your home. This article will also review the pros and cons of the types of space heaters while providing options for which to decide to get.

How Do I Choose A Portable Heater?

When looking for heaters, begin by figuring out what spaces you want to put your heaters in. Once you figure out the room’s size, keep in mind the power output you need to keep that space warm. For every 10 watts of power the heater needs, it will heat 1 square foot of space.

As most commercial heaters operate around 1500 watts, a heater’s specific area can warm 150 square feet. You can offset this if the room is more extensive than 150 square feet by placing the heaters near frequent sitting areas.

Safety features are another thing you need to keep in mind. The standard features you will need to look for are as follows:

1. Tip-Over Safety Switch

This safety function is for accidents. If the heater is on and is tipped or knocked over on accident, the heater will automatically shut off to help prevent fires from starting.

2. Overheat Protection

This safety feature is self-explanatory. If the heater malfunctions and heats up over the factory set safety temperature, the heater will automatically shut off.

3. Automatic Shut-off Timer

This safety feature is used just like a sleep timer on the TV. Most heaters with this feature will allow you to set an automatic shut-off time for up to 10 or 12 hours.

4. Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is another concern when looking for space heaters. If you are serious about energy savings and want to keep your heating costs down, comparing performance before buying a space heater is a bright idea.

You can use a basic calculation to measure the running costs of a heater. Most electric and gas companies charge anywhere from 0.15 to 0.33 cents per kilowatt hour. Generally, most electric heaters use 750-1500 watts of power or 0.75 to 1.5 kilowatts per hour.

You then take that number and multiply it by the number of hours you use the heater per day. Suppose your heater draws 1500 watts, and you use it for 10 hours a day. Divide 1500 by 1000 to get 1.5. Multiply 1.5 by 10 to get 15 kilowatts per hour. So the heater would cost anywhere from $2.25 to $4.95 to run daily.

Choose the most energy-efficient space heater for your atmosphere and space capacity to keep your electric costs from skyrocketing.

Furthermore, special features such as energy-saving modes, customizable thermostats, low wattage, and programmable timers reduce power consumption and add to cost-effective operation. 

5. Safety Markings

One last thing to look for when shopping for space heaters is to look for markings or stickers from safety testing companies like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) International certification.

How Many Watts Do I Need To Heat A Room?

Determining how to heat an entire room is relatively easy as long as you know the size of the space you wish to heat in square feet. For every 10 watts, the heater you want can heat at least 1 square foot of space.

If you want to keep it portable, most heaters you’ll be looking at typically use 750 to 1500 watts of electricity. So these heaters can heat between 75 to 150 square feet. 

That being said, if you have huge rooms, you can offset standard space heaters’ maximum heating capacity by placing them in crucial areas where you and your family spend most of the time.

However, if you want to heat the entire room, perhaps getting space heaters installed in your house that use more than 1500 watts of electricity may be the way to go. Keep in mind that this will be much less cost-effective when going this route, and the units will also be much more expensive.

The Benefits & Drawbacks Of Each Space Heater

There are many types of space heaters to consider when purchasing one to keep your family warm. All of them have pros and cons to consider. Here we will discuss said pros and cons of each type of space heater, along with examples and links for the heaters you can purchase.

1. Ceramic Space Heaters

A ceramic space heater is made up of ceramic plates that are connected to metal coils. It is powered by electricity. The ceramic plates heat up as electricity flows through such coils. The ceramic plates absorb electrical heat, and because that heat needs to go elsewhere, it is released into the air.

The most significant advantage of ceramic heater systems is that they heat up quickly, and you can experience the healing effects of this heater quickly. Because of this, they are among the most energy-efficient electric heaters on the market. 

Ceramic space heaters come in two varieties: with and without a fan. If the ceramic heater has a fan, the fan blasts air over the ceramic plates to make the heater air circulate more rapidly in the space. If the ceramic heater lacks a fan, the heating mechanism takes a little longer because the air must absorb the heat steadily emitted by the ceramic surfaces.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of A Ceramic Heater

PROSCONS
Compact in sizeIt does not heat a large area (best for smaller sizes)
LightweightCeramic heaters without a fan heat a room slowly
Heats up quicklyMost types must operate continuously (and consume electrical energy) to provide heat.
It takes some time for ceramic plates to cool off (heat still radiates after being turned off)Physical objects can impede heat transmission
Housing that is cool to the touch
Heat can have the ability to oscillate.
Moving around is easy.
Some come with a wireless thermostat.

Here are two highly-rated oil-filled space heaters available for purchase:

Safest Small Space Heater
Honeywell UberHeat Ceramic Personal Heater
$39.99

Honeywell’s UberHeat Ceramic Personal Heater is a 1500-watt, adjustable thermostat and tip-over switch personal heater.

The UberHeat features overheat protection, cool touch housing, and an overheat safety shut-off. It also features an easy carry handle for portability from room to room or office to cubicle!

Honeywell’s UberHeat is the perfect personal heater for any home or office space.

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The overheated ceramic heater provides intense 1500-watt heat. The low setting uses less electricity to run and is more energy-efficient, which is a better alternative for energy conservation.

This little guy also boasts the standard safety features, including an adjustable thermostat, a tip-over protection switch, cool-touch housing, and an overheat protection switch.

Best Electric Ceramic Heater
Lasko 755320 Ceramic Space Tower Heater
$69.99 $59.99

This ceramic space heater delivers 1500 watts of power with 2 settings for fast and effective heating. The Auto setting allows the unit to automatically switch between the two settings as needed. The unit features an adjustable thermostat and remote control to adjust the temperature. The heater has a built-in timer from 1 hour to 8 hours.

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Thanks to its extensive oscillation, this heater distributes warm air across the room and can adjust the heater’s 1500-watt ceramic heating element. The Lasko also comes with both remote control and a built-in timer.

Overheat protection guarantees that the space heater does not blister. The heating stays cool to the touch even after operating for long periods and includes the usual tip-over protection.

2. Fan Space Heaters

A ceramic heater is very similar to a fan space heater. In fact, except for the heating element, it functions in almost every way. Instead of ceramic plates, these space heaters heat a metal coil, which transfers heat into the air. The fan blows air over the metal coil, transferring heat throughout the room.

This can be an excellent alternative for apartment tenants. These units are also helpful for providing fast heat in bathrooms.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of A Fan Space Heater

PROSCONS
Purchasing is inexpensive Heat no longer transfers throughout the room when the heater is switched off.
Heat can oscillate Physical objects can impede heat transfer
The housing is cool-to-the-touch
Moving it around is easy.
Must be constantly on (and employ electrical energy) to deliver heat
Lightweight
It does not heat a large area (best suited to smaller spaces)
Heats up quickly
Most of these heaters only have turn-dial thermostats, allowing you to set the temperature to a specific level.
Compact in size

Here are two highly-rated oil-filled electric space heaters:

It provides two heat options of HIGH and LOW and has a feature that will automatically turn this device off and on when the room’s temperature hits your desired temperature.

This compact heater has the usual safety features, including overheating and tip-over protection, while also made of flame-retardant material.

This PELONIS quickly heats up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in just over 3 seconds and can oscillate, quickly dispersing heat throughout the space.

It comes with an adjustable thermostat with HIGH or LOW settings and boasts a cool-to-touch case, overheats protection, and tip-over protection.

3. Infrared Space Heaters

An infrared space heater acts differently than a ceramic or fan heater. However, it is powered by electricity.

An infrared heater warms up a room by releasing electromagnetic waves into the air, heating the room’s actual objects. The procedure is equivalent to how the sun uses radiation to heat the Earth. Instead of warming the air, infrared heaters heat the objects (such as chairs, carpeting, and walls) and human bodies surrounding them.

There are two kinds of infrared heaters: those with and those without a fan. Infrared does not need a fan to work because it uses electromagnetic waves rather than a heating device to warm up an environment. Some versions, however, have a fan to assist in the healing process.

These heaters are also ideal for large basements. Furthermore, some units resemble existing fireplaces. Consider this option if you’d like a cozy feeling from your heater.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Infrared Space Heaters

PROSCONS
Objects do not obstruct heat (objects absorb the heat)It can be heavy
Heat lasts long and persists even though the infrared heater is switched off.Heat is only projected in one direction.
Some versions have wood cabinet styles that make them appear to be furniture.Heat transmission requires physical objects in the room to absorb it (fewer objects = less heat)
Housing that is cool to the touchIt can cost more than ceramic and fan heaters
Some come with a wireless thermostat
Some come with wheels or a handle making them very portable.

Here are two highly-rated oil-filled space heaters available:

Best For Small Workshops
Comfort Zone Fan-Assisted Tower Radiant Quartz Heater
$70.47

The Comfort Zone Fan-Assisted Tower Radiant Quartz Heater has a dual quartz tube that produces instant heat and a fan-assisted design to warm the surrounding area. The remote control allows you to adjust the temperature across the room.

Two top-mounted control knobs allow you to switch between high and low-temperature settings. The overheat protection automatically shuts off the unit.

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This functional radiant heater warms people and objects in front of it quickly and thoroughly. When in use, the dual quartz tubes turn on immediately and emit a warm glow.

Improved safety features include a stay-cool molded handle, metal housing, and tip-over switch.

Nifty features include a top-mounted control center where the knobs allow you to adjust the thermostat and fan-assisted heat.

Dr Infrared Heater DR-978 Infrared Space Heater
$139.99 $99.75

The Dr Infrared Heater is a unique hybrid heating system that quickly and evenly heats your room to a comfortable temperature.

UL- and Canada-certified, it's safe around children and pets and features an Energy saving ECO Mode. With high- and low-wattage settings, the Dr Infrared Heater is perfect for any space.

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The Dr. provides a unique hybrid dual heating system including a PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) and infrared radiation, which provides a much higher heat output.

Safety features include the standard tip-over protection, overheat shut-off switch and 12-hour auto-off timer.

The thermostat regulates the heater and automatically cycles on and off to maintain temperatures from 50 to 86 degrees.

4. Propane Space Heaters

The only space heater that does not use energy as a power source is a propane space heater. Its service is instead powered by liquid propane (LP). Since these space heaters are powered by propane, they are the most compact space heaters available. They are not constrained by a power cord’s limits and can work even though your home’s power goes out.

Another critical benefit of propane space heaters is that they provide the most heat. They’re still around 20% less costly to operate than an electric space heater.

A propane space heater operates similarly to an infrared heater, except it conducts electromagnetic waves into the air to heat nearby surfaces. Because of this, they are a popular option for outdoor areas such as a patio.

The only difference is that propane space heaters use liquid propane (LP) to control the heating mechanism rather than electricity, unlike infrared heaters. Propane heaters, like infrared heaters, do not use a fan to provide heat. Some versions, however, have a fan to help speed up the heat.

Propane heaters are classified into two types: those with and those without a fan.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Propane Space Heaters

PROSCONS
Most portable and does not need a power cord.
It needs fuel to work, so make sure you have enough on hand to keep the heat on.
It does not require electricity to operate.Because of the flame and burning fuel, there is a greater chance of fire and explosion.
Provides the most intense heat possible.Not all types can be used safely indoors.
The most cost-effective kind of heater to run.Some propane space heaters produce carbon dioxide and must be adequately ventilated.
Generally are inexpensive to buy.

Here are two highly-rated oil-filled space heaters available:

Texsport Sportsmate Portable Propane Heater
$53.49 $44.98
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This small outdoor propane heater is perfect for camping, hunting, and other cool-weather outdoor activities. It uses 16.4 oz or 14.1 oz disposable propane fuel cylinders.

Sports a safety shut-off valve if the flame goes out or is tipped over.

With this model, you can customize the heating modes that come with it (HIGH, MED, LOW) and can heat a room of over 450 square feet.

Safety features include tip-over protection, overheat protection, and a low-oxygen sensor for carbon monoxide-related safety concerns.

5. Oil-filled Space Heaters

A radiator heater is another name for an oil-filled space heater. These heater models resembled the old-fashioned radiator heaters used in older homes.

Portable oil-filled space heaters are powered by electricity. Diathermic oil is contained inside the heater’s shell, holding its heat for long periods.

This heated oil circulates across the columns or fins. As those fins heat, the surface temperature increases, releasing heat into the surrounding air.

Since oil-filled space heaters use an internal fluid to heat a sizable external metal surface, they cannot use a fan to help disperse heat in these heaters. Convection is the only way for heat to escape from the device.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Oil-filled Heaters

PROSCONS
Heat lasts long and starts even after the heating is switched off.
You cannot regulate the speed of heat.
It is mighty and does not have to work constantly to supply heat.You can’t heat huge rooms; most only have a primary heating range of 150 square feet and a supplemental heat source of 300 square feet.
Some come with a digital thermostat.The housing becomes exceedingly hot.
Easy to move around if it has wheels.Heavier in weight than most forms of heaters (around 16-20 lbs.)
Because of the diathermic oil, heat radiates long after it is turned off.Heat cannot oscillate.

Here are two highly-rated oil-filled space heaters available:

Our Top Pick
Pelonis Oil-Filled Radiator Heater with Programmable Thermostat
$97.63

Pelonis oil-filled radiators are perfect for medium to large-sized rooms and come with a range of safety features to keep you and your loved ones safe. With an automatic overheat protection system, these heaters are perfect for use by elderly people or children.

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The Pelonis heater comes in various colors to fit aesthetically in your home. This heater has multiple heating settings that provide quick and efficient heating throughout the room.

The Pelonis comes with an excellent 10-hour timer with remote control. It also comes with built-in overheat protection and a tip-over safety switch.

Safest Space Heater - Top Pick
De'Longhi Full Room Radiant Heater
$159.00

The DeLonghi TRD40615E Radiant Heater provides 1500 watts of heating power. This heater is maintenance-free with a permanently-sealed oil reservoir, and its high-quality steel assembly ensures durability. You can customize your comfort with an adjustable thermostat and 3 heat settings.

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This De’Longhi Heater has 25% more area for airflow and with silent operation. This oil-filled space heater has various safety features, including the essential tip-over protection bolstered with its extra-wide feet.

The De’Longhi heater has a 24-hour programmable timer and anti-freeze setting. It automatically turns on if the temperature drops below 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. Panel Space Heaters

Panel space heaters are a relatively recent technology that is quickly gaining traction. A panel space heater can be wall-mounted or placed on the floor using the included stand.

Panel space heaters operate like oil-filled heaters, allowing hot air to radiate off the device. The critical difference is that flat panel space heaters generate heated air using electrical currents rather than oil.

Although a panel space heater may seem to be the best form to purchase, the fact is that many of these heaters are best used to eliminate the chill from a room rather than thoroughly heating it. Panel heater technology needs some advances before it can completely replace the other space heaters discussed in this guide.

For the time being, think of it as a decent choice for supplementary heat in your home for rooms that don’t get as hot as you need them to. Panel heaters are also popular for children’s bedrooms since they can be installed up and off the floor.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Panel Space Heaters

PROSCONS
Elegant and modern in appearance.
They do not generate as much heat as other types of space heaters.
It can be hung on a wall or placed on the floor.Generally used to remove the cold from the air without thoroughly heating a room.
The easiest to use, plug it in and let it do its thing.There aren’t many controls.
Can still run without fear of being caught on fire.Not all models come with a fan.
It cannot be moved from one room to another if it is wall-mounted.

Here are two highly-rated oil-filled space heaters available:

This sleek-looking panel heater can heat an entire room with 1500 watts of heating power. You can keep it portable with its legs and wheels or mount it on a wall.

This heater has a safety thermal cut-off, so it doesn’t overheat, and an internal tip-over switch if the unit becomes.

EconoHome Wall Mount Space Heater Panel - with Thermostat
$129.00
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This heater can easily warm up a 120-square-foot room and saves you tons of money on your electric bill due to its low wattage. 

While only coming with a wall mount, this heater operates at a consistent temperature and has an optional heat guard accessory doubling its heating efficiency.

Final Thoughts

With this article’s conclusion, we hope to have eased your burden regarding what you need to look for when purchasing space heaters for you and your family. Hopefully, this article helps you choose the perfect heater to keep you nice and warm throughout the cold seasons.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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