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Expert Advice for Choosing a Space Heater

Expert Advice for Choosing a Space Heater
Some of the best space heaters on the market today.
Credit: Laura Casner
By Ross Patton ⋅ Review Editor
Tuesday March 3, 2020
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Have a cold office? Need to warm up your workshop? Want to keep your bedroom nice and cozy without wasting resources by heating the whole house? There are all kinds of reasons to purchase a space heater — we are here to help you choose which model is the right one for your individual needs and applications. We spent months testing space heaters in the office, the lab, and in our homes so at this point we are full-blown heater experts. If you want to see a full breakdown of the different types of space heaters available for home and office as well as the pros and cons for each genre then continue reading below for our ultimate space heater buyers' guide or head over to our extensive space heater review to see a head-to-head analysis of which models are the best for which purposes and why.

the dyson hot + cool jet focus am09 is an excellent choice for a...
The Dyson Hot + Cool Jet Focus AM09 is an excellent choice for a living room.
Credit: Laura Casner

Step 1: Do I Really Need A Space Heater?

These devices draw a relatively large amount of power — in many cases, it may actually be more cost-effective to just turn your existing heating source up a few notches rather than invest in an additional product and the associated running costs that come along with it.

Step 2: Do I Want Gas or Electric?


Some of these devices produce heat by burning some sort of combustible substance such as propane, kerosene, diesel, or natural gas. This type of heater is used in larger open spaces with ample ventilation for the fumes they produce such as job sites and workshops.

Always check with the manufacturer to see what types of ventilation is required for each individual model to operate safely.


There are several benefits to using an electric space heater as opposed to gas. First and foremost, there are no toxic fumes or emissions produced by their operation so they can be used indoors. Electric models do not require any sort of lighter or igniter rather they simply need to have a switch turned on. In almost all cases they are smaller, lighter, and more compact so they're much easier to move around and store. In almost all cases they are smaller, cheaper, and we recommend an electric heater for just about everyone.

Step 3: I want Electric! Now Which Type is Best For Me?

Within the category of electric heaters are several subcategories. Some are best for small rooms or under desks in an office, others are more suited for a living room or larger room such as a workshop or studio.

-Forced-Air Ceramic Heaters

This type of heater runs electricity through metal coils that are attached to ceramic plates. The heat from the coils is absorbed by the ceramic plates which then heat the surrounding air which is directed by a blower. This is the most common type of household space heater as they are fairly simple and relatively inexpensive to produce.

the amazonbasics 1500w is a bare-bones space heater -- but that's...
The AmazonBasics 1500W is a bare-bones space heater -- but that's all many people need.
Credit: Laura Casner

-Infrared and Radiant Space Heaters

All objects radiate energy in one form or another, and the rate is proportional to their temperature. This type of heater emits a type of harmless radiation called infrared that is absorbed by objects in the direct line of sight of the heating element. This energy transfer causes a warming sensation similar to that of sunlight or a campfire. One of the benefits of infrared heaters is that they do not interfere with the humidity or oxygen levels in their operating space.

Credit: Laura Casner

Step 4: What kinds of features do I need?

Once you decide which type of electric space heater you're going to buy, it's time to decide what types of bells and whistles you want to be included with your purchase. These devices come in types that are essentially just bare-bones units with nothing more than a switch and a dial while others are highly customizable and come with an array of settings.

-Remote Control

Models that come with remotes are generally easier to operate, and as an added bonus most of them have controls on the heater body itself that have the same functions as their included remotes.

space heater remotes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. pictured...
Space heater remotes come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Pictured here is the Lasko Ceramic Digital Tower, Dyson Hot+Cool, and Dr. Infrared.
Credit: Laura Casner


Some heaters oscillate as they operate — this means they automatically turn back and forth rather than concentrate the airflow in one specific direction. Models that offer this function do a better job of dispersing warmth throughout the area.

-Programmable Thermostat

Many of these products have digital thermostats that are adjustable in variable increments — some are small as one degree, others five degrees, and some just have a simple dial where the user has to make a guess as to the temperature that the heater is producing. For some uses, such as under a desk, a simpler user interface works fine because the user will always be within arms reach of the controls. However, there are many reasons to want to know the exact temperature the heater is set to such as if you are only trying to keep a workshop from freezing or if you don't want to waste resources heating a living space to a temperature that is uncomfortably hot.

Credit: Laura Casner


Some space heaters have timers that can be set in increments of 15 minutes all the way up to increments of an hour, and some can be set for periods of 10 or 12 hours. A timer has many uses — maybe you know you're falling asleep soon and don't want to worry about forgetting to wake up and turn it off. Perhaps you're heading out for a winter adventure and would like to come home to a warm house but don't want an appliance that will be left on around the clock in an empty house in the event of a change of plans.

the digital user interface on the dr. infrared is easy to read from...
The digital user interface on the Dr. Infrared is easy to read from the other side of the room.
Credit: Laura Casner

-Fan-Only Option

Many of these products offer an option to use the fan without the unit producing any heat. This is a great option because then the fan can be used in hot months to aid with cooling rather than be stored or just take up space such as the models that only heat would be.

some space heaters have a setting to run the blower without the...
Some space heaters have a setting to run the blower without the heating element engaged.
Credit: Laura Casner

-Fallover Protection

As an added safety feature, many manufacturers have designed their space heaters with a mechanism that turns the device off if it tipped over. This may be a wise feature to look for if you have small children or pets.

many heaters come with a sensor that kills the power to the device...
Many heaters come with a sensor that kills the power to the device if it is knocked over.
Credit: Laura Casner


In this day and age of rapidly changing technology, seemingly simple purchases for something as basic as a space heater can easily become convoluted and perplexing. These devices come in a large variety of shapes and sizes with a long list of optional features so it's important to gain some insight before you decide which product is the right one for you. We hope that this article has helped you to make an informed decision as to which type of model you're going to order.

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