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How do I Choose the Best Electric Space Heater?

Henry Gaudet
Henry Gaudet

When purchasing an electric space heater, you will need to consider where and how you intend to use the heater to select the best one. Consider the size of the room you need to heat and whether you need to heat the entire room or just one portion. If you intend to use the space heater in more than one room, portability will be an issue. Safety is another important concern, especially in homes that have children or pets, and you probably will want to consider price as well. By weighing these issues, you can identify the best heater for your needs.

Electric space heaters have two primary methods of delivering heat, each with distinct advantages. Radiant heaters work by warming objects at which they are aimed, and because only a small area is heated, they are very efficient. Infrared and halogen heaters are available, both providing good heat in the targeted area. They are not, however, practical for heating an entire room.

An electric space heater.
An electric space heater.

A convection electric space heater is better suited to heating larger spaces. Many of the most efficient convection heaters are filled with oil or water, resembling classic radiators and working in a similar manner. These heaters warm the surrounding air, spreading the heat around an entire room. Some convection heaters are fan-assisted, circulating the air and heating the room faster, but the fan motor does produce noise and might not be suitable if silence is a priority. These machines typically are heavier than radiant heaters, a consideration that you shouldn’t overlook if you intend to use the heater in more than one room — and especially if you will need to climb stairs.

A halogen space heater.
A halogen space heater.

If you do need to heat a room, make sure that the convection heater is up to the task. An electric space heater's output depends on its wattage. As a rule of thumb, it takes 10 watts to heat every square foot (about 9 square centimeters). This means a 1,500-watt heater could heat a room of 150 square feet (14 square meters).

Safety is another important concern. Look for a mark from one of the major testing laboratories — such as the Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Intertek (ETK) — as an indicator that the heater meets manufacture and performance standards. If you plan on using the electric space heater in a damp or wet space, such as a bathroom, look for a heater made specifically for that environment.

Electric heaters can be used to heat individual rooms of a home.
Electric heaters can be used to heat individual rooms of a home.

You will probably look very closely at prices when you select your electric space heater. Before grabbing the cheapest model off the shelf, take time to consider operating costs as well as purchase cost. Upscale models might be more expensive, but features such as timers and thermostats can help you operate the heater more efficiently.

Discussion Comments


@Laotionne - You heard right, the space heaters do use a lot of energy, especially when they are running non-stop. However, the newer energy efficient space heaters should cost less to operate. Besides, if you need heat they are not much more expensive than some of the other choices we have for heating.

Have you priced gas or even wood lately. One way or another you are going to pay for heating. Make sure you get a safe space heater if you do buy one.


I have heard that space heaters are good to use in small spaces and I am considering buying one. However, I have also heard that they really raise the electric bill. Does anyone have any thoughts on that?


The house I grew up in was an old farm house, and when it was built people heated with wood and that was it. There were fireplaces in every room except the kitchen, and that room had an old wood heater that would warm up the room in short time.

When the house was built, people had outdoor bathrooms, so the bathroom was added to the house later and the room didn't have any kind off heat set up. There isn't anything much worse than bathing and getting ready in a bathroom with no heat on a cold day in winter. We used the small electric space heaters, and they worked well since the bathroom was small.

The small heater we used would not have worked well in a large space or in a room where you needed to leave it on for hours without a break. The heater got really hot and space heaters in general shouldn't be left unattended, at least not the old ones.

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    • An electric space heater.
      By: Denis Gladkiy
      An electric space heater.
    • A halogen space heater.
      By: Lusoimages
      A halogen space heater.
    • Electric heaters can be used to heat individual rooms of a home.
      By: Pavel Svoboda
      Electric heaters can be used to heat individual rooms of a home.