Fact Checked

What is a Cabinet Heater?

Anna B. Smith
Anna B. Smith

A cabinet heater is designed to maintain a minimum temperature inside a small enclosure. These devices may be used to heat electronic equipment which cannot be exposed to extreme temperature differences. They may also be used in residential homes to generate temporary heat, or in construction sites that do not have access to a central air system. They can be purchased through the Internet or at local home improvement stores.

These devices are most commonly used to warm small areas that house electrical equipment. The cabinet heater is placed inside the small area to warm power and fiber optic cables, computer modules, and wired circuitry. This type of equipment is often susceptible to corrosion and service interruption when exposed to damp and cold conditions. Condensation can easily form on the exterior of modems and electrical equipment if the air temperature is not set to a consistent level. This type of heater is most commonly used in traffic signal boxes, outdoor electric power houses, and control panels.

Woman with hand on her hip
Woman with hand on her hip

A cabinet heater may also be used to maintain the temperature in any type of enclosure. Each unit is typically designed to heat a minimum and maximum amount of space. Consumers should read product labeling carefully before purchasing their model to determine if its wattage output will adequately facilitate the size enclosure which they have in mind. Local wind temperatures, enclosure insulation, and square footage are all factors which play a role in discovering the wattage requirements for the heater.

High-end heaters allow the interior temperature of the enclosure to be monitored by a built-in thermostat. The cabinet heater can be programmed to turn off once the minimum temperature requirements have been met, lowering the cost of powering the unit and preventing it from overheating.

A portable cabinet heater may be powered by batteries or propane. These units are suitable for use in construction sites and require some ventilation to avoid a build-up of harmful fumes. Multiple heaters may be combined to generate the desired overall temperature for large or unfinished spaces.

Electric and propane units may be used as a means of temporary heat in residential homes. The model may be purchased as a stand alone unit, or can be mounted into a wall or ceiling. Stand alone units often require space in front of and behind the heater for proper ventilation and to avoid the possibility of starting a house fire. Models designed for use in homes should not be placed inside small enclosures.

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Discussion Comments


Before purchasing a cabinet heater you should check for manufacturer warnings and consumer reports and check to see whether any governmental warnings or advisories have been issued for the heater.


We have a small sun room/porch that is not connected to our heat pump. The room has no heat vent. This is not a problem for much of the time. However, this room has turned into a makeshift exercise room and there are times when heat is needed.

When someone suggested I get a cabinet heater for the room, all I could think of was all the horror stories I have heard about space cabinet heaters igniting fires and burning down buildings.

Through online research and talking with cabinet heater sellers, I have learned that these portable heaters have advanced a great deal over the last decade. Not only do the cabinet heaters of today look much better, but they are much safer also.

Still, we only use our heater for brief stretches, simply to warm the exercise room, so there is less danger of anything going wrong. The great thing about the heater is that it warms the small room in short time and keeps it warm.


I have several cabinet heaters that I operate when the weather gets particularly cold. My main heating system works fine for most of the year, but sometimes during the winter months the system is over burdened. Cabinet heaters allow me to add extra heat to rooms so that my house is still comfortable.

If you use a cabinet unit heater powered by kerosene, you should be aware that these kinds really dry out the air in a house, so you might want to find a way to add more humidity to the room where it is being used.

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      Woman with hand on her hip