With the kids home and many adults now working at home, you may be using areas you don’t normally use. If you only want to heat a particularly cold spot in an otherwise warm building, an energy-efficient space heater may be the answer. Keeping warm is a priority in winter. Even if your smart thermostat was the head of the class, you can remedy cold spots quickly with an energy-efficient space heater.
There are several considerations when purchasing a space heater. For starters, there are two basic types from which to choose: Electric and petroleum-based. Petroleum-based heaters use oil, propane, natural gas, kerosene, or gasoline for power. Petrol burners are often quite efficient because they burn fairly wholly, which is why they are frequently used for central heating systems. However, the downside to petroleum-based space heaters is that they require proper ventilation. They must either tap into a direct vent that connects to exhaust or be used exclusively outdoors.
Here are our top picks for energy-efficient space heaters:
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Best energy-efficient space heater deals
How to Choose a Space Heater
Electric heaters are less efficient but typically safer and more versatile than petroleum-fueled models. Electric heaters can be further subdivided into convection heaters, radiant or infrared heaters, ceramic heaters, and panel heaters (also called micathermic heaters).
Convection heaters are generally the most energy-efficient electric heaters, especially for large, enclosed spaces. Convection heat works by warming the surrounding air. And though it can take a little while for a room to heat up, the warmth will linger even after you turn off the device.
Radiant or infrared heaters direct heat at specific people (or objects). They warm up rather quickly, but the hot air dissipates just as fast the minute you turn off the heater.
Ceramic heaters circulate air while focusing the heat where it’s most needed. And they can remain cool to the touch.
Finally, you can also purchase panel (or micathermic) heaters which combine both radiant and convection technology. These appliances often heat up rapidly and distribute warm air throughout the room.
Other factors to consider
Heat distribution — The best energy-efficient heaters distribute hot air around the room quickly and evenly. This means that they don’t just provide warmth to whichever people or objects are directly in front of them. They are designed to have a wider distribution and push air farther away. Space heaters made with oscillation systems are especially adept at even heat distribution, and since they are relatively fast at heating rooms, you don’t have to use them for as long a time.
Timers — Timers are a great way to conserve energy. You can set specific times/parameters for when your heater turns on and off to prevent running the heater unnecessarily.
Thermostats — Most energy-efficient space heaters have easy-to-use thermostats, so you don’t expend additional energy.
Programming capabilities — Some of the more high-tech heaters on the market are programmable so you can set temperatures for different times of the day. A handful of space heaters are smart devices you can control them via your phone.
Automatic shutoff — You don’t want a space heater to run indefinitely. Aside from being a safety risk, that is simply not efficient or cost-effective. The best heaters shut off automatically once they’ve been running for a while.
Overheating safety/kill switch — Overheating protection features cut power if your heater gets too hot. That way, you don’t have to worry about damaging electric circuits or starting a fire.
Portability — Portable space heaters can reduce the number of appliances you need. Many people only need one good device that’s capable of being moved from room to room. Be on the lookout for lightweight heaters equipped with handles or casters.
Room size — Select a space heater with power appropriate for the size of the room in which you will use it. The higher the heat output, the more energy used. A small space may require only 750 watts of power, while a larger area might need 1,500 watts. Choose a heater that provides enough warmth for the square footage and nothing more.
Fan-only option — Space heaters with fan-only options can be used as fans in warmer weather.
Size of heater — Size matters. Many people want relatively compact space heaters so they are easier to move and store and relatively unobtrusive whenever you use them.
Noise — Noise is another factor to consider. While most space heaters are relatively quiet, there is a range. Some might whir or click or hum. Make sure you find a heater that’s as quiet as possible or emits a white noise that you know you’ll be able to tolerate.
Intuitive Controls — As with any piece of technology, look for a space heater with simple controls. You don’t want to accidentally set your heater to the highest temperature possible and then not know how to adjust accordingly.
Safety matters, too
We want to mention safety issues. There are risks involved when space heaters are misused; they can lead to everything from burns to house fires.
- Avoid leaving the heater running in unattended rooms.
- Don’t leave a space heater running overnight while you’re sleeping.
- Don’t place space heaters on a rug or near any object that’s combustible or flammable.
- Space heaters should not be used with extension cords or power strips and avoid using your heater near anything wet.
- Look for space heaters with a kill switch; these machines automatically turn off should they ever accidentally tip over.
- Look for a space heater with a protective housing that remains relatively cool to the touch, even after the device has been on for a while.
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