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Choosing the right space heater for your home

Over the last 30-40 years, our homes have become larger and more open concept. And despite improved insulation, heating those more open spaces efficiently is a challenge.

Baseboard heaters can give you zoned heating around your home, but as so many modern living spaces are effectively one big room, maybe a space heater might help?

Space heaters used to have quite an old fashioned image and were considered very expensive to run. You still wouldn’t want to completely rely on them to heat your home, but they’re helping to change the way we think about efficient heating - it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach.

The focus here is keeping you and your family warm and comfortable in the parts of the home you’re in, while keeping the heat low (or off) in those that you’re not.

As you might have seen in our article about combining baseboard heaters and space heaters, they can definitely have a role to play. But even just a quick look at online retailers reveals an overwhelming range of types, sizes and prices, ranging from $25 to $500.

Which one is right for you?

If you’re wondering which type of space heater is the most efficient - they all are! Space heaters convert 100% of the electricity they use into heat. Choosing the right one depends on the area you need to heat.

For instance, if you’re working from home a lot, you might want some extra heat in your workspace. That could cost quite a lot when maybe all you actually need is a little extra heat under your desk.

Convection space heaters

The most common and inexpensive type are convection space heaters, which feature electric or ceramic heating elements and use a fan to blow warm air out into the room. They typically start at just $25.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive

  • Instant heat when you turn on

  • Lightweight and easily portable

  • Built-in tip-over protection

  • Cool to the touch

Cons:

  • No residual heat when you turn off

  • Fans can be noisy

  • Only effective in small spaces

  • Reliant on good insulation for heat retention

  • Exposed elements can be potentially dangerous

Ideal for:

  • Heating a small room or space, such as under a desk

Radiant oil-filled heaters

Don’t be fooled by the name - oil filled heaters don’t run on fuel. They have electric elements that heat up oil-filled cells which radiate heat out into the room. Prices start at about $75.

Pros:

  • Relatively inexpensive

  • Radiates heat long after you turn off

  • Able to warm up a whole room

  • No noisy fan

  • Unlikely to tip over

  • Cool to the touch

Cons:

  • Slow to heat up

  • Heavy to move around

  • Old fashioned radiator look

Ideal for:

  • Adding warmth to a room that you’re going to be in for a while, such as a corner of your living room in the evening

Infrared space heaters

Infrared space heaters emit an orangey-red glow and invisible infrared heat that warms anything directly in front of them. They’re also available in a variety of portable and fixed styles and have the added benefit of promoting blood circulation. Prices start at about $90.

Pros:

  • Relatively inexpensive

  • Instant, focused heat when you turn on

  • No noisy fan

  • Unlikely to tip over

  • Cool to the touch

Cons:

  • No residual heat when you turn off

  • Only effective in small spaces

  • Reliant on good insulation for heat retention

Ideal for:

  • Focused heat to keep you warm during static activities, such as working from home or watching TV

Safety tips when using a space heater

All space heaters can be dangerous if not used correctly, so be sure to follow all safety instructions, along with these simple rules:

  • Always position your space heater on a level, hard surface on the floor

  • Plug it directly into an outlet, not an extension cable

  • Don’t place it near any loose fabrics or liquids

  • Choose a space heater with the latest safety features like overheat and tip-over protection

  • Don’t leave your space heater running unattended or while you sleep