Buying Guide – Shopping for the Best Space Heater
Beyond our six favorite, the market abounds with space heaters of all shapes, sizes, and designs, and features. To help you browse through the many excellent modern space heaters available today, we’ve compiled a buyer’s guide that explains how space heaters work, breaks down the different types, and more.
How Do Space Heaters Work?
Portable space heaters for bedrooms are usually electric, and use 1,500 watts of power. Depending on their design, space heaters warm up a room in a few different ways.
- Convection heaters distribute convection currents across a heating element in the heater, such as a ceramic plate or electric coil. This eventually causes the element, and the air surrounding it, to warm up, until the heated air expands across the room in an even way. Some convection heaters include a fan to speed up the circulation of hot air within the room. Of both convection types, ceramic plate heaters tend to do a better job regulating their temperature than open-coil heaters, which prevents overheating and keeps the outside of the heater safely cool to human touch.
- Infrared heaters heat up by passing electricity onto a conductive wire, which then heats up the surrounding area through radiant heating. Rather than heating the air, as with convection, in radiant heating the infrared waves are absorbed by solid elements in the room, like your skin, pajamas, and bedding. These types of heaters offer an added benefit for those with sensitive skin. Convection heaters heat up the air in a room, drying out both the air and the skin of everyone in it. Infrared models tend to be more expensive, but they are also more energy-efficient.
- Oil-filled heaters are more commonly known as radiators. Although they are filled with oil, they are still powered by electricity. Electric current heats up the oil inside the heater to emit warmth through radiant heating.
- Micathermic heaters emit both convection and radiant heat, by way of thin sheets of mica which cover the heating element. They have a flat appearance and are thinner than other space heaters.
Regardless of the type of space heater you choose, they shouldn’t take too long to warm up. Within about 15 minutes or so, the intended area should reach your desired temperature.
However, it’s important to remember that space heaters can only raise the temperature of a room by a few degrees. Depending on the insulation of your home and the outside temperature, they can be a nice way to added extra warmth to your room, but they’re typically not a suitable replacement for your central heating system.
Common Design Features of Space Heaters
Space heaters come with a variety of design features, which matter to some people more than others. Review the following and consider what’s important to you as you start shopping for your bedroom space heater.
- Size: Unsurprisingly, the size of a space heater determines the size of the area you can expect it to heat up. Small space heaters are designed for spot heating, and can warm 1 to 2 people. Large space heaters are designed to heat up an entire room in your home. The larger the heater, the more energy it will consume.
- Thermostat: Most heaters have a high setting and low setting, with an adjustable thermostat that lets you adjust between those extremes. To turn on the heater, you set it to your desired temperature, and the space heater will maintain that temperature as long as it’s on.
- Timer: Space heaters with timer functions allow you to set the amount of time you want the space heater to run. Once the time elapses, it turns off, allowing you to save money.
- Automatic shutoff: In the interest of safety, most space heater models come with a sensor that automatically shuts the heater off if the internal heating elements gets too hot, or if it tips over. Some models automatically shut off in both instances.
- Power cord: The longer the power cord, the better. You’ll have more flexibility over deciding where to place your space heater, so you can easily maneuver around flammable items like furniture. You’ll also be able to use it without an extension cord, which is dangerous and not recommended.
- Remote control: A remote control allows you to operate your space heater from the comfort of your bed. You also won’t have to bend over to adjust any settings.
- Quiet: A low-noise or quiet operation is important for anyone looking to use a space heater in their bedroom, as it’s tough to sleep in noisy environments. Heaters with fans are the most likely to make noise, but many are designed to be as quiet as possible. Before buying, read the reviews and look out for any noise complaints.
- Fan-only: Some models allow the heat to be turned off completely, while still running the fan, so you can use the space heater year round.
- Instruction manual: Safety instructions are included with every space heater, and should be reviewed thoroughly before you begin using it to ensure safe use.
- Electronic display: Some higher-end models come with an electronic display. You may simply like how this looks. However, since you’re planning on using the heater in your bedroom, you’ll need to find a way to cover up the display at night so your bedroom stays as dark as possible.
- Material finish: When you’re using it, your space heater will be out in plain sight, so make sure you like how it looks! Space heaters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some look like fans while others feature futuristic designs.
- Handle: Even though you’re looking for a space heater to keep in your bedroom, there will be times you’ll want to move it, such as when summer comes or if you want to allow a guest to use it. Look for one with a handle so you can easily move it around.
Bedroom Space Heaters FAQ and Safety Tips
Do you have questions about safely using your bedroom space heaters? We’ve got answers.
Are Space Heaters Safe?
Space heaters are designed to be safe, but that safety is dependent on people using them in a safe way, as they’re intended to be used. Problems occur when people do not use them safely, or when they’ve purchased a heater that hasn’t been verified by a product safety organization.
To confirm you’re making a safe space heater purchase, look for a label from one of these companies:
If you’re in the U.S., you’ll see a UL or ETL label. If you’re in Canada, you’ll see a CSA or ULC label. These labels indicate that the space heater’s construction and performance have been reviewed by a testing laboratory and verified to meet safety standards.
Only purchase space heaters that have one of these labels and include an automatic shut off feature. To ensure safe use of your particular space heater, always read the enclosed safety instructions.
Can Space Heaters Catch Fire?
Of all household appliances, space heaters are the most likely to cause a house fire. According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters are responsible for over 40% of home heating fires, and 85% of related deaths. Sadly, most of these fires are avoidable, and resulted from unsafe use.
To minimize your fire risk, follow these space heater safety tips:
- Always inspect your space heater power cord before using it, and never use it with an extension cord. The biggest culprit behind space heater fires is damaged power cords.
- Always place the heater at least 2 feet away from anything flammable, such as your bedroom furniture or clothing
- Do not place anything on top of your space heater, and keep it away from areas where something could accidentally fall on top of it. For example, a breeze might drape your window curtains on top of it, and an excited pet might kick a bed pillow onto it.
- Regularly wipe your heater down to remove any dust.
- Keep heaters away from water to avoid electrical shock.
Can Space Heaters Save Money on Your Electric Bill?
Ultimately, it depends. If you are using several space heaters in different bedrooms, it would be more cost-effective for you to use the central heating system in your home.
However, if you live in a milder climate, it may be more cost-effective for you to temporarily heat up the air in your bedroom before you go to sleep. Heat it to a cozy temperature, shut off the heater, and hop into bed.
Are Space Heaters Energy-Efficient?
Some space heaters are marketed as energy-efficient models. These are designed to help you save money while still operating just as well as non-energy-efficient models.
The size of the heater is another important factor, as larger models consume more energy. If you buy a large heater but only need it to heat one side of the bedroom, your sleeping partner will be uncomfortable and you’ll spend more electricity than is necessary. Choosing the right size heater for your needs helps you maximize its energy-efficiency.
Can Space Heaters Create Carbon Monoxide?
Electric space heaters do not pose a carbon monoxide risk. Carbon monoxide poisoning occurs from devices that burn fuels, and electric space heaters do not burn fuels.
Is it Safe to Leave a Space Heater Unattended?
No, you should never leave a space heater in a room unattended. This is especially dangerous if you live with children or pets who could touch it, knock it over, or place something flammable near or on top of it. If you are leaving the room, turn off your heater.
Is it Safe to Sleep with a Space Heater on All Night?
No, it is not recommended to run a space heater all night while you sleep. While they are designed to automatically shut off in cases of overheating, you don’t want to be asleep should the worst happen. Your risk only increases if you have older wiring in your home and the walls heat up to cause a fire.
You’re unconscious while you sleep, so it might as well be unattended, which, as we reviewed above, is dangerous. If the heater where to catch fire, you would have to be roused from sleep before you could do something about it.
It’s much safer to warm up your bedroom before you go to bed. Turn the heater on as you’re getting ready for bed, and then turn it off once it’s sufficiently warm and you’re ready to go to sleep.
As a side note, keeping the space heater on all night is not good for the quality of your sleep, either. For restful sleep, our bodies actually require the temperature to be cooler. A decrease in temperature at night signals to our brain that it’s time to sleep, while our brain perceives heat as a time for energy and alertness (like when your body heats up from exercise).
But not everyone feels comfortable sleeping in a low to mid-60s degrees Fahrenheit environment, which is the ideal temperature for sleep. Turn your space heater on before bed, and it can warm your room up enough for you to fall asleep comfortably. As the hot air dissipates, the resulting coolness will help your body stay asleep.
What Size Space Heater Should I Buy?
If you want a space heater to heat up your entire bedroom, go for a larger model. If you share your bed with a partner who is more or less heat-sensitive, though, you may want to get a smaller model that will only heat up the area on your side of the bed.
Where Should I Place My Space Heater?
Space heaters should always be placed on a flat, solid floor, away from anything flammable, such as bedroom furniture or window curtains. If you buy one with a longer power cord, 70 inches or longer, you’ll have sufficient room to place it at least 2 feet away from flammable items.
For best results, the heater should be placed 5 to 6 feet away from you. This distance provides warmth without overheating.