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Space heaters—they sound like some futuristic tool astronauts might use to heat up a spaceship. But they’re really not all that modern of an idea. Whether you’ve heard of them or not, space heaters have been around for a very long time.

We mention this for two reasons: first, space heaters can be an effective resource for homes—they are effective little tools that have withstood the test of time, warming rooms around the world for decades! Second, they’re clearly not a space-age contraption, meaning that some use older, very inefficient technology.

While space heaters are definitely must-have powerhouses for homes weathering frigid winters or without central heating, we have to say—the old models leave little to be desired. Why? Because like a lot of appliances and dated technologies, they can be major energy hogs! This means it is critical to identify one of the best energy-efficient space heaters for your home if you’re in the market for a new one.

At WattDoesItUse, we’re all about helping people (like you!) uncover ways to save money and help the planet by living in a more energy-efficient, energy-conscious way. So to help you along your space heater education journey, we’ve composed this post to give you the rundown on how space heaters work, the best way to use them, and most importantly, how to choose one of the best energy-efficient space heaters for your home. That way, you can keep your favorite nook in the house cozy without having to worry about a resulting spike in your electricity bill.

Let’s Talk Space Heaters

If you’ve never heard of a space heater, then it’s likely you either live in a super warm climate where extra heat is never an issue, you have central heat and a well-designed home, or, you’ve somehow managed to live in a cold environment all your life suffering through frigid winters without the knowledge of this glorious invention. But, we digress. The point here is, there are many homes that—even with central heat—have particular rooms that just don’t get the same heat or aren’t able to hold it.

Even if you have a general understanding of what a space heater is, it’s important to understand the different types available before you can identify one of the best energy-efficient space heater models. So let’s dive in!

Space Heaters 101

A space heater is a small, portable heater that is typically used when the main heating system in a home is inefficient, too costly, or simply doesn’t exist. Space heaters are best when used to heat small rooms: you can’t heat the entire house off a space heater.

Space heaters can run on a number of different fuel types, including electricity, natural gas, kerosene, and propane. While most space heaters work by convection, which circulates air within a room, others rely on radiant heating where they emit infrared radiation that directly heats things up within their scope of influence. Let’s dig a little deeper into the most common space heater types to really get acquainted with their pros and cons.

Electric Space Heaters

This type of heater is a typical choice for people because it’s one of the safest types. It’s also great at spreading warmth, and it’s usually very portable. They can have downsides, though. Often, they create dry, stale air. As with all space heaters, they can be a safety hazard if not run properly. And if they aren’t designed with energy efficiency in mind, they can run up your electricity bill.

Fuel-Burning Space Heaters

As the name implies, this type of space heater won’t use electricity. Fuel-burning space heaters, also known as “gas space heaters,” are great for larger spaces. But at the end of the day, they can be more dangerous. Why? Because they’re burning fuel, they’re emitting carbon monoxide, which means you need to take extra measures to ensure they’re not causing serious (or fatal) air quality issues.

Radiant Space Heaters

This type of heater works wonderfully for both indoor and outdoor spaces (like decks, patios, etc.). The great thing about radiant space heaters is that they eliminate the need for insulation, they’re super small, and they’re easy to transport. The downside? They’re definitely emitting radiation, which is what’s responsible for actually heating the area. This can be a health concern for sensitive populations.

When Should You Consider a Space Heater?

While we can’t diagnose every single person’s heating situation and say, yeah, sounds like you need a space heater, we can speak in generalities—which is exactly what we’re about to do. If any of these situations or scenarios ring true for you, it’s possible that you should look into a space heater:

  • My heater just isn’t cutting it—it’s old, it’s inefficient, and I’m consistently piling up under blankets in an effort to stay warm. I can’t afford a new furnace right now, but this winter is going to be a nightmare if I can’t figure this out.
  • My heater works pretty well in the main part of the house, but honestly, my room is freezing—maybe I run a bit hot-blooded, but it seems like my small space just isn’t getting the heat it needs to keep me warm.
  • Where I live rarely gets cold, so I’ve never invested in a heating system for the house. But we’ve been getting some serious cold snaps lately, and honestly, I’m freezing. Even if I could heat just one room in the house, I’d be happier.

If any of these sound like a scenario you’re dealing with, it might be time to invest in a space heater.

That said, we can’t go further without noting that depending on your situation, there are energy efficiency investments that might be best to look at before you even go the space heater route. Specifically, you might be better off investing in sealing and weatherizing your home’s walls, attic and windows or replacing an old furnace with a better, more energy-efficient model. Make sure to check out our Crank Up the Heat blogs (part 1 here and part 2 here) for some insight and advice on choosing an energy-efficient HVAC system and ensuring that your home has the proper insulation to hold that heat.

How to Pick the Perfect Energy-Efficient Space Heater

So, how exactly do you pick out the one of the best energy-efficient space heaters for your home? By doing research, of course! We suggest you take note of these key considerations for each space heater you look at:

  • Safety. Is one type of space heater safer than another? Will one type of heater be more beneficial for your family? Radiant heaters will burn on contact—if you have small children or animals, our suggestion is to steer clear!
  • Energy Efficiency. This is a big one. We suggest you check out energy-efficient models that are ENERGY STAR certified.
  • Purpose. Are you using this heater to warm up several rooms? An outdoor space? A single bedroom? The square footage you want to cover will 100 percent determine the type of space heater you should buy.
  • Installation. Is this an easy machine to install? Does it require you to understand wattage, install additional CO2 detection, etc.? Ease of installation is a huge factor to consider when selecting a space heater.
  • Control. How easy is this space heater to operate? Do you understand how it works? Can you learn quickly?
  • Noise. Is this machine going to be loud? Can you do a test-run in store to get a better idea?
  • Overall Cost. This isn’t everything, but if you have a budget, you know it matters. There are great options that don’t break the bank!  

We can’t move on to our recommendations without coming back to safety a second time. Regardless of type, all space heaters can be dangerous if they’re not used properly.

In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that space heaters spark nearly 22,000 residential fires every single year, leading to about 300 deaths and thousands of burns. We don’t say this to steer you away from your space heater shopping, but we do think it’s vital to mention it before we get down to the nitty-gritty of picking out one of the best energy-efficient space heaters for your home! With that in mind, here are a few more tips to ensure that you use yours properly and responsibly

WDIU Ranking: The Best Energy-Efficient Space Heaters

All studied up on space heater safety? Good—that’s a gold star for you!

Now we can get to the fun part of the blog—a list of the best energy-efficient space heaters that we think could be the perfect addition to keep every corner of your home cozy without breaking the bank on that utility bill!

BEST ALL-AROUND

Dyson AM09 Fan Heater—This heater is exceptionally notable for its energy-efficient design. In fact, we might be so bold to say it might be the most energy-efficient heater on the market right now. It’s patented Air Multiplier technology maintains your desired temperature in a way that wastes no energy, it has no exposed elements so there’s no burning risk, and further, it has a sleep timer function and an extra-wide projection. On top of all this, it has dual functionality for heating in the winter and space cooling in the summer!

BEST CERAMIC

Lasko 6462 Full Circle Ceramic Heater—What we love about this heater is that it can heat an entire room quickly all while sending air in several different directions. It’s super portable, has a remote for easy operation, and isn’t too shabby on the energy conservation. Still, it’s a ceramic heater, which means that it will oscillate heat—this can be a noisy process. Additionally, you’ll need to be extra careful about where you place this heater.

BEST FOR LARGE SPACES

DeLonghi TRD40615E Full Room Radiant Heater—This radiant space heater is packed with 1500W of power to heat medium-to-large rooms but is equipped with an efficient LED light as well as a thermostat, timer, and various heat settings so that you can proactively manage its power use based on your needs. This model is a bit bulkier than other models, but its set of wheels enables easy transfers between rooms, and we love that it’s super quiet.

BEST FOR SMALL SPACES

Honeywell HCE200W UberHeat Ceramic Heater—Small, portable, and exceptionally quiet, this ceramic heater is a great option for incredibly small spaces. We don’t recommend this heater for large rooms, and we always advise to be extra cautious with ceramic heaters, but in the end, this tiny, little heater packs a serious punch in small spaces while being very energy-efficient.  

BEST FOR PORTABILITY

Dr. Infrared DR968 Original Heater—This space heater features infrared technology as opposed to the more-common convection space heaters. This technology consumes less energy, making the Dr. Infrared not only good for the environment but also less costly to operate. At the same time, this little space heater is powerful enough to warm spaces up to 1,000 square feet, making it incredibly versatile. In addition, it is very quiet, easy to use and clean, provides remote control capabilities, and includes a 12-hour timer so you don’t have to worry about whether you forgot to turn it off before heading out for work or travel!

Looking to learn even more about how you can conserve energy? Subscribe to the WattDoesItUse blog for regular updates on how you can revamp your daily habits to help conserve energy and come up with creative ways to cut your utility bills way down!