Kristen Hicks on December 17, 2015 1 Comment With winter upon us, many Americans are starting to break out the blankets, firewood, and hot chocolate. Braving trips outside in the winter often feels like an endurance test that makes the evenings when you return home to cozy warmth feel that much nicer — but only if your home has enough heating to accomplish that comfortable feeling of warmth. If your current heating system isn’t doing enough for you (or if the energy costs are too high), then you should start the search for a supplemental heater. Table of Contents: Fuel Types for Heaters Design Options for Heaters Factors to Consider When Shopping Popular Brands of Space Heaters There are so many options on the market that buying a heater for your home shouldn’t have to mean settling. If you know what to look for and can gain a clear idea of what you want, you should have little trouble finding the heater that’s just right for your needs. This buyer’s guide will cover the many options you have and the factors to consider in your search. 3 Fuel Types for Heaters You’ll find a few different types of fuel options when buying a heater. Electric and gas heaters are the most common choices and there are a few subcategories within each fuel type for consumers to consider. 1. Gas Heaters One of the biggest arguments for gas heaters is that they offer long-term savings. The cost of gas is typically lower than the cost of electricity, and gas heaters can successfully heat a larger space than electric heaters. Unfortunately, those long-term savings usually come with an upfront cost that’s much higher. Most gas heaters require proper ventilation to work safely, which adds a lot to the installation cost. A gas heater will make the most sense for consumers that live in a home with a natural gas hookup. If you don’t have easy access to natural gas, you can still go with a gas heater by choosing a model that uses kerosene or propane. Benefits: Cheaper in the long term. Able to heat very large areas. Will heat up very quickly. To Keep in Mind: Higher installation costs. Requires proper venting for safety. 2. Electric Heaters Electric heaters are a more convenient option. You simply plug them in and they will start to heat up the area around them. Installation is therefore much simpler than with gas heaters and you don’t have to worry about venting. They’re usually pretty energy efficient, but even so tend to cost more to run than gas heaters. Your upfront costs will be less with an electric heater, but your long-term costs will be more. However, this higher cost will depend on how often you use it, and can also be offset by following a supplemental heating strategy during the cold winter months. This strategy consists of utilizing a small electric heater to keep the most important rooms at warm, comfortable temperatures. This helps supplement your home heating system, so that you don’t have to heat up your entire home, including the rooms nobody is in. Not only will this help you save money, it will cut down on the amount of energy you use to stay comfortable. 2 Types of Electric Heaters There are two types of electric heaters to consider when deciding what type of heater to buy — convection and radiant. Convection Heaters Convection heaters are the most common type of electric heaters you’ll come across. They’re more efficient for heating large spaces than radiant heaters as they heat the air around them. They’re a little slow to warm up, but once they get going the heat they provide is long term and will usually cover a good-sized space. Benefits: Good for heating whole rooms. The heat lingers for longer. To Keep in Mind: Not the best heater for quick heat. Less energy efficient than radiant heaters. Radiant Heaters Radiant heaters provide more focused heat. Rather than heating the air around them, they transfer heat directly to whatever is in their path. That means they won’t do a great job of keeping a whole room cozy, but can be useful for warming up just one person who finds the room too cold. Since their heating is more focused, they’re more energy efficient. They’re also popular with people who experience bad allergies, since the air movement common to convection heaters can cause dust and other allergens to circulate more. Benefits: Energy efficient heating option. More focused heating – if only one person in a room wants to warm up, they can do so without changing the temperature of the room. Better for allergy sufferers. To Keep in Mind: Not the best heater for large spaces. 3. Wood Heaters Nowadays, wood heaters aren’t nearly as common as gas and electric heaters, but they’re worth mentioning since they offer the best cost savings of the bunch. Unfortunately, they also require the most work. You have to regularly replace the wood and empty the ashes, and the amount of heating you get from the wood heater will vary depending on how close you are to the stove. And you definitely need a chimney or some other form of venting if you’re going to use any type of wood heater. The two most common types of wood heaters are wood and pellet stoves, the former usually being the cheaper and the latter being a little more convenient to use and install. Benefits: Affordable heating option. To Keep in Mind: More work than electric and gas stoves. Constantly need to buy wood and clean ashes. Requires proper venting. Does not heat your living space evenly. 4 Design Options for Heaters In addition to choosing the fuel type that makes the most sense, you also have different heater design types to choose from. Your budget, the space you want to heat, and the style you’re most interested in can all help you hone in on which of these options is the best for heating your home. 1. Space Heaters Space heaters are a very popular option for bringing some supplemental heat into the home. They’re portable, so you can move them into whatever room you’re in and save on energy by not heating spaces that aren’t in use. They’re usually pretty affordable, although some larger models with special features will set you back a few hundred dollars. You’ll find a wide variety of options of space heaters available. There are smaller models that will only heat a limited space, but could be all you need to add a little warmth to the area around your desk, couch, or bed. Then there are more powerful models that will warm a whole room. Space heaters come in lots of different designs and colors, so you have a lot of aesthetic choice. Some are even designed to look like a fireplace, to add that comfortable, cozy feeling that comes with sitting by the fire. The bottom-line: If you do the proper research and find the best space heater for your situation, this is a great way to provide quick heat without costing a lot of money. Benefits: The best heater for portability. One of the most affordable heating options. Wide variety of sizes, prices and designs available to choose from. Energy efficient if you only use them to heat the spaces you’re using. To Keep in Mind: Usually only heats a small space. If you use them to heat all your rooms, you’ll be spending more than with a central heating system. Quick Note About Space Heater Safety: If used irresponsibly, some space heaters can create a potential fire hazard. Please read over our space heater safety tips prior to using this type of heater. 2. Wall Heaters Wall heaters are another option to consider for heating one room. As with space heaters, they’re an efficient solution that makes it easy to only heat a space when you’re using it. They heat up fast, so you can turn them on when you’re about to use a room, take advantage of the extra heat for as long as you’re in there, and turn it back off to save energy when you’re done. One benefit they have over space heaters is typically taking up less space. Since they’re attached to the wall, they won’t get in the way of anything. That usually means they’re less portable (although you can install a frame so that the heater itself is easy to remove and replace as needed, so they retain some portability). You need to make sure you have an electrical outlet with enough voltage to handle your wall heater, which may mean bringing in an electrician for an upgrade in the room you’ll be using it in. They’re one of the safest options since they’re located high enough up that there’s less risk of them coming into contact with flammable items like clothes or furniture. Benefits: One of the best heaters for affordability. Energy efficient if you only use them when needed. Doesn’t take up much space; No floor space used. One of the safest heaters to use. To Keep in Mind: Less portable than space heaters. May require an electrical upgrade. Involves some initial installation costs. 3. Baseboard Heaters A baseboard heater is similar to a wall heater, but it’s placed along the base of the wall and has a long, narrow horizontal design. As with the other options we’ve described, they can save you money by only heating the room they’re in when you’re using it and being turned off the rest of the time. There are many benefits to using a baseboard heater to stay warm. They’re fairly easy to install and are known for energy efficiency. Like wall heaters, they’re designed to stay out of your way and not take up much space in your room, so you get the benefit of the heat without the inconvenience of a bulky item to keep up with. They also have a reputation for being one of the quieter options, making them an attractive choice for spaces like bedrooms or offices where silence is golden. Benefits: Energy efficient heating option. Little maintenance required. One of the best heaters for easy installation. Affordable heating option. One of the quietest types of heater. To Keep in Mind: Not portable. Must avoid putting furniture or items up next to them to limit risk of fire. 4. Personal Heaters Personal heaters are just what they sound like, they’re heaters designed specifically to help one person warm up. They’re the smallest and least expensive option on the list, because they have a much smaller job to perform than heaters meant to heat a larger space. Personal heaters include things like foot and hand warmers to help you out when those extremities start to get chilly. Benefits: Affordable. Useful for small, personal heating jobs. To Keep in Mind: Not useful for heating spaces. Primary Factors to Consider When Buying a Heater Figuring out the type of heater you want will help narrow your options considerably. Knowing the different special features available and other factors to keep in mind in your search will take you that much further in finding the heater that will serve your needs best. 1. Size Before you purchase a heater for your home, you need to consider where you’ll be putting it and how much space is available for it. Many homes already have a lot of stuff filling up the rooms, do you have the space to bring another large item into the room you plan to use your heater in? Baseboard and wall heaters are designed to take up less space and be tucked away toward the wall, but with baseboard heaters you have to be careful what you set down near the heater, so it still impacts how you’re able to arrange your room. Portable heaters can always be moved out of the way at times you don’t need one, which means you want to keep in mind how heavy and easy to move they are. Oftentimes larger heaters are going to cost you more, but smaller ones will heat smaller spaces, so you have to decide how to balance your heating needs with the space available and costs of the heaters you look into. 2. Space Heated This is one of the most important factors to consider when making your decision. If you just need something to keep your feet toasty while you’re cold at work, then anything bigger than a personal heater will be overkill and cost you more than you need to spend. If you want a heater that will heat a whole room, then you’ll want a convection heater that puts out enough heat for the space in question. Many heaters will include estimates of the space size heated in their marketing, others will provide measures like watts and BTU’s that will help you calculate if it’s enough for the space desired yourself. Do think carefully about what you need here. Do you really need that whole room to be heated, or do you really just use a small space within it most of the time? Only heating the areas you use will save you money, which is part of the benefit of buying an indoor heater to supplement your central heating system to begin with. 3. Safety Features Heaters can be a fire risk if you aren’t careful in how you use them. One of the benefits of wall heaters is that they’re usually placed high off the ground, keeping them safely out of reach from some of the common human error that can cause problems. With baseboard heaters and space heaters, you always have to be aware of what’s near the heater. If furniture, clothes, blankets, towels or anything else you have around in your home is left too close to your heater, they could ignite and start a fire. Additionally, if you have kids or pets, a wall heater will keep the heater’s hot surfaces out of their reach. Make sure to look for an Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label which demonstrates that the heater has all the expected safety features. You’ll also want to consider picking out a model with auto shutoff, designed to automatically sense dangerous situations like the heater being tipped over or the temperature getting too hot in the room. 4. Energy Use Using supplemental indoor heaters can either quickly drive up the costs in your home if you’re not careful, or be a useful tool to keep costs down if you use them strategically. The EPA doesn’t evaluate heaters to provide the Energy Star label, so you’ll have to base your decision off understanding the technology and reputation for particular products and brands. Radiant heaters can often be used to save on energy costs since you can use them to heat the immediate area around you, rather than the whole room. But they’re not as practical if the room gets enough use that they leave many people cold much of the time. Wall and baseboard heaters can be useful for saving on energy costs if you’re strategic about only turning them on in the times you need them, and always turning them off at the times you don’t. For example, a baseboard heater in the bedroom can be turned on during the night, but turned off during the day when you’re out at work. And a wall heater in the bathroom can be turned on right before you start getting ready in the morning to warm that space while you’re using it, and be turned off again once you’re done to save energy for the rest of the day. Both examples allow you to turn your central heating system down, but keep the room you’re using at a more comfortable temperature. If you’re someone who easily forgets to actually turn off or unplug a heater when it’s not in use, then you’ll have a harder time realizing these savings. But if you’re committed to saving on energy use, then you can work out a system to stay comfortable without spending much for the privilege. 5. Noise Level Gas heaters tend to be louder and baseboard heaters have a reputation for being one of the quietest options. Beyond that, how loud a heater is will really depend on the particular model you go with. Many consumers are sensitive to adding extra noise into their home, so you can bet a heater that makes a lot of noise will garner some complaints in the user reviews about it. Some manufacturers will provide a decibel level, but this isn’t a common spec provided for heaters. If noise is a particular concern for you, then take some time to read what others that own the heater you’re hoping to buy say about it. This can help you dodge a bullet and enjoy some extra warmth without losing sleep at night or being driven to distraction by noise as you’re trying to work. 6. Time to Heat Up Some heaters will warm up right away and start providing you heat, others will take some time to get there. Radiant heaters heat up faster than convection heaters, which take more time to disseminate heat to a larger space. Wall heaters have a pretty good reputation for heating up quickly so that they’re good for temporary, as-needed use. If you’ll be using your heater to heat a whole room for a significant length of time, the time it takes to heat up will matter less than how well it heats the space once it gets going. If you want your heater to work quickly and well for short bursts of time, then you should go for a model that warms up fast. 7. Ease of Use Most heaters are pretty simple to use, but some will have settings and controls that are a bit more user friendly than others. And some, as previously mentioned, will require more stringent safety precautions. What to look for in terms of ease of use will depend on how you plan to use your heater. If you have specific times of day that you know you’ll be wanting to use your heater, some will let you program it to turn on and off at the times you specify. If you’re pretty particular about the temperature you want the room to stay at, you should choose a model that makes programming the thermostat easy. Generally speaking, you won’t find many heaters that are overly complicated to figure out. You just want to make sure the heater you go with has the features and settings that allow you to use it in the way you want. 8. Aesthetics A heater doesn’t have to be an unsightly addition to your room. You can find heaters in a number of different shapes, designs, and colors, so you can easily find one that matches your style. Some larger heaters are designed to look like a fireplace, so you can enjoy the familiar, cozy look of sitting by a fire. Others have sleek, modern designs, and still others can add a burst of color to your space. If you really want to buy the best heater with the right look for your space, devote some time to browsing so you can get a full view of your options and hone in on the one with the best look for you. 9. Features There are a few special features that can make a heater more appealing to some buyers. Here’s some of what you can find in different models. Combination A/C & Heater: As it gets colder, your thoughts will likely stray from the hot summer, but if you live somewhere where central air is rare or your electric bills have been unpleasantly high in the summer months, you may benefit from buying a product that brings relief when it gets too hot, as well as it when it gets too cold. There are many portable air conditioners and window units that act as both a heater and air conditioning unit. Timer: If you want to save money by ensuring that your heater is only in use when you need it, a timer can make it easy to set it to automatically switch on in the times you expect to be home and using the room the heater’s in and shut back off when it’s not in use. Auto Shutoff: Heaters come with a certain amount of risk. A model with an auto shutoff is designed to switch off automatically if the heater tips over or if the room reaches your desired temperature. Not only does this minimize the risk of a fire, but it also saves you money in the long run. Cord Length: Portable electric heaters will always need to be kept close to an outlet when you’re using them. It is not wise to plug a portable heater into a surge protector or extension cord. Another common mistake is running the cord underneath a rug or furniture. A long cord will give you more flexibility in where to keep it while in use. Popular Brands of Heaters One of the final factors to consider in your search for the perfect heater is the reputation of the main brands you’ll come across in your search. To get an idea of what actual customers think of the heaters they’ve bought from top brands, we gave a look to the reviews of different models sold by each of the brands below. 1. Cadet Cadet has an extensive line of heaters that includes wall heaters, baseboard heaters, and portable heaters. We found positive reviews for all Cadet heaters across the different types and models. Customers say they’re easy to install, well made, and work great. Easily one of the brands that make the best heaters for homes. 2. Cozy Cozy makes personal heaters for warming your feet and legs. Reviewers are mostly happy with their Cozy heaters. They praise them for providing the warmth they need for their feet and legs and for saving them money on energy in the process (when a space heater would be overkill). 3. Crane Crane makes a wide range of space heaters in different sizes and designs. Reviews for Crane products are predominantly positive across models. They get points from reviewers for being quiet, putting out a good amount of heat for their size and being stylish. Some get extra praise for having convenient features like a timer or being conveniently portable. If you’re looking for a portable space heater, Crane is a reliable brand to go with and one with a wide range of options to choose from. 4. Duraflame Duraflame sells a number of portable heaters in different sizes and styles that get solid reviews from customers. Customers like that many of the models are compact and don’t take up much space, but still put out a good amount of heat. There were some mentions of the time they take to heat up, but once they get going they heat the area effectively. 5. Friedrich Friedrich makes combination air conditioners and heaters that reviewers are generally happy with. They can get a bit costly, but customers like that they serve multiple purposes, are quiet, and work well. 6. Heat Storm Heat Storm makes portable and wall heaters that get great reviews from customers. Reviewers say the portable heaters are lightweight and easy to move around and the wall heaters are simple to install. Both types of heaters get points for heating up quickly and warming the intended space effectively. 7. Honeywell Honeywell sells a range of heaters that includes portable heaters and baseboard heaters. The vast majority of the reviews we encountered for Honeywell are positive. Reviewers praise their heaters for being quiet, easy to use, heating up fast, and heating large spaces. Many models get extra praise for having handy features like different settings, timers, or easy-to-read displays. We came across complaints about durability for a couple of models, but they seemed to be in the minority. If you’re worried about how long your heater will last, check the reviews in advance, but on the whole Honeywell appears to be a safe bet to go with. 8. Lasko Lasko makes a range of portable heaters in different sizes and styles that receive consistently positive reviews from customers. Their heaters get praise for warming up fast, heating reasonably large spaces, and helping customers save money on central heating costs. Many models come with remote controls, which get lots of mentions in the reviews for adding convenience. 9. LG LG makes combination air conditioners and heaters. The reviews we found for their models were mixed, with more leaning toward the positive than negative. Many reviewers cited their combination A/C and heaters for being powerful, quiet, and a good value for the money, while a few customers had issues with their units needing repairs. 10. Senville Senville is another company producing combination air conditioner and heater units. We didn’t find a whole lot of reviews for their products online, but the ones we found were largely positive. Most of their items require professional installation, which will cost you a little more, but most customers find the cost worth it as their units perform well. 11. Stadler Form Stadler Form makes a couple of stylish portable heaters that receive decent reviews from customers. Reviewers really like the look of their heaters and say they work just fine for heating small spaces, but shouldn’t be relied upon to heat whole rooms. If you want to keep your desk space or part of a room you’re using warm, these are an attractive option to consider. 12. Vornado Vornado makes a number of portable heaters that get almost uniformly positive reviews from customers. They’re quiet, have a sleek look, and often have nice extra features like easy controls and a remote. Many reviewers say their heaters will comfortably heat a whole room in spite of their small size, so if you want lots of power in a compact unit, Vornado could be a good choice. In Conclusion As you can see, you have a lot of options. You may be happy with a small heater that looks nice and just emits enough heat to warm you at your desk, or you may want something that can easily heat a whole room. Some consumers will prioritize aesthetics over power; some will value energy savings over convenience. Whatever your particular preferences, there’s a good chance you can find a heater that meets them.