Space Heaters: Buying and Safety Guide

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How to choose, how to use, how to stay safe.

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Electric space heaters can be a handy way to warm up a room without turning up the heat for your whole house. To help you keep costs under control and keep safe, we’ve put together this space heater guide.

How to use a space heater efficiently
Even though an electric space heater uses electricity, it can still potentially help you save on heating if used correctly. Follow these tips:

  • A space heater is designed to heat one space. Do not try to heat an entire home with a space heater. To save energy, what you want to do is use a space heater in one room, such as a bedroom, home office or family room. Close the door to that room and lower the heat for the rest of the house.
  • Choose the right size of space heater for the right size space. Look on the box for the recommended square footage. Too big of a heater will just waste energy.
  • Look for temperature controls. Thermostatic controls, multiple heat settings and programmable timers can help you avoid overheating a room and wasting energy.

What type of heater? The facts first
No matter how much they cost, all electric space heaters are 100 percent efficient. That means all of the electrical energy they use is converted to heat.

Most electric space heaters use about 1,500 watts, and all 1,500-watt models produce the same amount of heat. Some models offer lower settings that use fewer watts.

Two basic categories
There are a lot of different types of electric space heaters — ceramic, quartz, oil filled, infrared, parabolic — but they generally fall into one of two categories: convection or radiant.

Convection heaters warm the room
Convection heaters use the circulation of air to heat up a room, so they are a good choice if you have a number of people in a room. Some have fans and some don’t. Models with fans heat up a room faster, but think about whether or not you’re okay with the feeling of air blowing and the sound of a fan.

According to, a quiet, oil-filled radiator style is one of the best types of convection heaters because the sealed oil “stores” the heat. The heater cycles less and you get a more constant, even heat. This style generally doesn’t get hot enough to be a fire or burn hazard, making it a smart option to warm a family room or a child’s bedroom, for example.


Radiant heaters heat people directly
Unlike convection heaters, radiant heaters do not heat up the air in a room. Instead, they emit infrared radiation that directly heats up objects and people that are within the line of sight of the heater.

A radiant heater can be an efficient option if you’re going to be using it for a short time and staying in one spot, such as getting dressed in the morning or watching TV for an hour or so. However, many radiant heaters styles can pose more of a danger of burns or fires, so they’re probably not a safe choice if you have children or pets.

Another good thing to be aware of is many styles of radiant heaters — such as parabolic heaters — glow when operating, so they might be too bright for a bedroom at night.

If you’re shopping for a space heater, the Electric Heaters Reviewwebsite is one spot to start your research.

Space heater safety
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are related to space heaters, and many people also end up in the emergency room with burns from space heaters. That’s why safety should be your top concern with electric space heaters. Follow these rules.

  • Look for safety features. That old heater that your dad handed down to you? Not a good idea. Instead, opt for a newer model with current safety features including:
    • Tip-over safety shutoff
    • Overheat shutoff
    • Safety certification from a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory — look for a UL, ETL or CSA listing on the box
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Using an extension cord increases the risk of overheating, fire and electrical shock. (If you absolutely must use an extension cord, make sure it’s a heavy-duty model.) Always shut off and unplug the heater when it’s unattended.
  • Keep the heater away from damp locations. Water and electricity don’t mix! There are a few models, however, that have GFI plugs and are labeled for use in damp areas, making them safe for use in bathrooms.
  • Avoid deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not use portable kerosene or propane heaters as supplemental heat indoors. These types of heaters can only be used in open areas with adequate ventilation. Also, don’t use charcoal briquettes for cooking or heating indoors.
  • Follow manufacturers’ safety precautions. When using the heater, place it on a level surface away from foot traffic and flammable material. Keep kids and pets away from the heater.
Posted by

Chris Livingston

Owner/Oregon Certifed Home Inspector

Pillar To Post

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P.S. Any client of ours has open access to the Sears Commercial Center for "contractor" prices on everything from TV's to washers etc and on all brands (Bosch, LG, Kitchen Aid - not just Kenmore). Discounts of 5% to 50% from regular store prices are offered exclusively through their commercial group. This is a fantastic opportunity for our clients who may need something for the new home. Call (503) 624-3481 and ask for James Shufelt for details. Be sure to mention the Pillar To Post customer number CU071473

Comments (2)

Wayne Zuhl
Remax First Realty II - Cranford, NJ
The Last Name You'll Ever Need in Real Estate

Great post - I learned so much! Thank you for informational and timely posts!

Jan 18, 2012 05:46 AM
John Pusa
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Crest - Glendale, CA
Your All Time Realtor With Exceptional Service

Chris - Thank you for sharing detailed quality information on space heaters, buying and safety guide.

Jan 18, 2012 06:02 AM