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Best Space Heaters

December 05, 2013 Categories: Home Renovation Tips

In this post you’ll learn…

  • The difference of heat distribution among space heaters.
  • What type of space heaters you have the option to use.
  • How to use the best space heater for your room.
  • Safety precautions to take when using a space heater.

The temperature isn’t the only thing that changes when summer turns into winter. Sandals get traded in for warm boots while sweaters take the place of shorts and bathing suits. Sadly, many homeowners often shut off their sun rooms when the temperatures dip low enough to warrant hot chocolate in the afternoon.

If you are looking for a way to enjoy your outside space throughout the winter months, a space heater might be the option for you. These portable units offer homeowners the ability to heat up a room – or at least a portion of the room – without the high costs of centrally heating the entire space. When used effectively, space heaters can offer accessibility to your sun room year around.

Not all space heaters are created the same, though. Each type varies according to how well it can heat a room and whether they will continue to heat a room for a while after being turned off. Some offer safety features, such as automatic shut off, that can help you avoid potential fire hazards in the event of the unit tipping over or overheating.

If you’re considering a space heater purchase this winter, here are the things you should consider.

Heat Distribution

best space heaters

Before we discuss the four main types of space heaters, you should know a little about heat distribution.

Space heaters will heat the room in one of two ways: through convection heat or electromagnetic waves.

Convection heat warms the air that circulates throughout a room. These heaters disperse warm air throughout the entire space, which means you don’t have to be seated directly beside the unit to feel the warmth.

Electromagnetic waves heat an object that is near the unit. If you get up and walk away, you’ll feel a chill. Electromagnetic waves work well if you enjoy the porch on your own and will be seated near the unit.

Before deciding on either convection or electromagnetic wave heat, you should ask yourself whether you want the entire space heated or just the area where you are seated. This may depend on several factors. How large is the space? How many people will be using the space at one time? If you are entertaining, you will want the ability to heat the entire room, but if you are mainly using the porch for reading, sitting, or relaxing, you may be able to get by with a unit that heats through electromagnetic waves instead.

Types of Units

  1. Ceramic. Ceramic space heaters have ceramic coils on the interior of the unit. These coils heat up when the unit is turned on and then, through the use of convection heat and a fan that directs the flow of the air, the unit warms the entire room. Many ceramic heaters oscillate, so they can push the warm air into various areas of the room and not in just one direction. Ceramic heaters are often more expensive than some of their competitors, but they can heat an entire room and not just nearby objects. They do not get hot to the touch, so families with younger children may feel more comfortable using a ceramic model for safety purposes. However, ceramic space heaters can be noisier than other types, which can be a downside for some homeowners. Also, once turned off these heaters do not continue to heat up a space.
  2. Oil – Oil filled heaters work by heating oil and using convection to heat a room, so they can be used to heat an entire space and not just an object seated directly beside the heater. They also continue to keep a space heated for a while after turning the unit off, which is beneficial for some. On the flip side, oil based space heater units take longer to heat up; you will need to plan ahead if you want to heat up the porch.
  3. Radiant – Radiant heaters use light and a reflective material to heat nearby objects rather than heating the actual air. You’ll need to be close to a radiant heater to feel the warmth, but you don’t want to get too close: Some of these units get very hot, so caution should be taken when using this type of space heater, especially when small children may be near. When choosing a radiant space heater, find one that remains cool to the touch for safety purposes.
  4. Electric – The standard electric heater works by heating an element and then, through the use of a fan, pushing the warm air into the room. Typically the cheapest type of space heater, electric units work well in small spaces and for heating objects seated nearby, but they do not work as well when heating an entire room. When purchasing an electric heater, look for newer models that offer safety features, such as automatic shut off.

Additional Items to Consider When Purchasing a Space Heater

  1. Programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats allow you to set the thermostat at a specific temperature; when the space heater reaches that temperature it will turn off, cutting back on electric bills.
  2. The space you need to heat. Small sunrooms and solariums may require just one space heater; larger square footage might warrant two or even three space heaters to adequately warm the area. How big is your porch? How often will you use the space? How much of the space will be used when you are outside? Also, will you want to heat the entire room or just the area in which you will sit?
  3. Drafts. The best space heater in the world can’t do its job if your room is full of drafty air. Before making a purchase, take a bit of time to check for drafts and fix them. Are your windows allowing air in around the seals? Does your door leading to the outside close completely? Use fabric draft protectors to stop the cold air from coming in. Consider replacing old windows and doors, which will help regulate the temperature on your porch while protecting your valuables against break-ins at the same time.
  4. Automatic shut off. Every winter around the country stories hit the press about space heaters being the cause of home fires. To ensure your home is protected when using a space heater, purchase one that contains an automatic shut off. This feature will turn the unit off if it tips over or overheats, and also if something comes into contact with the heating element. Units with this feature often cost more, but the cost is worth avoiding the potential hazards that exist with units that don’t have one.
  5. Safety – Space heaters that cause fires usually do so when they come into contact with combustible objects, such as curtains, bedspreads and other linens. When using the space heater, give the unit at least three feet of clearance on all sides to avoid a potential fire. For those with pets or young children in the home, purchase a unit that doesn’t get hot to the touch. Only use the space heater when you are using the space, and unplug the unit when you leave the room. Choose a heater that offers automatic shut off, and regularly check the wires to ensure they remain free from frays. Additionally, install a smoke alarm on your porch if it does not already have one. Finally, to ensure the space heater has been inspected by an outside agency, purchase one with a UL, ETL or CSA label.