When fall and winter arrive, you may suddenly discover that your whole-house heating system is not adequate. Portable space heaters, which are inexpensive and require no permanent installation, are a popular way to heat small areas quickly.
Learn the basics of this popular supplementary heating source, along with safety recommendations and tips for optimizing performance.
Most indoor heaters draw power from an ordinary 120-volt outlet. Electricity provides safe, clean heat for your room.
However, using electricity to power space heaters is expensive. Plus, if that outlet is on an electrical circuit that is drawing power for other needs, the additional strain from the space heater may cause the circuit breaker to shut off.
Propane and kerosene are cheaper energy sources for space heaters and run independently from your home electrical system. Because a large majority of propane and kerosene heaters are designed for outdoor use – camping, patios, and open garages – be certain to select one that is designed for indoor use. These heaters have an oxygen depletion sensor that will shut the heater off if the level of oxygen in the air drops below a safe level.
The size of the area you want to heat determines what kind of space heater you purchase. Generally, 10 watts are required for each square foot of floor area.
So for a small room, such as a 150-square-foot bedroom, you will need a 1,500-watt-rated heater. Fifteen-hundred watts, the maximum output of most portable electric space heaters, delivers about 5,118 BTUs (British thermal units) per hour.
You can easily determine how much it will cost to power an electric space heater that you are considering purchasing.
Space heaters that have a thermal core that radiates heat after the heating coil is turned off are more effective than heaters that have only heating coils.
Portable, rolling, stand-up heaters that look like old-fashioned steam or water radiators have an inflammable oil core that retains heat for as long as half an hour after the heating element has turned off.
Popular ceramic space heaters are smaller than oil-filled heaters. They also have a thermal core in the form of ceramic plates attached to the heating coils. The plates retain the coils’ heat, continuing to provide heat after the coils have shut off.
Convection heaters electrify metal coils or a halogen bulb, with a reflector to point the heat at specific areas within the room.
Because there is no fan, heat range is limited to just a few feet. On the plus side, the lack of a fan means that these units are nearly silent.
The second most basic type of indoor space heater pushes air heated by electric coils with a small electric fan.
As soon the coils stop radiating heat, the heater quickly cools down. These are considered one of the least effective types of space heaters.
Similar to the convection-only heaters, these also have fans that push air over heating elements.
The difference is that ceramic box heaters have ceramic plates that retain heat after the electric coils are no longer hot.
Similar to the ceramic box heater, except in size and shape.
Tower convection heaters stretch the coils and housing higher and thinner to more effectively disperse heat throughout the room.
These heaters’ electric coils make contact with large, thin sheets of mica, heating them so that they can retain warmth for a long time. No fans are involved.6
One great advantage of micathermic heaters is that they can be installed flat against a wall, much like a flat-screen television, saving space and better dispersing heat within the room.
Also, micathermic heaters are better at keeping down dust than fan-driven heaters because they do not move air as vigorously. This means that micathermic heaters work well for allergy sufferers and others affected by dust or moving air.
While permanently installed boiler-driven steam and water radiators are slowly being phased out of buildings, wheeled oil-filled electric radiators have stepped in to take their place.
The oil in this type of radiator is heated by electric elements. The oil is sealed within the radiator and never needs to be refilled.
While energy efficient, these heaters are heavy and at risk for tipping over.
Indoor-safe propane heaters are highly effective, pushing out up to 9,000 BTU per hour for less money than electric heaters. Disposable propane canisters can run the heater at full blast for up to four to five hours.
These heaters emit no smell of gas. They are great for heating large areas, such as living rooms, basements, and garages.
Electric or propane space heaters, though not the optimal way to heat a room, do provide a number of advantages over whole-house heating systems. Learn which features to look for when purchasing a space heater and get valuable usage, optimization, and safety tips.