How to select a space heater

Buying a new space heater can be intimidating if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Use this guide to make sure you purchase one that fits your needs.

electric space heater on wood flooring

Selecting a new space heater isn’t an easy task. There are so many shapes, sizes and technologies out there that just a few minutes in the heater aisle can leave you feeling confused.

Heating technologies

There are two basic types of space heaters, and both work very differently to heat your space. Radiant heaters heat small spaces in a hurry by heating objects close to them, rather than the air. Convection heaters don’t heat up quite as fast, but they’ll heat an entire room evenly. Deciding between these two is half the battle in picking the perfect heater for your space.


Once you choose the heating technology that fits your needs, you’ll need to choose a heater style. This is more of a personal preference and depends on how and where you’re going to use your heater.

Personal heaters — Personal heaters are usually pretty small in size and work well for small spaces like bathrooms, office cubicles and dorm rooms.

Tower heaters — Tower heaters are great because of their small footprint. They’re tall and narrow, so they don’t take up much floor space.

Baseboard heaters — These heaters are useful for heating an entire room, floor to ceiling. Place them under windows to eliminate drafts.

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For safety and energy efficiency, it’s important to choose a space heater that’s rated for the size of the area you want to heat. Look for the heater’s square-footage rating on the packaging before making your purchase.

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These extra features affect how the fan performs. Know which ones you need before you start shopping for heaters.

Fans — Both radiant and convection heaters may be equipped with fans to help distribute heat faster and to a bigger area. While the fan is helpful, keep in mind that it also makes the heater much noisier.

Oscillating — A heater that oscillates turns from side to side to help distribute heat more evenly throughout the room. Without this feature, the heater would be directing its heat down one narrow pathway, only heating what’s right in front of it. Sometimes the entire heater will turn, while other times the blades inside are turning and the casing stays in place.

Temperature control — Look for a heater with temperature control if you want to conserve energy and keep your room from getting too hot. These heaters work until the room reaches a specific temperature, then shut off until it cools down.

Dual purpose — You pull your heater out every winter, and then switch it out for a fan once spring arrives. Save yourself the trouble by using one that both cools and heats. Dual-purpose fans cool when you need them to, and then switch over to heat when you need that. Most have temperature control features that ensure it’s doing just what you want it to.

Remote control — This feature is solely an extra, but it’s nice to not have to get up to turn your heater on and off or adjust the temperature.

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Safety features

One of the most important considerations you should make when selecting a space heater is safety. Without the proper safety features, space heaters can be quite dangerous.

Tip-over protection — This feature involves an internal switch that automatically shuts the heater off if it’s tipped over. Without it, a tipped over heater is an easy way to start a fire.

Overheat protection — Overheat protection uses an internal sensor that shuts the heater off automatically when its internal components reach an unsafe temperature, another way to avoid a fire.

Heat-resistant exteriors — The outside of space heaters can become hot to the touch, making them a burn hazard. Look for a heater with a heat-resistant exterior, especially if you have children in your household.

Safety First

Remember to keep your heater at least a few feet from anything flammable.

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