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A simple way to beat the winter doldrums is by creating a warm, inviting environment. A space heater can help convert cold and uncomfortable to cozy, whether it’s in your office workspace, home gym, or workshop.
While just about any heater will warm up a cool area to some degree, selecting the right space heater is key to maximizing your purchase and making sure you don’t have to buy another one next year.
We gathered and tested a group of the most promising electrical heaters, recommending those we found most efficient, durable, and safe. Read on for our recommendations, plus a primer on how heaters work and what you need to consider while you shop.
The Best Space Heaters
Best Overall: Lasko CW210 Bladeless Tower Space Heater
Best Budget: Andily FH105A Space Heater
Best Value: Vornado MVH Vortex Heater
Best for Tabletops: Lasko MyHeat - GO Oscillating Heater
Best for Garages and Cabins: Mr. Heater F232000 MH9BX Space Heater
How We Selected
We found the best space heaters through extensive testing done by our expert product testers. We used a series of tests to determine whether the appliances drew more than their rated amperage, as well as whether the heaters posed a burn hazard. For the products we got in hand after this test was completed, we tried the space heaters in our own homes and determined how quickly they warmed up the space. We also evaluated based on useful features, safety measures, and noise level to determine the best space heaters for your home.
Lasko calls the CW210 bladeless, but it doesn’t really have a fan—it uses a multi-vane impeller instead. This fan-less design contributes to the appliance’s quiet operation, as it pulls in air through its base and into its tower. It’s equipped with a cleanable air filter, which you can access through a tool-free hatch at the back of the heater. We also like the sleek touchpad on the front for controlling the wattage setting for the heating element, tower oscillation, and the eight-hour timer.
The large window of airflow and even heat distribution help bring a room to a comfortable temperature faster than most space heaters on this list. One gripe: The battery hatch cover on the remote is difficult to remove. It has a holster for that remote control, though, making for one tidy package.
When we saw that this had more than 4,000 Amazon customer reviews to its credit, we had to test it, and we were pleasantly surprised by its performance. Its two ceramic elements bring up the heat quickly. On the low setting, it’s a 750-watt space heater; on the high setting, it’s 1500 watts. It can also be used as a single-speed fan (without heat).
A thermostat control knob on the left side also functions as the power control, turning until the appliance shuts off. The thermostat turns the heater back on automatically when it senses that the surrounding air has fallen below the set temperature. Besides being louder than other heaters on this list, there’s not much else to complain about. It throws the heat—and for cheap.
The MVH is a simple space heater with a circular resistance coil and a three-blade fan that blows through a spiral grill. The result is surprisingly quiet and evenly distributed heat output adjustable to three settings: low (750 watts), medium (1,125 watts), and high (1,500 watts).
The grill temperature we recorded is high but not objectionable. The appliance’s case stays cool to the touch, and a hand grip is molded into the back so you can comfortably reposition it. Sitting at floor level and moving as much air as possible, the MVH is bound to pull in dust, so we recommend vacuuming the MVH regularly to avoid a fire hazard.
Lasko named this appliance the MyHeat Go, and the name suits it. The little heater is compact enough to sit on your desk or underneath it to keep your feet cozy, gently blowing warm air across its ceramic heating elements.
On its lowest setting, you barely know it’s on. On high, it projects a substantial amount of warmth relative to its small size, but it’s still fairly quiet. It automatically shuts off when it reaches a warm temperature, but (based on a mildly surprising personal experience) its grill isn’t cool to the touch. The MyHeat GO is a cute little thing with many opportunities to keep you warm wherever you go.
Twist on a propane cylinder and turn the ignition knob to light: that’s all there is to warm up a frosty space using this gas-fired dynamo. It’s noiseless and, according to our Flir camera, produces a well-heated circle with a four-foot diameter. Mr. Heater estimates that, when placed in an enclosed space, the MH9BX’s infrared output can heat up to 225 square feet.
That’s a lot of power in an appliance about the size of a toolbox. If you need a longer run time than its estimated three hours on high, you can buy a kit to hook it up to a 20-pound propane cylinder. As for its safety, it’s equipped with both an oxygen-depletion sensor for operating in enclosed areas, and a tip-over switch that shuts it off. Be warned: It doesn’t take much of a breeze to blow it out.
Look at it this way: for less than the cost of a bag of groceries, you can get this pleasant little space heater with two settings, 12 thermostat set points, oscillation, and ceramic heating elements. High heat is the typical 1,500 watts, which, unless you happen to be heating an igloo, is more than enough for what this appliance is intended for on a desktop or countertop or at floor level. All those features, and you get one of the better handles we’ve seen in this class of products. The fan has an unintended white noise quality; it could be quieter.
The HeatGenius employs two vertical heating elements, two fans, and a thermostat. You can set the fan speed and temperature to heat a room, or you can set it to heat just at floor level, mid-height, or in the head and chest area. It also has a timer that adjusts the heat over two hours, dropping its output every 30 minutes—after two hours, the heater turns off.
One other feature that we like is the appliance’s Quiet Mode. It shuts off the lower fan and runs the upper fan on low speed for almost noiseless heat. We wish Honeywell had equipped this with a cord wrap for better storage, but that’s a design deficiency shared by most small space heaters.
This is a well-designed and well-made little space heater, a nearly flawless execution of what a small heater can be. First, it’s almost noiseless, yet it moves a fair amount of air and quickly heats up a large area around it. That’s also due to a very even heating pattern, based both on our perception of what the heater is putting out and confirmed with our Flir camera and the Fluke thermocouple.
Its noiselessness, adjustability, output, and thermostatic control make it perfect for unobtrusive heating in a small home office or even a living room. And in terms of safety, its proximity sensor worked very well in shutting down the heater when something is positioned right in front of it.
What to Consider
Types of Heat
Heat is transmitted in three ways, and portable heaters use all or two. Knowing how they heat is more than an exercise in physics; it can help you select the best appliance to suit your needs.
A ray in the infrared (electromagnetic) spectrum travels through space, creating heat energy when it passes through a solid, such as you, furnishings, objects and equipment, or a structure (such as your home). Infrared heaters help warm yourself and objects you come in contact with, like a chair, desk, or workbench. They also work well when aiming heat in a specific direction. Suppose you are cutting lumber on saw horses and must move the wood to assemble it; you can point the infrared heater to wherever you go.
This is the movement of heat energy through a fluid, either by a gas such as air or a liquid like oil or water. Convection heaters warm up the air in an area and are suitable for providing warmth within a zone that you may move around in, such as the space around your desk or workbench.
Conduction is the movement of heat energy through a solid using direct physical contact. Heaters with conduction have hot surfaces that radiate heat in all directions (think of a wood stove). Again, these are good for heating an area.
Types of Space Heaters
Electric-coil fan heater: The simplest and least expensive space heaters blow air over an electrical heating element, electric-coil heaters are ideal for quickly producing heat in a small area, such as a shed or office so that occupants can move about in a small zone of warm air.
Ceramic heaters: Simple, inexpensive, and versatile, these use an electrical resistance element encased in a ceramic block or a ceramic element that is itself semi-electrically conductive and generates heat. The block stores heat and radiates it out as infrared energy. Most of these space heaters have a fan, but a few primitive ones do not.
Ideal use: A better and quieter alternative to an electric coil fan heater. These are great for shared offices or wherever quiet heat is needed. Their simplicity makes them quite rugged; they have fewer parts to wear out or break.
Oil-filled radiators: These wheeled appliances are filled with oil heated by a resistance element. They slowly and noiselessly raise the air temperature within the area.
Ideal use: Best for a central location, especially where noiseless (not necessarily quick) heating is the priority, such as a home office or library.
Gas and liquid-fuel heaters: These appliances burn propane or kerosene to warm an infrared emitter that projects the energy. Best use: Construction sites, garages, or work areas are the best places to use these heaters, since you want to place one at a comfortable distance and keep the work area unobstructed. These can direct the heat wherever you are working.
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