We know: All About Space Heaters

What are space heaters?

Space heaters are small electric (or gas or propane) appliances that you can use to heat a small, defined area of living space instead of turning on a central heating system. They can be a good way to save money and fuel.

This article refers primarily to portable space heaters you can move from one place to another.

How do space heaters work?

Space heaters use a heating element at the center of the appliance to heat the air. In electric space heaters (usually for inside use), the element is some kind of electric coil. In gas or propane heaters (usually for outside use), the heating element is a flame.

What features should I look for in a space heater?

1. Fans and Oscillators. Some heaters let the heat disperse into the surrounding space naturally, but you can buy a heater with a fan that blows the warm air out into the space you're heating. An oscillating function rotates the heater in multiple directions, so you have much more control over where the warn air goes.

2. Thermostat. A space heater with a thermostat will go on and off automatically, depending on the temperature of the air. You save money and heat your space more evenly with this feature.

3. Size and Efficiency. When you shop for a space heater, ask about both the size and efficiency of the unit. You want something that will heat your space adequately and that's not an energy guzzler. Most indoor portable heaters are between 750-1500 watts.

4. Timers and Settings. You'll find a wide variety of settings that can help you control the temperature. Look for dials or digital displays that are easy to understand and operate.

5. Automatic Shut-off. Space heaters can be dangerous. One way to help avoid problems is to buy a model that shuts off if the unit is tipped over, gets too hot, or is covered (by clothing or a blanket, etc.)

6. Vents and Spill Switches. For gas and other liquid-fueled heaters, look for an oxygen depletion sensor to shut off heat if oxygen levels drop and a spill swtich to turn off the heater in case of blockage problems.

7. Kid-Safe Switches. Look for power switches that are designed to be kid proof.

8. Protective grills or guards. These design features help keep everyone away from the coil or flame.

9. Laboratory Tested. Look for heaters that have been laboratory tested and carry UL or ETL labels.

10. Handle. Check to see where it's placed and if it makes the unit easy to carry from place to place.

How much do space heaters cost?

They range from about $50 into the hundreds of dollars.

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