The best purpose for a space heater is warming up a cold room in the house, says Mary H.J. Farrell, a senior editor for home and appliances for the product-testing nonprofit Consumer Reports. Space heaters are not efficient ways to heat the whole house, nor will they save you when the power goes out. They’re perfect, however, for when you want to keep the whole-house temperature down but warm up the room you’re in.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a space heater is safety. Does it have a tip-over switch and an overload shut-off sensor, and has it been tested by a safety laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratory? If you’re using a space heater you already have, make sure the cord isn’t frayed. Old or new, never use an extension cord with a heater, keep the heater on a flat surface away from flammable materials, and never leave a heater unattended, says Tom Larsen, owner of House Doctors of Manassas, a handyman service in Northern Virginia.
For anyone looking to buy a space heater, we asked Farrell, Larsen and other experts to share their top picks.
Larsen recently helped his son buy four space heaters for his Omaha house when the furnace went out to keep the pipes warm. The 25-inch-tall Mainstays Radiant Quartz Heater met all of Larsen’s qualifications: 1500W heating capacity, tip-over switch, overload shut-off, low noise level, and indication that it had been tested by a laboratory ($39.44-$49.32, walmart.com).
If form and function both matter to you, Lisa Levy of Washington, a designer for Décor Aid, recommends the 14-inch-tall Stadler Form Max Indoor Heater 220W to homeowners to meet both winter and summer needs ($89.99, target.com). “It has both heating and cooling capabilities, which is great for clients who don’t want to have to dish out money and space for two different items,” she says. “Its contemporary look is great for those with a playful sense of style.”
While on the job site, Chuck Khiel, vice president of Fred Home Improvement, uses a fuel-filled heater. But for indoors, which can only be heated electrically for safety, he recommends the 13-inch-tall Construction Site/Utility Fan Forced Portable Electric Heater ($144.99, staples.com). “It’s easy to move and very effective at heating larger interior spaces,” he says.
Consumer Reports tests space heaters to see how much they heat up a room in 15 minutes, as well as how quickly they warm a person in 15 minutes (For that, it uses dummies connected to sensors). Farrell, who is based in New York, says Consumer Reports recently tested Lasko’s 27-inch-tall Bladeless Ceramic Heater with Remote Control ($99, homedepot.com). It’s “top-notch at heating a room and spot heating and does well on our safety test, too.”
At True Value, the top-performing space heaters meet consumers’ three most-important requests, says Tory Tesdal, senior product merchant: They have tip-over switches, overheat protection and a dial to easily adjust temperature. “Ease of use” is what matters, Tesdal says. True Value sells products to more than 4,000 of its individually owned stores across the country, and the top seller is the 8 1/2- inch-tall Pelonis Compact Ceramic Heater ($26.99, truevalue.com). “It’s also energy-efficient, because everyone cares about saving money.”