We've all had heaters that torpedo your electric bill. Find the cheapest types of electric heaters to run, with tips and recommendations.Read More
You want to stay warm, but running your home’s furnace is costing a truckload.
A smaller space heater is the answer.
It’s fairly cheap, uses much less energy, and there’s plenty of options.
Infrared heaters, oil filled, storage, ceramic… too many options!
So which type of space heater is best, and for what?
After a lot of research, I believe I’ve got the answers. Below I’ve covered how each type of heater works, what they’re best at, and when you should avoid them.
Ready for more detail on which space heater is best for you?
Then let’s dive in.
Space Heater Types
First, I’ll quickly cover your options for heater types. Understanding how they work let’s you quickly realize which heater is best for you.
Oil Filled Heaters
These heaters work the exact same as the standard central heating radiator does.
As you can tell by the name, they’re filled with oil which is heated via an electric heating element. Since oil is so thick and dense it takes quite a while to heat up. But, once hot, it doesn’t take much energy to maintain.
Oil holds temperature extremely well. Meaning it takes a long time for the heat to fade – meaning it doesn’t take much effort to keep it at a high temperature. This makes oil filled heaters one of the most energy efficient options out there.
These heaters have always been a massive favorite of mine. Particularly because they’re totally silent. Unlike fan heaters, these radiators operate without a whisper of noise.
Combine the silent operation with the long lasting heat and you have one of the best options for heating any room inside our home. Especially bedrooms or offices, where quiet is appreciated.
The main downside is the cost. These heaters are a little more expensive than your standard ceramic or radiant space heaters. What you pay upfront, though, you’ll save in the long run. Thanks to the much cheaper running costs of an oil filled heater.
Oil filled heaters also tend to be more user friendly. Expect thermostats, safety switches, touch protection (for kids), and timer options.
Oil filled heaters are ideal for bedrooms, offices, or any insulated room where you’ll be for a long time. They’re also a great option for large rooms which will need a constant supply of heat to warm up.
When to Avoid
Avoid oil filled heaters if you need warmth quickly. They’re also not ideal for an uninsulated space, and may be too powerful for significantly small rooms.
Ever been cold in a beer garden, and felt the instant warmth of an infrared heater as someone switches one on?
That’s one of their best selling points. Infrared heaters provide instant heat that isn’t affected by the wind.
These heaters are unique. Instead of heating the air around them, they heat what’s in front of them. Whether that’s you, your dog, or your chair. It’s actually not too dissimilar to a kind of microwave for humans!
Infrared heaters are also another totally silent option. Apart from a slight ‘hum’ on starting, their rays are provided in total silence. This makes these another great option for bedrooms or offices.
Their main downside, however, is that the only heat what’s in front of them. You need to have a clear line of sight between you and the heater if you want to feel it’s warmth.
Since they heat objects and not air, infrared heaters are so useful because they don’t get affected by the wind. When you heat the air in a room (or outside), a draft or gust of wind can blow all that hot air away. Instead, by heating us directly, an infrared heater is much more resilient to windy conditions.
One selling point everyone misses is that infrared heaters are the cheapest heater to run. The heating element needs much less energy to run than traditional heaters, and the heat generally lasts longer. Infrared heaters are like the dark horse of the space heater race.
Note: Although they’re often used outside, infrared heat can also be great indoors. By heating objects in a room, these objects then pass their heat out into the surrounding air. Heating up the whole space just like a traditional heater.
Consider an infrared heater for any outdoor areas or uninsulated buildings. It’s resilient heat will stick around, and let you enjoy the outdoors long after the sun goes down or the wind picks up.
They’re also great for bedrooms or offices thanks to their silent operation.
Lastly, they’re a surprising option for very large rooms. Not because they can heat the whole room, but because they can heat part of it. If you have a large room where you only use one area of it – don’t burn money heating the whole room! Instead, use an infrared heater to keep your corner nice and cosy.
Electric Heaters (Radiant & Ceramic)
Next up are the bread-and-melted-butter of the heating market – electric space heaters.
These come in radiant and ceramic types. Both simply heat up an element (either a heating element or a ceramic plate) then use a fan to blow the hot air around.
As anyone who’s owned an electric space heater will tell you – they cost a lot to run.
This is due to two reasons:
- They’re inefficient. A ton of electricity gets used in heating up the element or ceramic plate – much more than for an infrared heater, and at higher cost than a storage heater.
- The heat gets lost easily. Because the heat comes from the warm air, any loss of air will be a loss of heat. That means any draft, or lightly insulated wall will cause the precious heat to disappear.
That said, electric space heaters are great for their wide availability, ease of use, and ability to quickly provide heat.
Grab an electric heater anywhere you need heat quickly, and not for a long period of time. Think utility rooms, storage areas, or even a kitchen. Especially well insulated places.
If you’re going to need the heat for an hour or more, I’d strongly recommend a more efficient option. It’ll save you a ton in energy bills in the long run.
The clue is in the name with Storage Heaters – they ‘store’ up electricity overnight.
Why? Well, it saves you a ton of money. Electricity tariffs are often cheaper in quieter hours, especially throughout the night. Sometimes up to 50%! By storing power from those hours, storage heaters can save on running costs in the long term.
The trade off is that, like many other efficient models, storage heaters are expensive. Sometimes up to $400!
To find out more, a great supplier to check out is Steffes.
Best Uses for Storage Heaters
These are best for places that in cold climates, where heaters see a lot of use.
Since they cost a lot, you need to get a lot of use from them before you really see the money-saving benefits.
Best used in busy communal rooms.
When it comes to propane and kerosene, it’s all about respecting their power.
Gas heaters pack the most powerful punch by a country mile. It’s like having 2-3 fireplaces inside one heater.
If choosing a gas heater, ventilation is the #1 priority. Since these give off carbon monoxide, we can’t put them in a sealed space. Open the vents, windows, and even crack open the doors. Don’t worry about the cold outside – these heaters have more than enough power to make up for that.
Let’s look at the different types of propane heaters available.
Aside from being one of the coolest looking heaters, torpedo heaters pack the most powerful and send it all in one direction. They’re ideal but ultra-large spaces (think warehouses or factories) where the heat needs directed to one area.
At the other end, we have radiant heaters.
As you guessed, they radiate heat all around themselves. These are suited to smaller spaces where you’re trying to heat the whole room up.
Recognisable from almost any beer garden / patio you’ve been to, propane tower heaters are best for the outdoors. They also radiate heat 360 degrees around them, but are raised. Meaning less potential accidents, and easier for guests to huddle around them.
A fancy version of power heaters, pyramid are the sleek-heat providers for luxury guests. Showing off with a tower flame, these stylish but expensive heaters are the most inviting way to heat an outdoor patio area.
Best Heaters For Each Space/Use
If you’d rather have a recommendation for each room in your home, look no further.
I’ve put together the best heaters for the most common rooms in every home and garden. Just click on the room name to see the best type of space heater for it.
The best type of space heater for a bedroom is an oil-filled heater. They offer an unbeatable combination of features which are perfect for sleeping next to. Here’s why:
- They’re silent. No fans or hums means they give out totally silent heat.
- They’re long lasting. Although they take a while to warm up, their heat stays around for a long time. You can switch it off when you get into bed and have plenty of time until the room cools down.
- They’re efficient. Once the heater’s warmed up, it doesn’t take much energy to keep the oil at a good temperature. Unlike other electric heaters, which have a constantly high demand.
For a room with kids, wall-mounted heaters are a great option to prevent burnt fingers. Especially one that can be controlled/checked using WiFi – like the latest wall-mounted infrared heaters from Heat Storm.
Oil-Filled heaters are a close second, provided they have ‘cool-touch’ exteriors. Coming with thermostats, they’re great “set and forget” style heaters since they almost always come with a thermostat.
Large Living Room.
Heating a large room is where space heaters struggle. They’re made for smaller spaces – having multiple radiators powered by a furnace is typically much better.
However, if a space heater is needed, I’d recommend either oil-filled or infrared heat. Oil-filled is powerful and efficient, meaning it can heat the air in quite a large area. Two of these could comfortably heat a large living room.
Alternatively, an infrared heater can be used to heat a small area of a larger room – perfect for old houses with massive rooms and inefficient insulation.
Small-Medium Living Room
For a small-medium living room, oil-filled is typically the hands-down winner in terms of heater type. This is simply because it provides some of them best heating power in combination with efficiency (low energy cost once heat is reached) and control (almost all models have reliable thermostats).
Electric radiant or ceramic heaters could also work – and would heat the room faster. But they’d bump up your heating bill much more.
Office. Oil Filled / Infrared
Oil-filled heaters are also the best option for an office. Or anywhere else you’d spend a lot of continuous hours working from.
Their long-lasting, efficient heat – combined with being totally silent – makes a perfect partner for comfortable working for hours.
Utility Room. Electric
For a small utility room – or any space where you won’t spend long – opt for an electric radiant or ceramic space heater.
While these aren’t the most efficient, or silent, they are super-fast acting. This makes them great for smaller rooms where you won’t be spending long, and don’t mind a bit of noise if it gets heat quickly.
Uninsulated Garage / Shed. Propane
For an uninsulated garage, consider a propane heater.
Their main downside – needing ventilation – needs to be solved first. Usually with an open window or vents. Since the garage is uninsulated, this won’t affect the heat loss too much.
You can then harness their massive amounts of heating power without needing to install a ton of installation. Radiant propane heaters are especially effective here, but consider torpedo-style propane heaters for especially large spaces.
Insulated Garage. Oil Filled
Unlike an uninsulated garage, one with insulation is much more like a living room inside the home.
The best type of heater depends on what you use the garage for.
If you’re just coming and going quickly, then opt for a standard electric heater. While noisy and inefficient, they give out heat the quickest. Making them ideal if you need to quickly heat the garage for a short period of time.
Otherwise, oil-filled heaters are best if you’re in there for a long time. While they’re slow to start (give them a 30 minute warm-up time), they’re super-efficient and totally silent. Perfect if you’re spending hours in the garage at a time.
Outdoors. Propane / Infrared
With any outdoor space, you want to consider one of two heater types.
First is propane. This is the standard solution.
Large propane tower heaters pack a ton of power. Place them at the center of 8-10 people and everyone can be comfortably warm, even at night. While they take a little work to maintain (replacing gas canisters), there’s no more powerful way to heat the air around your guests.
Alternatively, infrared heat is a simpler answer. By heating people gently with infrared heat you’re almost replicating the sun. Because people and objects are being heated, the wind won’t suddenly blow all the warmth away – unlike with a propane heater.
Infrared heat is also silent, controllable, and doesn’t need refilled or maintained. Plus, it’s much more efficient and better for the environment than burning lots of propane.
Choosing the right space heater can quickly become a nightmare of options.
Between the dozen different types and thousands of different models, it can leave almost anyone with analysis paralysis.
I hope this guide has helped narrow down the best options for you.
Remember – you can always try a heater and return it if it’s not quite what you need.
In the end, don’t worry too much. Most modern heaters are decently reliable to do the job well.
If this guide has helped you, please consider checking out some of related content below.
Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a great day!