Space Heaters Review
Why Buy a Space Heater?
The top performers in our review are the DeLonghi DCH7093ER, the Gold Award winner; the Optimus H-7328, the Silver Award winner; and the Dyson AM05, the Bronze Award winner. Here's more on choosing a product to meet your needs, along with detail on how we arrived at our ranking of 10 products.
A portable electric space heater can accomplish the task of heating individual rooms within your home or office, allowing you to cut back on electricity costs. Portable space heaters make it possible for you to spot-heat frequently used rooms to comfortable temperatures without the need to increase the temperature of your whole house. They can also come in handy if you have a room in your home or office that lacks heating ductwork, is poorly insulated or is otherwise difficult to heat.
Space Heaters: All Different Kinds
Space heaters come in a variety of sizes and styles and use different methods to emit heat. Convection is the method of a space heater with a blower that circulates warm air throughout a room. Often, circulation is assisted by the presence of an oscillator that rotates the unit to provide more even distribution. The other most common method is radiant heating, which emits infrared heat and is better for use in close quarters because there is no fan blower.
Additionally, there are space heaters that operate simply by plugging into a wall socket and others that run on fuels like propane. For our review of the best space heaters for indoor home and office use, we only considered portable electric units that you can plug into any standard wall socket.
Space Heaters & Energy Efficiency
The Environmental Protection Agency doesn't label portable electric space heaters as Energy Star-rated appliances and has no plans to do so. For this reason, you won't find space heaters categorized by their energy efficiency ratings.
Depending on your home or office setup, using a space heater in place of or in addition to a standard gas or electric furnace may or may not save you money. For example, attempting to use a space heater or a series of space heaters to raise temperatures throughout your entire home may be far more costly than running your furnace. On the other hand, deploying a space heater in a frequently used small room with poor insulation could lower your overall heating bill by not requiring you to overheat your entire home or office just to keep one small space at a comfortable temperature.
You can determine the average hourly, daily, monthly and yearly cost of running a space heater in your home by visiting the U.S. Department of Energy website and accessing its appliance energy calculator. This calculator requires you to enter in the type of appliance, the unit's wattage, your local utility rate, the hours you use it per day and the number of days per year you intend to use it. It then gives you a dollar estimate of how much money in electricity it will cost you to run a space heater in your home.
Using this energy calculator and the average utility rate of $0.12 per kilowatt hour, we determined that the estimated dollar amount to operate most of the space heaters in our lineup is $0.18 per hour. The Bionaire BCH4562E is the only space heater we tested that costs less to run, coming in at just $0.10 per hour. It should be noted, however, that the Bionaire accomplishes this by putting out significantly less heat than the rest.
CADR, short for Clean Air Delivery Rate, is a rating assigned to units such as air purifiers and space heaters that double as air purifiers. Since none of the portable electric space heaters we reviewed include air purifiers, we did not assign a category to rank the units by CADR rating.
Space Heaters vs. Baseboard Heaters
Space heaters are not the same as baseboard heaters. Whereas space heaters in general heat small areas, baseboard heaters are more effective at heating entire rooms and maintaining an even temperature throughout.
Unlike portable space heaters, which plug into a wall socket, baseboard heaters are affixed to a wall and are wired into your home's electrical system, requiring installation. Space heaters, on the other hand, are designed with portability in mind, so you can move them from one location to another as needed. The installation of a traditional baseboard heater may be better in the long run for large rooms than continued usage of a portable electric space heater.
Some manufacturers have developed hybrid space heaters that replicate the size and shape of traditional baseboard heaters but are more portable. We included a handful of portable baseboard heaters in our review to compare the performance of these units against standard electric space heaters. However, because none come designed with fan-forced blowers and other features common to electric space heaters, such as oscillation, they failed to rank within the top 10. Read more about these freestanding electric baseboard heaters here.
Portable Electric Space Heaters: How Wattage Can Determine Functionality
Portable electric space heaters come in a range of wattages. The higher the wattage of a given space heater, the greater its ability to heat a room. Multiple wattage ratings for one unit indicate that it has separate heat setting levels, such as high, medium and low. A space heater with a higher wattage capability means it can safely handle higher levels of power output. This means a space heater with higher wattage ranges can potentially achieve higher levels of heat.
Space heaters with lower wattage, such as the Bionaire BCH4562E, emit less heat and are most effective in small rooms or at close range. Ones that can achieve high wattage, like the DeLonghi DCH7093ER, are significantly more suitable for rooms with a higher square footage.
Before you choose a space heater, you should determine the size of the area you wish to heat. You can use a space heater with high wattage to warm a small room, but such powerful units could make small areas uncomfortably warm quickly. Likewise, a space heater with low wattage may be ineffective for warming up the ambient air in a large room. It could also require you to run the space heater for longer periods of time before achieving the optimal temperature.
To determine the ideal wattage for your living or working space, measure the square footage of the room and multiply that number by 10. For a 150-square-foot room, the ideal wattage is 1,500 watts. A room measuring 80 square feet is best served by an 800-watt space heater. With the exception of the Bionaire BCH4562E, all of the space heaters we reviewed operate at a maximum of 1,500 watts.
Electric Space Heaters: Safety Concerns & Risks
The nature of an electric space heater makes it a slightly higher risk for accidental fire than a standard home furnace. Portable electric space heaters are designed to sit on a flat surface, but the lightweight nature of their design makes them likely to fall over and possibly come into contact with flammable materials. For this reason, we strongly recommend seeking out a space heater that has a tip-over sensor, which shuts off the heating function if the heater is knocked over.
Another consideration for safety with an electric space heater is an overheat shutdown, which detects if the unit is reaching dangerously high temperatures. Additional safety features such as a cool-touch exterior can also prevent accidental injury. Timers ensure a space heater shuts down after a certain length of time, which can also greatly reduce the risk of fire.
Portable Electric Heaters: What We Tested, What We Found
We compared the portable electric space heaters in our review based on the following factors. Here is a breakdown of how the space heaters we tested earned points.
To determine the space heaters' ability to adequately heat a room, we tested each unit by turning the fan and heat to the highest setting and timing how long it took for each to raise the temperature in a 150-square-foot room by 5 degrees. We then assigned each space heater a grade ranging from A to F. None of the heaters in our top 10 received a grade lower than D.
Additionally, we tested the spot-heating capability of each space heater with an electronic anemometer, which measures the maximum velocity of the airflow generated. We gave each heater a performance grade to indicate its effectiveness at circulating warm air through a room. We also noted the number of heat settings and fan speeds each heater has. The standard number of heat settings is two, but some space heaters, like the DeLonghi DCR7093ER, have more. Most of the space heaters we tested have only one fan speed – the notable exception being the Dyson AM05, which has 10 different speeds.
Safety & Design
Safety is always critical with an electrical appliance, so we evaluated the various safety inclusions of all of the space heaters we tested. Cool-touch exteriors prevent you from accidentally burning yourself when handling a space heater, so we included this in our scoring. Automatic overheat shutdown and tip-over sensors are additional safety designs that can lower the risk of fire in the event the space heater is knocked over or left on without anyone around to monitor its performance. A timer is another feature that can prevent a unit from overheating.
Additionally, we performed tests to measure the loudness of each space heater's fan to help you gauge which model has the right noise level for you. In testing, we found the Holmes Smart Wifi-Enabled WeMo to be the quietest of all the heaters and the Dyson AM05 to be the loudest.
Finally, we measured the total footprint of each of the space heaters we tested to help you determine how well they'd fit into your home. If space is limited, you may want to consider purchasing a space heater with a smaller footprint; however, bear in mind that small units like the Bionaire BCH4562E are less effective for heating big spaces. Since the ideal size is entirely dependent on your needs, we did not rank the space heaters by size and have included that data for information only.
Ease of Use
Operating a space heater should require as little effort as possible, so we tested all of the space heaters in our review for their ease of use. We noted the presence of carrying handles to determine each space heater's portability. We also noted features like adjustable thermostats and remote control operation to rank each heater's ease of use.
Warranty & Support
All of the space heaters we tested come with limited manufacturer warranties that cover defects and workmanship. The shortest warranties last one full year, but some space heaters in our top 10 come with extensive warranties, such as the Vornado VH200, which offers protection for five years.
Aside from assigning a higher rating for space heaters with longer warranties, we determined the availability of support from the manufacturer for operating your unit or exercising your warranty. Manufacturers that offer support by email and phone scored higher than those who only offer one resource or none at all.
Top Ten Reviews seeks, whenever possible, to evaluate all products and services in hands-on tests that simulate as closely as possible the experiences of a typical consumer. We obtained the units in our comparison through a combination of retail purchases and direct loans from the manufacturers. These manufacturers had no input or influence over our test methodology, nor was the methodology provided to any of them in more detail than is available through reading our reviews. Results of our evaluations were not provided to the companies in advance of publication.
Our Verdict and Recommendations
After comprehensive testing and research, we found the best space heaters to be the DeLonghi DCH7093ER, the Optimus H-7328 and the Dyson AM05. All three of these units rank high in safety features and ease of use, and they also achieved the highest room-heating performance.
Bear in mind that which is the best space heater for your needs depends on a number of factors, including where you plan to use it, how frequently, and how useful extra features like a remote control and carrying handles are to you. For more information, read our articles about space heaters.