What is a space heater?

Space heaters are a highly practical option for increasing the ambient temperature in rooms such as bathrooms, garages, toilets, and so on. They are portable heating devices, meaning you can easily move them to where you most need to warm the air! Being able to move your heater from room to room as needed means you have a reliable source of additional heat, at a price you can easily control.

Space heaters: key information

Space heaters work alongside your home’s central heating system (whether that’s gas, electric, solar, and so on). They provide an additional temperature increase to warm up the air in a room, providing plenty of heat despite their easy-to-carry size!

Space heaters are designed to complement your home’s main heating system, rather than to replace it. They do tend to consume rather a lot of electric energy rather quickly, so they’re best used for rapidly increasing the temperature in a relatively small area (for example, a bathroom or garage space) as quickly as possible.

They will work quickly to heat up a room, which is one of their best features. Simply place the heater in the room you need to warm up and it’ll work its magic on the double! However, this does require high energy consumption, as we’ve mentioned. What’s more - unlike with central heating systems - the heat from a space heater will dissipate almost immediately. Some models offer features such as a timer or thermostat control, and they may be wall mounted or free standing.

For example, the heat output from an electric space heater will dissipate almost instantaneously after you turn it off. So, you’ll still need to have a central heating system in place if you want to effectively control the temperature in your home. The space heater is just an added extra!

What are the different types of space heater?

There are multiple different types of space heater out there, from electric to gas, oil and infrared, through space heaters than burn wood pellets to produce heat. We’ll walk you through them here and compare their benefits and drawbacks.

Electric fan heaters

Electric fan heaters are hugely popular portable heating devices. They generate a lot of heat very quickly, but the temperature increase won’t stick around for long! Essentially, the stream of hot air won’t effectively heat the room around it, so you won’t be able to feel the benefits of the temperature increase after the fan heater has been turned off. These are some of the cheapest portable heater options out there, but they’re far from environmentally friendly and guzzle a lot of power. Plus, they’re not known for their reliability and can be quite dangerous to use - never leave a fan heater on and unattended.

Kerosene, oil or gas heaters

Space heaters filled with kerosene, oil or gas (such as propane) are some of the oldest models you can get and - as you might expect - create high levels of pollution, so they’re not the best option from an environmental protection point of view. They’re also fairly dangerous and expensive, so are gradually being phased out to be replaced with electric heaters, or other portable heater options. These appliances are fairly affordable to purchase, even if they are more expensive when compared to other space heater models. However, the toxic fumes they emit by burning kerosene, oil or gas directly affect those using them to stay warm, as well as damaging the environment. What’s more, they pose a very real risk of fire, so they’re far from the safest option on the market.

Wood or wood pellet heaters

You might have come across wood or wood pellet heaters as part of central heating systems integrated into homes. They are an effective option for central heating, but can also be used as an additional, back-up source of heat for a particular room.

Wood or wood pellet burning stoves are a far more environmentally friendly option when compared to other space heaters, but they come at a high purchase price. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that, with time, you will save money by buying this type of product, as wood or wood pellets cost less than other fuel or power sources.

Electric inertia radiators

These are the most modern options, equipped with the latest output and safety technology. Given their inertia capacity, these space heaters are more economical and energy efficient than other types.

Electric inertia radiators are comparatively the best in terms of heating output, cost, power usage and being mindful of your environmental impact. However, they are fairly expensive to purchase.

Space heaters: guidelines for safe use

Using space heaters as your primary source of heating poses significant risks to your safety. They’re not designed or intended to be a home’s primary source of heating; rather, they’re meant to provide additional heating output alongside an integrated central heating system.

Some space heaters are riskier than others. For example, a dated kerosene heater is more dangerous than a modern electric inertia radiator. The lower the price of the space heater, the more dangerous it is likely to be; at the same time, the higher the power of the space heater, the more dangerous it is likely to be.

Some common risks to note are:

  • Accumulation of toxic pollutants in the home from portable kerosene, oil and gas heaters
  • Related risk of aggravating asthma or other respiratory diseases from using a kerosene, oil or gas heater
  • Risk of fire from all types of portable space heaters, especially high power models
  • Risk of burns from coming into contact with portable space heaters

That said, as long as they’re used responsibly and well-maintained, portable space heaters can be a highly convenient option for temporarily increasing the temperature in a specific room.

Choose your space heater model wisely, taking into account power usage, heating output, fuel type and the type of room you need additional heating for, as well as the cost and environmental effects of the product. Make sure to always take all necessary safety precautions when you’re using your portable heater.