Will is an avid energy efficiency guru, testing systematically to get that electricity bill down (especially in cold Canadian winters.)
Finding an Energy-Saving Space Heater in 2019: Keep Warm on a Budget
Winter is on approach, and it's getting colder. I live in a part of the world where heaters are a necessity, and it can get pretty expensive burning natural gas all winter. Sometimes central air heating isn't practical. A small, energy-efficient space heater can be the perfect thing.
That said, not all space heaters are the same. Some make use of ceramics and others make use of other technology. They're all different shapes and sizes, and some of them are a huge drain on your electrical bill each month. Some are even fire hazards!
Because it can be tough to narrow down a heater that combines good energy efficiency, low price, safe operation and small size, I'm writing an article to showcase a few good ones. We'll look at six (I've added a bonus one) of the best energy saving space heaters and give a run-down of their specs and how well they operate.
I'll also briefly touch on a couple of the popular technologies these days, so you'll understand what you're looking at! Let's begin.
Different Types of Space Heaters
There are many different types of energy efficient space heaters, and they're all subtly different. Here's a brief description of a few of the popular styles:
These are built to gradually increase the air temperature of the whole room, by directing warm air upwards. They work slowly, but they can fill a whole room with warmth. Some examples of this include baseboard heaters and oil and water radiators1 (despite the name, a radiator heater uses convection, not radiant heat).
Radiant style heaters2 work more quickly, but they direct their temperature in a single direction. They're useful for heating up a single person or single area of a room. Most ceramic and infrared style heaters are radiant style. They're quicker, but typically use a bit more electricity.
There are also some hybrid style space heaters that are very energy efficient. They make use of a combination of the two styles I just covered.
1) Lasko: A Designer Oscillating, Energy-Saving Space Heater
- Pros: Very powerful for its size, oscillates, attractive design
- Cons: Doesn't retain heat, so it can cycle often
If you're after a relatively inexpensive space heater that's energy efficient and looks great, this product by Lasko might be right up your alley. It has a wide range of features and it's really user-friendly.
With up to 1500 watts of heat, this is a powerful heater in a small package. It oscillates widely on its base and has a bunch of different temperature presets on the top, as well as various fan outputs that let you control how much heat is produced and how widely it's distributed in the room. That makes it wonderful for just a single person, but it's also useful for a larger space too.
It even has a timer with settings for as long as seven hours of use.
The housing is unique among space heaters in that it looks sort of like an urn or decorative vase, definitely nothing like the sterile gray that space heaters usually come in.
The heater unit is ceramic, so this should be considered a radiant heater. With that said, it's actually pretty good at warming up a pretty big room in short order.
Because it relies on ceramic elements, it warms very quickly, but it won't maintain that warmth as long. It's good for heating up a well-insulated space quickly, but it becomes less efficient if it has to run constantly.
It is sturdy, very quiet, attractive, and doesn't tip over easily. Beyond that, it's a pretty efficient electric space heater that will last.
2) Dyson Hot + Cool: A Versatile and Powerful Heater / Fan Combination
- Pros: Probably the most energy efficient on this list, buffet-less air, high quality build
- Cons: Expensive compared to others on this list
You may have seen the advertisements lately extolling the virtues of the new Dyson vacuum and fan products. I've checked them out and I have to say they're living up to the hype.
They may be on the expensive side, but all Dyson products are very intelligently designed and built to be not only powerful but beautiful too.
This particular space heater and fan is efficient, energy saving, and versatile. You can use it as a heater in the cold months, and then switch it to a fan to blow cool air during the summer. No more storing it in the basement for half the year!
Their "air multiplier" technology means that the air is drawn in from around the device rather than pushed through. That results in a "buffet-less" airflow that's far more relaxing than a conventional fan.
That same air multiplier means that heat is pushed efficiently through the room, so you don't have to sit directly in front of it to gain the benefits, and it's good for heating up a decent-sized space.
It tilts and oscillates, and it's capable of projecting a huge volume of air, so it can really warm up a big space quickly. Surprisingly enough, it doesn't draw a huge amount of juice either, so your electricity bill isn't going to expand too much. It even avoids that typical space heater "burning smell" generated by dust on the elements!
Overall this is a pricey but full-featured and powerful space heater that offers energy savings to boot!
3) DeLonghi Safeheat: A Very Inexpensive and Powerful Oil Radiator
- Pros: Retains heat for ages, inexpensive, portable, silent
- Cons: Radiant, so it's slower to heat up a space.
I usually recommend an oil radiator for anyone who needs consistent heat in a small space, because they're among the most energy efficient space heaters on the market today. This example by DeLonghi shows you just how much you can get for well under $100.
The advantage of oil radiators is that the oil inside retains heat really well. Once it's heated up, you can actually turn it off or lower the heat, and it will continue to provide convection warmth throughout the space for a long time afterward.
This particular radiator has fins that never need to be refilled or topped up with oil. The unit can be set to automatically turn on when the room drops below 44 degrees Fahrenheit, and it will also automatically shut off when the heat gets too high.
It's also virtually silent; the only thing you'll hear is the occasional "ticking" of metal expanding and contracting. I had one of these operating in my bedroom for years, and they're wonderful!
They do take a bit of time to warm up, and likewise if it gets too hot they take some time to cool as well, but it's an extremely safe and very energy-efficient space heat option that won't break the bank.
4) Dr Infrared: An Attractive, Potent, Quartz Space Heater
- Pros: Heats very quickly, heats large spaces, quiet
- Cons: Larger footprint
You might have seen infrared heaters like this one advertised on late night television. They're pretty popular and gaining fans every day. They're a bit larger in size than your conventional space heater, but they provide a huge amount of heat without drawing a ton of power.
They're big, but not huge, at around 13 x 11 x 16 inches in dimension. They're definitely what I'd consider portable, because you can tote them around easily enough.
The technology incorporates typical element heating with infrared heat, which is where the 'quartz' in the name comes from (infrared heaters typically use a quartz tube of some kind). That means that it heats up extremely quickly and will start projecting almost the moment you switch it on.
These heaters make claims of heating up to 1000 square feet. In my experience, that's not realistic. However, they're pretty good at heating up spaces of up to 500 square feet quickly, and they have the capability to fill the room with warmth rather than just blasting it in a single direction.
Feature-wise, it has a 12-hour timer, a fairly quiet fan, front panel push-button controls that are simple to use, and a very precise thermostat to regulate the temperature. It has a three-year warranty too.
It's a very energy-efficient infrared space heater that happens to look great too! Worth taking a look at for sure.
5) Delonghi Panel: A Low-Profile, Energy-Saving Space Heater with Great Reviews
- Pros: Thin and low profile, tip sensor, inexpensive
- Cons: No fan so it doesn't "spot heat"
If you're after a heater that's pretty low-profile and doesn't get in the way, or if you just want something that's powerful enough to heat a room without being the center of attention, you might be interested in this panel heater by Delonghi.
These heaters take advantage of 'micathermic technology', which allows heat elements to be arrayed in extremely thin panels. That means that this is the only space heater reviewed here that can be mounted on the wall safely.
I'd definitely classify it largely as a convection heater, meaning that it won't "spot heat" as well as some of the others I've listed, but it will quickly warm up a whole room and make everyone toasty.
Being this thin, it obviously doesn't have a fan, so it can't project the heat outward, but that means it's totally silent while it operates (apart from the odd metal "tick").
It has a high and a low setting (1500 and 750 watts, respectively), and it comes with an internal tip sensor that will shut it off it, even if it's not using the included wheeled base.
Simple controls, light weight, and the ability to mount it on the wall make it a strong candidate, and it's definitely one of the most energy-efficient space heaters for sale these days. Read the reviews and you'll see what I mean!
6) Amaze Heater: A "Stealthy," Wall-Mounted, Energy-Saving Space Heater
- Pros: Very stealthy design takes up no floor space, energy saving low power demands
- Cons: You might need several to heat a large space
OK, so I recently ran across another fantastic heater, and I've decided to add a bonus review, because this is a cool product.
The Amaze-Heater is a fantastic and well-designed heater that solves the problem of "it's effective, but ugly." These heaters look great!
They have the look of a modern art panel on your wall, and best of all they're not underfoot, so there's no risk of tipping over. Most visitors won't even realize they are heaters at all.
These heaters are similar to mica panel heaters in that they don't include a fan, instead relying on convection to gradually heat up a room. They're a little bit unorthodox in that they are available in both 400 and 600 watts, quite a bit less energy than a lot of other heaters on full blast. One 600-watt model is rated to heat a 100 square foot room on its own.
The advantage here is clear: they are extremely energy efficient. You can run two Amaze-Heater wall panels at once and use less energy than a 1500 Watt heater on full blast.
As for safety, these heaters have no exposed elements, so they're child-safe and very durable. With no fan, they don't kick up dust, so they're hypoallergenic.
The idea here is to use consistent convection to maintain a uniform room temperature. They take a long time to heat up, but you'll notice a difference in your heating bill over time.
A few notes: if you do have a larger room to heat, you'll want to pick up several (perhaps a 600 and a 400). If you don't want to be constantly plugging and unplugging, you can pick up a programmable thermostat outlet for your heaters to click them on at a set time.
All in all the Amaze-Heater is on of the most energy-efficient space heaters that I've come across, and worth your time to investigate.
What's the Best Heating Technology?
Micathermic, infrared, radiant: there's a lot of jargon in this field. It's not always easy to isolate the type of heater you want for your purposes.
To narrow it down, I'd encourage you not to worry so much about the jargon and focus more on the individual heaters themselves.
As yourself a few questions: is it a heater for just one person, or for many?
For one person:
If it's for one person, go for a "spot heater" like the Dyson or the Lasko.
For many people:
If it's for many people, opt for a convection heater like the radiator or the micathermic panel heater, or the wall-mounted panels.
For instant heat:
Infrared is your friend. Remember that infrared converts 86% of electrical energy into instantaneous heat3 on contact, without the need for a fan. And excess IR easily converts to convection heat too4, which makes sense from an energy efficiency standpoint.
Another good cue is to read customer reviews closely, read their experiences, and determine if your needs match up. Companies only lay out the good news, whereas customers give it to you straight.
If you have any questions regarding the technology involved, the terminology, or any of the products I've listed, please feel free to comment in the forum below! Thanks for reading!
1) "Oil heater", Wikipedia.org
2) "Radiant heating", Wikipedia.org
3) "Infrared heater", Wikipedia.org
4) "What makes an infrared / IR quartz heater so awesome?", gadgetry.today
Questions / Comments on these or other heat units?
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on February 12, 2019:
Very informative article for choosing a particular type of heater for the cold places.
I have been to Himalayan hill areas where in winters it is chilling cold and these heaters are required. Generally people use flat tower type where there are 3-4 heating elements and multiple switches to keep off the extra elements when it is not so severe cold.
John Dove on January 01, 2018:
Good Hub. I read it today. However, yesterday I bought a 1500 watt DeLonghi Tower Ceramic Heater on sale at Lowe's. It oscillates, has temperature settings, timer, two heat levels or ECO (energy-saving), and can be used as a fan during summer months. I use it for supplemental heat in an average sized room and it works great.
I believe it was manufactured just for Lowes, but am not sure about that.
PowerGuru from Lucknow on July 07, 2017:
amazing idea.thanks for this great article.
Sean OCallaghan from Liverpool on December 10, 2016:
i have always used oil fired heaters, slow to warm up but great
gina on March 06, 2016:
Thank you for the article. I am researching space heaters as the electric space heaters in my apartment cannot adequately heat up a room. I am thinking of buying 1 space hater that I can move around easily, energy saver, and warm up a room. What are your recommendations? Also, I' bought a thermator to measure the humidity in the air which is about 60-70. From my research this is high. Any suggestions you have would be helpful.
Jeremy on October 17, 2015:
I had a small space heater in my daughters room but it is putting out a funky smell now so I am looking at getting a new one. I want something I can kind of forget about, doesn't use a crap ton of power and is on the cheaper side.
Devan on October 11, 2015:
Wow you sure seem to know your stuff! Great reviews. So I live in a basement room with tile floors, probably about 300 sq. ft. and I'm looking for a good space heater that will keep my room warm and not be too harsh on the electric bill. I'm in the room a lot, so preferably something that will keep it well heated. From the reviews I read it sounds like the oil radiator might be a good option? Thanks in advance!
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on March 30, 2015:
Hi Mark, yes they take a long time to heat up, but like most radiators they're typically very efficient once they're at operating temperature. They're more efficient for smaller rooms, like bedrooms or single offices.
Mark on March 07, 2015:
The oil filled 1800 Watt radator style heaters will take forever to heat a room. Most people leave them on the high setting because of the time it takes. Often 2-3 hours long. Very disappointly, my utility bills made them too costly. Mark Menzel, Oakhurst, CA
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on November 21, 2014:
Hi Bistra, I'd opt for the Dr. Infrared. Since it sits at ground level, it should help warm up the air closer to the ground. It's also a safer option with the baby crawling around, since it's not hot to the touch.
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on November 21, 2014:
Hi Monica, the Dr. Infrared is very stable and efficient, almost impossible to tip over, though you might want to get two for that square footage. The Cozy-Heater wall panels would be a very safe option too, you'd want two or three.
Monica on November 21, 2014:
Hi my grandma is 88 and is always cold.we have to have our oropane heater funning all the time and it cost so much . She lives in a 1000 sq guess house 9\10 foot celings . We need something that cant knock over and catch fire what. She mainly sits in her chair in the living room which is opened to dinning room and kitchen. Which would u recommend i get her. Thank you
Bistra on November 19, 2014:
Thank you for the overview. We live in a garden apartment in windy and cold Chicago. The heat in the apartment comes form a furnace but the heating vents are up by the ceiling and the temp 2-3 ft from the floor is very low in addition it is a garden apartment the floor is very cold. The windows a are not greatly insulated as well , we added plastic but the draft is not entirely reduced. The rooms are relatively hi perhaps about 9-10-ft. We have a crawling baby, who is all the time on the cold floor. What would be an addition to the furnace (to keep it from running too often) that would keep the temperature by the floor warm , is affordable (tight budget), safe for the baby. The living room i need it for is 10 to 12 ft and is connected through an open corridor to the kitchen. thank you
JKWriter from Right in the middle. on November 06, 2014:
Good information! I rely on space heaters to supplement my main gas heater. Will definitely reference this soon, when we go shopping for a new heater!
casquid on November 03, 2014:
The article is very informative and holds my interest to the end. Great job of investigative work here. Keep up the good work.
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on May 28, 2014:
Hi Mary, based on your requirements, I would highly recommend the Cozy Heater wall mounted panel heater, or something similar. They're extremely safe, and very effective at maintaining a temperature baseline as you need.
I would suggest pairing it with a wall plug programmable thermostat (which will only switch on the power when the temperature falls below a certain baseline), to save power and money.
mary1221ski on May 25, 2014:
Thanks for such an informative overview. I live in a condo in New England with oil heat that is outrageously expensive. Our association would like to begin to keep the baseline heat at about 60/day, 55/night, so units will need supplemental heat. Most owners are interested in heating the rooms they use or a few rooms at a time. We have high ceilings and do lose some heat through windows, so the insulation is only average.
We need heat sources that are safe and can comfortably add about 10 degrees of heat per room or area. They need to be safe enough to run while residents are at work and where there are pets and children. A combination of solutions (e.g., different solutions for different areas) is fine.
I appreciate any advice!
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on January 25, 2014:
Hi Chedro, what's the square footage? High ceilings? Drafty windows can be difficult, you'll probably have to cycle the heat pretty frequently. I'd say a quartz heater like the Dr. Infrared would be a solid, economical choice, since it heats up a big room in short order.
Chedro on January 24, 2014:
Very drafty apartment in Brooklyn, with small children and a dog. The windows are the culprits. We have ductless electric heat that is really expensive and seems to not heat very well. What would you recommend?
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on January 20, 2014:
Hi Meg R,
How well insulated is the space, and how high is the ceiling? If you want the heater to run constantly, I might recommend picking up 2 - 3 of the Cozy-Heater wall panels. They're safe, efficient, and of the 6 heaters I've listed, they are the least expensive to run constantly.
If the office is not well insulated, or if the ceiling is really high, a Dr. Infrared quartz heater might be a more affordable choice, but I'd run it only while someone is using the office.
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on January 20, 2014:
I'd suggest the Dr. Infrared Quartz style heater. Hanging a curtain or adding insulation is a good idea, since it will be expensive to run in the basement.
The Dr. Infrared on low might be enough to keep things from freezing up. It's a good choice because it projects the heat nicely in a larger space. However, as you mentioned, it will likely have to cycle pretty frequently in a basement.
Diane N on January 20, 2014:
Hi. My plumber suggested I run a space heater in the basement near the water system on days the temp drops below -10 C to stop the pipes from freezing. He recommended a 240v construction heater, but I don't have the right kind of plug. What would be the best option in a 110v heater? The basement is very drafty and it will likely run most of the time on those cold days. I can hang a curtain between the 2 sides of the basement to try to contain some heat, but that's the best I can do. It is really a stone cellar more than a basement. Thanks for any help you can offer.
Meg R on January 19, 2014:
I am looking for a good space heater for my husband's office. The current heating system is gas and the monthly bill is ridiculous. The office space is 400 square feet and for the most part square and open. I am looking for a space heater that can heat the entire space throughout the winter (we live in New England) so we don't have to turn on the gas. A unit that is energy efficient, can heat a 400 sq. foot space and something that can heat a room constantly for up to 8 hours. What would you recommend? Thanks so much!
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on January 06, 2014:
I think you missed my point. You are right in one respect, all 1500 watt heaters will use the same amount of electricity — while they are running. But if one warms you up more quickly than another, you can switch it off sooner. The efficiency is based on how infrequently they have to cycle.
There are factors that affect this. How is the heat distributed? How is it retained? What's the build quality of the heater? Things like that.
johnpah on January 05, 2014:
I'm not sure I agree with your above statements. Electric heat is 100% efficient, regardless of the type of element, radiator, convection, etc. Watts in (as electricity), watts out (as heat).
The only really choices that you need to consider are the total watts, aesthetics, and any safety/thermostat options as required.
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on January 05, 2014:
Hi William, that's actually tricker than you might think. I can easily give the kW/h for each heater based on the wattage, but that doesn't actually tell you much, and can actually obscure things. The real story is in how quickly a heater raises the temperature. The longer it has to run at full blast per hour, the more it costs, and heater companies are loath to offer out a real-world 'cost to run' estimate, since it depends on so many variables.
Each heater here is great at filling up a room with heat efficiently, though in different ways. The radiator, for example, takes a long time to get up and running, but when it's going it maintains the heat really well. A forced air heater, like the Lasko, heats very quickly, but may have to turn on more frequently because its ceramic elements lose their heat more rapidly than the radiator's oil does. Both are technically 1500 watts and rate at 1.5 kW/h. But over the course of an hour, their actual costs might be quite different, especially in different settings. See what I mean?
William on January 04, 2014:
Would have been helpful if you actually spoke to the energy efficiency of each type as the article title implied.
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on January 02, 2014:
Marie: That's tricky. Most heaters with decent output need 1500 watts. Due to your safety requirements, I'm thinking an oil radiator like the Delonghi might be a good option. They're nice because they switch off once the oil is hot, and only switch on again when it drops below a certain temperature. They're pet safe too, but they take a while to heat a space up, so patience is required.
The Dr. Infrared quartz heater would be ideal because it produces a lot of heat and has overheat shutoff built in, but it's well above $100. It probably wouldn't trip your breakers at the low (1000 watts) setting, but I can't say for certain that'd be enough to heat your space. Still, that'd probably be the ideal choice for you.
I am concerned about the melted outlets. It might be a good idea to get an electrician in to inspect the electrical systems; melting is not normal.
Hope that helps!
Marie on December 29, 2013:
I live in a 35 foot very drafty trailer (from the 1970s) in a cold mountain town that snows most of the winter & the lasko fan I have now (its 3 years old) causes my power to go out. I cannot run it on high (1500 watts) & on the low or medium setting just is not enough heat. It has melted 2 outlets already & the cord gets very hot.
I need a new heater but finding one that is safe around pets, carpeted areas, doesn't over-heat, use high wattage & is eco sized, under $100 & safe is very difficult. Do you have any ideas for me ?
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on December 20, 2013:
My experience is only anecdotal, but a prominent blog by Paul Anthony Wilson ran the Dyson side-by-side with another heater. Over 90 minutes, the Dyson heated the room to 70 degrees, and consumed 2.927 kWh, while the conventional heater used 3.188 kWh in the same period of time, and only reached 66 degrees. Not a huge separation, but over many hours it adds up. And the Dyson just heats faster, which is a big deal for me.
As for the Lasko (ceramic?), they are usually quite good. I'd need the model to look up usage numbers.
carmen milito on December 19, 2013:
Thank you so much....one more question if I may...do you know how much power consumption it is? For example...if I ran the Dyson heater at 70 degrees - 10 hours a day - any idea what the kilowatt usage would be? (Cost factor?) I tried to get it from Dyson, but they didn't know..Thank you and I think I will keep it...;)...
p.s. i bought my daughter in law the The tower Lasko for her small office in the factory that she works in...will that be efficient for her?
Will Henry (author) from British Columbia on December 19, 2013:
Hi Carmen, the Dyson is definitely the superior product. It heats more quickly, the air doesn't 'buffet' you, and it's a lot more energy efficient than most other fan heaters, around 30% more efficient or so. The Lasko's are great too, but keep in mind the Dyson doubles as an effective cooling fan during the summer, so it's dual purpose. I'd hang onto the Dyson, just my opinion!
carmen milito on December 18, 2013:
I have the dyson that you describe above...it works fine, but I paid so much for it that I was thinking of returning it and getting the lasko that oscillates as well. I Use the heater in my family room only....Don't use heat during the night while sleeping...So my question is am I making a mistake by sending the dyson back and getting the lasko. I'm also worried about cost of running...is the dyson cheaper or is the lasko cheaper to run or are they the same? which one would you get of the two?
Thank you, C
Roman H on November 04, 2013:
Great site, and info. Thanks.