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Electrical Heaters 101

electric heater

If your central heating just isn't cutting it, consider getting an electrical space heater! Electrical heaters are a great way to heat small areas, and work great as supplemental heat. They usually use convection or radiant heat to warm the air, and must be plugged into an electrical outlet to operate.

Electrical heaters, also known as space heaters, are an affordable, versatile and energy efficient option for quick warming in any room.

Here we'll break down all the basics of the different types of electrical heaters, since the number of options can be overwhelming! Get ready for a crash course: Electrical Heaters, 101.

How Electrical Heaters Work

Electrical space heaters use electricity to warm up a heating element and then radiate heat out into a space. There are two main ways electrical space heaters warm the air.

The first is through convection in which a ceramic element or oil is heated and a fan blows warm air into the room. Many ceramic heaters also oscillate to further help with air circulation. Oil based convection heaters take longer to heat up than ceramic models, but their surface temperatures stay lower. Convection heaters warm the air so warmth still lingers even once the unit is off.

Radiant heaters are the second type of electrical heaters, and they give off heat in the infrared spectrum, like the sun. These are the most efficient types of electrical heaters because they heat object directly. Infrared rays must hit something solid to create warmth so the air is left unheated. Therefore, radiant heaters work efficiently and quickly, but once they are off, all the heat that was created will disappear.

Factors to Consider When Buying Your Electrical Heater

There are so many options for different electrical heaters that it can get a bit overwhelming. But once you know the different features of electrical heaters, you'll be able to narrow down what the best options are for your specific needs. Here's a run-down of what to look out for when comparing different types of electrical heaters:

Heating Power

Most electrical space heaters use 1500 watts of power and can heat up to 150 square feet. Some electrical heaters use less energy, about 750 watts, making them ideal for personal heating in a well insulated space. There are heaters that offer multiple heat settings, so you can use 1500 watts on colder days and 750 when you want to save energy.

For less insulated areas, like garages and workshops, there are more powerful garage heaters that are made to be durable and high performing. These types of electrical heaters will usually heat about 500 square feet.

Physical Size

There's a huge range of electrical heater sizes available, and the size often depends on the size of the area you want to heat. Some space heaters can sit on a table, while others are tall and tower-shaped because they're meant to be placed on the floor. Electrical baseboard heaters are extremely low-profile, and low-watt oil-filled heaters are often compact and flat enough to fit under a desk.

Ease of Setup

Electrical heaters generally come completely built and ready to use. All you have to do is plug them in! Compare this to gas powered heaters, which often require the purchase of additional fixtures and fuel to work.

Ability to be Mounted and Portability

Some heaters come with fixtures that allow it to be mounted to the wall or ceiling, which can help leave floor space free. Mounted electrical heaters are a great way to get supplemental heat in small spaces.

An advantage of electrical heaters over central heating is their portability. They tend to be lightweight and compact, making it easy to move from room to room. Various models also come with handles and wheels for even more convenience.

Temperature Controls

Electrical space heaters have a huge spectrum of control options available. You can have just high and low comfort settings, or a thermostat that you can set to a specific temperature. Many automatic thermostats will cycle the unit on and off to keep a constant temperature in the room.

There are a variety of control types, from digital buttons with an LED screen, an LCD touch screen, or simple dial switches.

Safety Features

Electrical heaters have a reputation for starting fires, but most units these days have multiple safety features to prevent any dangerous situations. Look for heaters with features like an automatic shut-off if the unit gets tipped over, and overheat protection.

In some cases, the outer casing of a heater can get very hot to the touch while it's in use. Some heaters have warning lights, while others promise cool-to-the-touch housing that's safe for children and pets.


Timers are great for convenience, since you can set the heater to turn off and on at certain times. Most timer lengths vary between 7 hours to 24 hours, and some even allow you to set multiple timers at one time, so think about how you want to use your heater when taking into consideration what sort of timer option you want.

Remote Control

If you plan on using your electrical heater to warm an entire room, remote controls are great. You'll be able to adjust the temperature settings from your desk, bed or couch, and on a chilly night this can be especially convenient.

Noise Level

Noise level can be important, especially in areas like a bedroom. If you are sensitive to noise, try to find an electrical heater that doesn't have a fan, such as an infrared radiant heater.


orange plug

Electrical heaters seem to come in every shape, size and color. Tower heaters tend to be a popular choice, and they usually have a ceramic heating element. Oil-filled heaters tend to look like old-fashioned radiators. For the extremely aesthetically minded, electric stoves or fireplaces mimic the look and feel of a traditional wood burner, without the mess and hassle.

Where You May Need Electrical Heaters

Electrical heaters work in almost any space that has an outlet, but here are the top 3 most popular places for electrical heaters, and our suggestion for the type of heater you might choose.


The bedroom is a popular place for electrical heaters because it allows you to turn down your central heating to save on energy costs while you sleep. You can program your heater to turn off after an hour or so, after you've fallen into a deep, cocoon-like sleep.

We suggest trying an infrared reflective heater, since you won't be moving around very much, and infrared heaters work silently. Many also have a built-in air purifier so the allergy-prone can sleep peacefully.


If you're using your garage workshop only two seasons out of the year, it's time to get an electric garage heater! Electrical heaters for the garage are designed for portability and rough weather, so you know you're making an investment into something that will last.

Pick a garage or utility shop heater based on how much square footage you need to warm, since different models vary in power. Features to look out for: carrying handle, enclosed motor, rugged and durable outer casing, and mounting options.


Everyone seems to have a different ideal temperature they'd like to work in, so if the central heating of your office isn't cutting it for you, there are many electrical heaters out there that fit easily under a desk.

For discrete personal heating that won't use up much electricity, try a heat mat that radiates warmth. It'll give you gentle, silent heat for your legs and feet, getting rid of any pesky chill so you'll work more comfortably and efficiently.

Whether you're living in a warm of cold environment, space heaters are a smart way to stay comfortable. The huge array of sizes, styles and power levels means there is a perfect heater for any situation!

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