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Space Heater FAQs: Understanding the Pros and Cons

1. What is a space heater?

Space heaters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Some are ceramic, and others are oil-filled, coil convection, and halogen based. They are designed to warm single rooms. They can vary in size depending on overall strength and their effectiveness is measured by the wattage or heat produced.

The most common wattage is 1500W and heats up to 150 sq. ft. of space. They're usually powered by a standard 120V, three-wire power cord to provide safe, grounded operation and avoid electrical accidents. Other common features include tip-over protection and overheat protection for added safety.

2. How does a ceramic heating system work, and is it effective?


Ceramic heaters contain ceramic plates that heat up when the fan is in the on position. Because these plates are attached to metal coils, they warm up quickly. Some of them contain multiple plates so that a smaller amount of material needs to be heated by each element to be effective.

Ceramic element heating systems are safer than coil-based products and quite effective. Because the ceramic core is larger than heating coils, it operates at a lower temperature. It also retains heat longer than coil units too.

The downside is that they can get a little drying. In other words, these heaters can drastically reduce humidity levels, so if you're already experiencing low humidity levels, you might consider another form of supplemental heating.

3. What is an oil-filled heater, and can it keep me warm?

Oil-filled radiators feature a sealed heating system that contains oil. Because the oil is sealed it never leaks or needs refilling. The internal heating mechanism transfers heat to the oil which in turn radiates warmth into the surrounding area.


This type of heating is highly efficient and quite safe because the internal heating element does not constantly need to be on. Once heated to an ideal temperature, it will shut off and gradually release warmth to keep you comfortable even while the internal element is off.

There's very little air circulation associated with these, and because of the way they produce heat, many models are cool to the touch. Additional safety features might include: tip over safety and automatic shut off to prevent any overheating. Ideally, this option is a great for busy households.

Because there is no fan, it's extremely quiet too, making it perfect for overnight heating. Used in a bedroom, you can turn it on before you hit the sack. Turn it off, and the heat element will keep the room warm for the duration of the night.

If you're seeking immediate warmth this isn't the one for you. Because the oil has to be warmed before any heat is emitted, it takes longer to start warming the room. Granted it stays warm longer, but you have to be patient and wait for it to heat up.

4. How do coil based, convection heaters work, and how much space do they heat?

Coil-based, convection heaters feature an internal fan that's used to warm spaces. An electric current runs through numerous metal coils causing them to glow and become extremely hot. As cool air is drawn in, it passes over a metallic or infrared coil. The heated coils release infrared energy, thus spreading warmth to the surrounding area.


These units are effective and warm spaces quickly and evenly. Because warmth is fan based, the room is filled with heat faster than other options. Although the fan can be slightly noisier than other heating alternatives, cold spots are quickly eliminated.

This style can effectively warm an average size room but nothing larger. So if you're looking to heat a bedroom, this is a great option. If you want to heat a larger area like a family room, this isn't the best choice.

5. Is a halogen heater safe and effective, and where is the best place to use one?


Halogen or reflective heaters use the well-known, energy-saving, halogen bulb. Because light is the heat source, it delivers warmth to the nearby objects and people only. This direct heat method is ideal for warming personal spaces.

When you stand in the sun, you feel its warmth instantly. This type of heating system is the same. It warms the immediate area the same way the sun would if it were spilling through the blinds. Select a heat setting and make it as hot as you want.

The best place to use a halogen heating system is beside the bed or chair where you can benefit from its warmth; however, it's important to know that some of them can get very hot. Monitor it when in use, and keep small children and pets from coming in contact with the surface.

6. Making Your Selection

Now that you have an understanding of space heating methods and their differences, you can select a model that's sure to meet your needs.

Choose a variety that provides the type of heating you're looking for. Consider the wattage to determine how much heat is produced and measure the room you plan to heat accordingly.

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