What type of heater do i need? Introduction to types of heaters

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Space heaters are an excellent choice to warm up a single room without turning up the thermostat of the entire house. Most of them are portable and can be placed almost anywhere in the house without flammable materials. You can save a considerable amount of heating bill if you use them strategically as a supplemental heat source.

But not all heaters are created equal.

Why? Because different types of heaters are created for different situations and solves a specific problem. For example, if your home relies on electric generated central heating system, a propane heater could be a very good secondary source of heat. As they can keep you warm in case your local power generator breaks down.

With that said, there are definitely many choices out there in the market. First we will define and explain space heaters, then introduce some basic types of heaters to help you make a better choice before your next purchase!  

Space Heaters

Space heaters enable specific and supplemental heating while keeping the thermostat low. So, you can warm your room without spending much on the bills.

Space heaters do not need to be hardwired in your home; instead, they can be plugged in a wall outlet. So, it is quite easy to move them from room to room whenever you need some extra boost of heat. Some models even come with handles and caster wheels to enhance its mobility. Moreover, they are excellent for your garage and other places with no central heating.

For making the right investment, it is essential to check which heater type will suit you best. You can buy an outdoor or indoor heater depending on where you need to place it. Consider the following types before making a purchase decision.

Indoor Heater? Outdoor Heater?

The concept is straightforward, as the name indicates, indoor space heaters are ideal for use inside your home or office. However, the heaters that suit the outdoor environment are called outdoor heaters. Heaters that generate direct and targeted heating are suitable for outdoor use. Heaters that can only work correctly in insulated areas are better to be used inside.

Convection heatersmicathermic, and electric heaters can be used for indoor heating. Patio radiant heaters, vented combustion heaters, and also other radiant heaters are suitable for outdoor heating.

Combustion Space Heater/Fuel Heater

Unlike electric heaters, fuel-burning or combustion heaters use oil, kerosene, natural gas, or propane as fuel to generate heat. As fuel burns, carcinogens like carbon monoxide are produced, which are dangerous for health. So, when using this type of heaters, you should be careful about the venting. The smoke and carcinogens are exhausted from the room in this way. There are two types of combustion heaters, i.e., Unvented and vented.

Unvented combustion space heaters are portable heaters that burn fuel to produce heat but have no vents. The absence of a ventilation system makes them more dangerous. Luckily most product nowadays comes with built-in filter to filter out the ashes and allergens. However, natural combustion would inevitably release carbon dioxide(CO2) to the air. You would need to make sure the room is ventilated. Some manufacturers produces heaters that also comes with a carbon dioxide detector, whereby it shutdown itself when the carbon dioxide levels reaches a dangerous level. Otherwise, you might need to get a separate CO2 detector to monitor and manage the heater. They are very easy to set-up and can be moved freely in the room. Moreover, these heaters are cheap. Unvented combustion heaters are banned in California.

Examples are Mr. Heater Corporation Vent-Free and Mr. Heater Corporation F299811 Natural Gas Heater.

Image of an animated oil fuel heaterVented combustion space heaters are usually installed next to a wall which connects to the vents for proper ventilation. The harmful gases escape through the vents making the heater safe for use. However, an investment higher than many electric heaters are required for installing these vented heaters. This heater is excellent for use in ample space and outdoors. Outdoor air ensures safety from combustion gases.

These vents occupy space and are installed permanently, making combustion heaters in-suitable for small rooms and enclosed places. The good news is that homes with vents installed would usually increase the property value. 

One extra note to keep in mind, most fuel heaters requires an annual inspection by a professional to ensure it is safe to operate. They are definitely cost efficient in terms of fuel, but the maintenance and installation cost will be slightly higher.

Examples include Mr. Heater Corporation F299811 and Dyna-Glo BF10PMDG.


  • Ideal for outdoor spaces and garages

  • Can be used when power is out

  • Fuels like oil and gas are cheaper than electricity


  • Limited mobility

  • High Installation cost

Radiant Heater (Photons Warms Objects & People)

Image of patio heater to illustrate example for radiant heaterRadiant heaters are great for targeted and instant heating. They warm the surrounding objects and people instead of heating the air. A radiant heater uses heating elements like infrared quartz bulbs to transform electricity into infrared radiation, which provides warmth.

The difference between convection and a radiant heater lies in their ways of heat distribution. A radiant heater uses electromagnetic energy or photons to deliver heat, which is easily absorbed by objects and people.

The direct heating mechanism delivers high efficiency and reduces operational costs. This portable heater can be placed under your desk. The heater is easy to use but gets very hot, increasing the risk for burns and even fire.

These handy heaters are small and portable, so you can easily carry them from place to place. You can use them indoors as well as outdoors.

The main point that makes radiant heaters better than others is that they eliminate the need for insulation. Other heaters can’t function properly if the room is not insulated, even if it is closed. However, radiant heaters work seamlessly, even in poorly insulated areas. The heater is best for outdoor environment, offices and small places.

Patio heaters, infrared heaters, and fireplaces, all fall in this category. Dr. Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater is a good example.


  • Eliminate insulation need

  • Ideal for targeted and zone heating

  • Ideal for instant and short-term heating

  • Simple to use

  • Low operational costs

  • High energy efficiency


  • Get very hot

  • Higher risk of burns and fire

Conductive Space Heaters (Direct Physical Contact)

These portable space heaters generate heat with one or two heating elements like mica, or a combination of nickel and chromium. The heating element converts the electricity into heat, which is then circulated in the room. Micathermic and Electric Heaters are two types of conductive space heaters.

Electric heater mostly uses a nichrome wire to convert electricity into heat energy. 750W/1500W Ceramic Space Heater is an excellent example of an electric heater.

Micathermic heaters are hybrid heaters which combine both convection and radiant heating. The heat is radiated off the heating element and then transferred through air convection. These heaters come without fans, which makes them noiseless. Also, they don’t circulate dust and other allergens inside the room. The small size makes it great for offices and small places. It can be mounted on the wall to avoid accidental contact and solve the space issue. Bionaire Silent Micathermic Console Heater is one of the best micathermic heaters.


  • Noiseless
  • Don’t circulate dust and allergens
  • Lightweight
  • Put off no light


  • Hot to touch

Convection Space Heaters (Warms the Air)

Convection heaters are great to heat large spaces with little or no noise. They use the concept of thermal conduction and spread the heat through natural air currents. When the air passes through its heating element, i.e., a heat transfer oil or an electric coil, it absorbs heat. This absorbed warmth spreads across the room through natural air circulation.

They heat the air, not people or objects. The warm air, being lighter, rises upwards, and the cold air falls downwards. This cold air is then heated, and the process continues.

Many electric convection heaters are equipped with fans to accelerate the hot air circulation. A fan-forced convection heater is excellent for direct heating. A thermostat is present to control the heat level.

If a convection heater uses an electric color wire instead of oil as a heating element, we call it an electric convection space heater.

Moreover, this type of space heaters is ideal for enclosed spaces with proper insulation. They work consistently but not so quickly. The room is heated up slowly but evenly, and it will take some time to reach the ambient temperature. When this temperature is reached, and the air inside the room becomes warm, it will make you feel comfortable. Even when you turn off this heater, the warmth keeps on spreading for some time as long as the heating element is hot. The better the insulation, the longer the room stays hot.

COSTWAY Convection Heater and Amaze-Heater SOLO 400-Watt Electric Convection Room Heater are two examples.


  • Ideal for heating large spaces like living rooms
  • No noise best for bedrooms
  • Consistent heat production
  • Keep room hot for an extended period
  • Low maintenance
  • East to clean
  • Never need refilling-


  • Expensive
  • Not so quick
  • Hot to touch; not suitable for families with kids and pets
  • Heavier than radiant space heaters

Fan Forced Heaters

This simple type of space heater consists of a heating element and a fan that disperses heat. These are quite affordable and come in many shapes and sizes. A fan-forced heater is light in weight and can be easily carried anywhere. It quickly produces heat and is quite energy efficient. To get the best out of a fan-forced heater, keep the area insulated.

These heaters can’t conserve energy, so you need to run them to keep the room warm, continuously. Whereas, the oil-filled convection heaters take time to cool down when you turn them off. So, the warm ambiance stays in the room for a long time.

These heaters are so versatile, and different models offer different features like timer, oscillation, digital controls, multiple fan settings, and remote control. You can turn the heater on oscillation for uniformly distributing heat in the entire room. A timer can be used to set the time at which you want your heater to shut-off automatically.

The digital thermostat is easily visible across the room and is easy to use. Remote control adds extra convenience. Use the high fan setting if you require quick heating and use the low fan setting for saving energy and lessening the noise. Electromode EWA20C31 2000W Fan Forced Heater is a good example.


  • Small, compact
  • Lightweight
  • Portable
  • Quick
  • Provide instant heat
  • Affordable


  • Noisy

  • Poor heat maintenance

  • Not suitable for poorly insulated areas


Hopefully, you will now be able to pick up the right heater type for yourself. If a kind of heater suits one, it does not mean it will suit all others too. It depends on your needs, the space you want to heat, your budget, and the resource that is cheapest in your area. Take a look at the features of the heater before buying it. Make sure it comes with a tip-over and over-heat safety. Furthermore, it’s preferable to choose a heater that offers power-saving and ECO-friendly mode.

Use a space heater, and don’t let the frosty winter take a big bite out of your daily jobs!

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