In those colder months we’re always looking to stay warm, whether that means layering up, lighting a fire or heating up a room with a space heater. We spent almost 40 hours testing out the third option for you. We put nine of the most effective and affordable space heaters on the market to the test and found that the Vornado – Vortex Heater is the best option out there.
The Vornado definitely knows how to spread the heat using its patented Whole Room Vortex Heat Circulation technique. On top of that it’s equipped with the most up-to-date safety features (which are a must, considering over 30% of home heating fires are caused by space heaters).
The most powerful heater we found was the 4,000-9,000 BTU liquid propane Mr. Heater Portable Buddy, which can be easily transported outdoors and is great for garage work. If price is a big concern, we have a stellar $40 pick called the Holmes Quartz Tower Heater that is the most energy-efficient and cost-effective for direct heat. Coming in a close second, this heater provides the most natural sun-like warmth due to its high intensity radiant heating.
For those smaller rooms, the $20 Holmes Compact Heater is both cheaper and more effective at heating than Amazon’s bestselling small heater, the Lasko 754200. The Holmes has cool-to-the-touch plastic all around so you don’t have to worry about getting burned in your bathroom.
Top Pick: Vornado - Vortex AVH10
The Vornado - Vortex Heater has top-of-the-line safety features, is clean-looking and uses a patented Whole Room Vortex Heat Circulation method, making it our most effective electric heater.
Table of Contents
- How we found the best space heater
- The nine best space heaters
- Why a space heater?
- Types of space heaters
- What to look for
- How we tested
- The best space heater overall
- The most cost-effective
- The most powerful
- The best for small rooms
- The other finalists
- The bottom line
How we found the best space heater
After nine hours of researching top products on Amazon.com, going through the depths of reddit and checking out multiple other review sites it became clear what to look for. We knew that safety was key, so tip-over protection and auto shut-off settings were high on the list (but we know there are some daredevils out there so we threw in a couple dangerous and very affordable heaters).
Then, with both consumer and professional advice in mind, we selected a variety of space heaters under $100 (because who wants to spend more than that on a space heater, we’re trying to save money right?).
Knowing there are different purposes for the heaters, like direct heat or whole-room heat, we put them through a multitude of tests and rating systems. These ranged from heat efficiency to thermostat reliability, mobility to safety precautions. The nine top space heaters were then judged on their performances with an appropriate value attached to each category.
The nine best space heaters
|Product||Price||Type||Ideal for Room Sizes||Odor||Weight (lb)|
|A. Vornado - AVH10||$$$$||Fan||Medium / large||Potent at start||5.4|
|B. Holmes - HQH341-NUM||$$||Fan||Medium / large||Very little||7|
|C. Honeywell - HCE 200B||$$||Fan||Small||None||3.9|
|D. Dr. Infrared Heater - DR-968||$$$||Infrared / fan||Medium / large||Very little||23.5|
|E. Mr. Heater - F232000||$$$||Gas||Medium / large||Expected, not unpleasant||9.5|
|F. Lasko - 6435||$$||Fan||Medium / large||Very little||8|
|G. Holmes - HFH131-N-TG||$||Fan||Small||Very little||2.2|
|H. Lasko - 754200||$||Fan||Small||Very little||3.5|
|I. DeLonghi - TRH0715||$$$||Oil-filled||Medium / large||None||23.4|
Why a space heater?
Ever feel the cold creep up on you no matter how many blankets you put on? And maybe you want to heat the room for more folks than an electric blanket can cover. Or get that unwanted post-shower chill? Well, space heater to the rescue! If you don’t want to spend the average annual cost to heat up your whole house in the U.S.–$700 using natural gas–or want to keep your room warm during the night or simply feel some direct heat to get rid of that internal shiver then a space heater is what you’re looking for.
It is pretty well known that keeping your thermostat lower saves you money (they say roughly one to three percent of your heating bill is saved per degree lowered). That said, natural gas is a very low cost energy and a good way to heat up your whole house in general. But if you don’t need to heat your whole house then a space heater for a single room ends up being the cheapest option.
Electric space heaters are nearly 100% energy efficient and very cost-effective forms of heat but will lose their cost-effectiveness if you try to heat more than one or two rooms. To make a comparison using the $700 annual average for home heating, you can heat a living room of around 150 square feet for five months around the clock on full blast using the most cost-effective space heater, the Holmes Quartz Tower.
Here’s the easy rule of thumb, if you only need one or two rooms heated, then a space heater will be best. But if you need more, stick with central heating. If you are willing to lower your thermostat, only keep the rooms warm you really want and would like to save money by doing so, read on.
Types of space heaters
Fan: Typically used for smaller rooms. They use electricity to heat up a wire element and then use a fan to spread the hot air evenly throughout the room. They provide quick and even heat.
Infrared: Typically used for larger rooms. They use infrared heating to heat up objects in the room so as to keep the heat from rising to the ceiling and maintain a nice temperature where it will be felt. They provide quick and sustainable heat.
Gas: Typically used for outdoors or ventilated rooms. It uses natural gas, liquefied petroleum gas, butane or propane as the energy source. They usually provide quick, intense heat.
Radiator: Typically used for larger rooms. They use electricity to heat the oil which causes the hotter oil to run through the cavities–this process is called convection. Once the oil is heated up it then heats the metal, which in turn heats up the room. They provide slow and sustainable heat.
What to look for
Safety: With out-of-date space heaters being such a liability when it comes to house fires, you should look for space heaters that have both tip-over protection and overheating auto shut-off mechanisms.
Most space heaters have the overheating precautions but only a select few have tip-over protection–and that’s the important one. Imagine the heater’s been on for an hour and your dog knocks it over on the carpet unbeknownst to you. With tip-over protection, everything’s fine. Without it, not so fine. You should also pay attention to whether the actual heater gets hot to the touch or the outlet or plug overheat.
Reliable & Precise Thermostat: A machine that holds true and remains consistent is nice, but being able to measure the temperature in the room is even nicer. Check if the temperature gauge’s precision is to the degree, five degrees or lacks numerical values entirely.
Heat Output: You’re most likely going to want to use this heater for whole-room heating and direct heating so the ratio will help you decide what matters most. It’s odd to think, but there are different types of heat, some space heaters are better at heating specific areas and some are better at creating an even spreading temperature. It’s also worth considering the lingering heat, which most fan heaters lack but oil-filled and ceramic heaters hold.
Efficiency: Of course you want to have a high price-to-performance ratio. So, the lower the wattage and the higher the heat output for the same price is where we’re looking. (Spoiler: propane costs a lot more than electricity but is more effective at both direct and room heating.)
Noise: If a space heater is annoyingly loud, nobody is going to want to use it. Then again, some people enjoy the low white noise certain fans can give off so that’s up to you.
Size & Portability: If you want something easily portable, then smaller is obviously better. If you want it to stay put, then you may not mind the 25lbs (though most all heavier models have wheels which allow for easy mobility).
Aesthetic: If nobody’s going to see it, you may not care. But if you want the space heater to stay put and not stick out like a sore thumb, then you’re going to want something that doesn’t even look like a space heater, but more like a piece of art. And we’ve got a couple that fit the bill (Lasko 6435 and Dr. Infrared).
How we tested
Almost all the items we chose claimed to have both tip-over protection and overheating automatic shut-off. So, for all the space heaters that had tip-over protection, we checked the point at which each one was considered “tipping over”, most of them were past a 45-degree angle.
We used an Infrared Laser Surface Thermometer to determine both the surface temperatures after 15 minutes and the temperatures of the plugs after 30 minutes and an hour. We also checked for any smell of burning throughout all the testing (there was none!).
Our heating tests were divided into three categories. Well, really two categories and one of those had two sub-categories. We tested both localized heat and whole-room heat. For the room sizes we used 400 cubic feet to mimic a bathroom and 900 cubic feet for a bedroom.
Localized Heat: To simulate someone trying to get warm quickly, we used a standard 100% cotton t-shirt and recorded its heat over the course of five minutes with the space heaters three feet away on full blast. We used a closed environment with no drafts or cracks for heat to easily escape or enter through. And with a starting temperature of about 69 degrees Fahrenheit we placed each space heater exactly three feet away and aimed them right at the target.
We then took the temperature of the specified location every minute so you could see the progress. Once the data was recorded the initial settings of the room temperature and the shirt temperature were restored.
400 cubic feet: For this test we placed four heat sensors evenly around the bathroom with differing heights and distances from the space heater. We also used the Vornado’s thermostat because it is incredibly precise and easy to move. We placed the space heaters on a countertop three feet off the ground in one corner of the bathroom (with a standard eight foot ceiling height). This was to replicate how it would be placed if you were about to shower.
We used a starting bathroom temperature of about 70 degrees and then took temperature readings of the room for 10 minutes in order to depict the trends of the heat. Because the starting temperatures were not exactly the same, we recorded all the sensors’ temperatures and created multiple data points and averaged out the readings. This both reveals the trajectories and show us the beginning and end points which can be easily compared to the others.
900 cubic feet: This was conducted in a very similar manner to the bathroom test. Only this time we used five heat sensors in the room (again with varying heights and distances from the space heater being tested) as well as the thermostat readings from both the Vornado and Dr. Infrared, which were at opposing areas on the floor of the room.
The space heater being tested was put on the ground at the same spot near the corner of the room. Once the room’s average temperature was around 67 degrees, data was collected for an entire hour. Again the room temperature was taken intermittently so we could evaluate the heat trends of each space heater.
We checked the wattage for the space heaters to see if the company claims were accurate. They weren’t spot on but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The heat output was still fairly good even with less than the 1500 watts most of them claimed. We tested the watts on all settings using a P3 Kill A Watt.
Using the amount of watts and a combination of the data from the heat output tests, we calculated which space heater was the most effective at turning your money into heat. Which essentially tells us the most efficient space heater (it’s the Holmes Quartz Tower Heater).
We also tested the sound output of all the heaters. For this we used a Sound Decibel Meter and recorded the amount of decibels, with a baseline of around 36.5 decibels, so we had something to compare to. We’ve categorized and ranked all the heaters in terms of their sizes, weights, cord lengths (if applicable), ease of use and even reliability and precision of their thermostats. See tables for easier information.
The best space heater overall
There are a range of space heaters all of which can serve different purposes better than others, whether it be how it looks or whole-room heating. So in determining the best overall space heater, we mainly looked at how well it heated the room. Though, because space heaters are highly associated with house fires, we also focussed on its safety functions. Safety is very key, which is why we gave it so much weight when determining the best space heater.
When it came down to it, there was only one space heater that had the best safety functions, a very reliable thermostat, could be used for bedrooms, small rooms like bathrooms and large rooms…and heat them up quickly! It is none other than the Vornado – Vortex Heater.
Vornado - Vortex AVH10
The Vornado has automatic shut-off if tilted less than an inch and thermostat with automatic climate control, precise to the degree. And due to its ‘Vortex Action’ airflow technology it is the quickest electric room heater and incredibly energy-efficient.
You know we like safe space heaters, especially the tip-over protection feature. The Vornado has a spring-loaded sensor that will turn it off completely if any edge is lifted less than an inch! So if you have kids, pets or are insanely busy, the last thing you want to have to worry about is your space heater causing a fire.
The higher price of the Vornado is worth the added safety. It is worry free and is backed with the longest warranty — a five year warranty. Even more, it can be touched or held anywhere even after having been on for an hour on full blast.
In terms of heating capacity it does not shy away from the limelight either. It was the quickest at heating rooms, small and large, of any electric space heater, coming in second in the 900 cubic feet heat only behind the propane-fueled Mr. Heater.
The Vornado came in first in the bathroom test, but unfortunately did not perform the best with giving immediate direct heat (it came in fifth). That’s because it’s specialty is not in how hot it gets, but in the way it spirals the air to generate an even spread of heat throughout the room–they call it the ‘Whole Room Vortex Heat Circulation’. This heater epitomizes the work smart not hard notion.
As far as looks go, this is the best looking space heater that actually looks like a space heater. The others that scored higher on the aesthetic tests (like Dr. Infrared and the Lasko 6435) only did so because they look more like pieces of art or furniture.
The Vornado looks like a high-tech and futuristic heater, clean and sleek. And it is easily mobile so it becomes no burden to place away in the closet during the day or move to the bathroom for a shower. The Vornado is almost unbeatable in every category, and in the categories in which it really counts, it blows the others out of the water–or, if you prefer, it heats the others out of the room!
- The Vornado – Vortex AVH10 has state of the art safety precautions–very acute tip-over protection and overheating protection–that allow you to enjoy the heat instead of worry about it.
- It’s precise digital thermostat is top of its class and provides the easiest room-temperature control.
- It spreads the heat better than any other electric room heater and is the second most efficient (though the difference is pennies on the hour).
- The direct heat output is not incredible, but definitely still feels good on a cold body.
The most cost-effective
Everybody is for saving a buck or two whether it’s on the initial purchase or over time. Fortunately, electric space heaters don’t cost a lot to run–right around 20 cents per hour. That said, where you can really save is on the initial purchase, and if you don’t feel like spending a hundred bucks for the Vornado then keep reading.
The Holmes Quartz Tower Heater is one of the more affordable options at $40 even. As far as efficiency, it just barely beat the number one space heater in cost-effectiveness for room heating but blew away the electric competition in the three-feet direct heat test–it was over 30 percent more efficient in direct heat when compared to the next best, Dr. Infrared, and was twice as efficient when compared to the Vornado.
Holmes Quartz Tower
This heater came in first in our overall heat-per-dollar rating system. It heats almost like a propane heater but for the cost of an electric heater. It definitely has the best cost to effectiveness ratio.
The term “tower” heater may be a bit misleading. Though it is one of the tallest ones we tested, it’s still less than two feet tall. It is incredibly lightweight for its size too–only seven pounds–so you can easily transport it from room to room. And if you happen to knock it over forward it will shut off automatically. It has a safety bar on the top end of the grill so that when it falls over the hot grill won’t come in contact with the floor.
Unfortunately, even though it has tip-over protection, the protection only works if the space heater falls straight forward, which is why they have the bar. So it’s not the safest, but it is still safer than most.
The heater settings have a low and high with a gradual thermostat that doesn’t show you degree estimates or anything. This is pretty standard because most people don’t need an exact degree, you can just remember if you like it three quarters of the way and so forth. This is the perfect garage heater because it looks rugged and powerful but won’t necessarily fit the family room decor.
- The Holmes Quartz Tower Heater HQH341-NUM has power like a propane heater but the price of an electric one.
- It is one of the safer models but will only stop if it falls forward.
- It provides a sun-like warmth that feels natural but the metal will get too hot to touch.
The most powerful
Sometimes we don’t want to work indoors. It’s also nice to be able to feel the fiery warmth of heat right after that chill. And for this type of heat, that is both direct and permeating, you need propane power.
The Mr. Heater Portable Buddy is propane-fueled and it brings the heat. This cordless space heater beat its competitors flat out in our heating competition. When we conducted the three-foot direct heat test, it increased the temperature by 35 degrees in five minutes! That’s almost ten degrees higher than the next best (the Holmes Quartz Tower Heater did 26 degrees). This type of raw power heat is needed when you’re working outdoors or on a camping trip.
Mr. Heater can provide hours of heat in an outdoor setting where an electric heater might just not cut it.
It is very easy to use, no special tools or knowledge required. It’s very similar to lighting a barbecue, just screw in the propane tank, press the knob halfway down on “pilot” and hold for 30 seconds, then press all the way down and it will light. Viola. Heat by the push of a button.
And if you’re wondering, it is indoor-safe but because it uses oxygen you’ll want to use it in an area with airflow or for short periods of time inside. It does, however, have a built-in oxygen depletion sensor that will shut off the gas upon detection. The gas will also turn off automatically if the pilot flame goes out or if the space heater falls forward or backward. So you can rest assured its power is tamed, so if you want to use it in your RV or similar space, this works great.
The downside to this heater, of course, is the extra danger involved. Whenever you have flammable gas and open flame in the picture, things tend to be more dangerous. But if they are handled with care, and you can handle the heat, feel free to take on the Mr. Heater.
- It heats up quick! All other things aside, Mr. Heater – F232000 was by far the best at heating.
- It uses propane which means the area needs ventilation, but there is no cord to trip over.
- The Mr. Heater is unfortunately very expensive to use when compared to its electric competitors. It costs about two dollars an hour on full blast as opposed to about twenty cents.
Best for small rooms
When you get out of the shower in the morning there are really only a couple things you would like: a warm bathroom and a mirror that you can see yourself in (not including that cup of coffee you wish was already made). Without a space heater you can usually only have one of these two things, heat or mirror.
As many of you may be looking for something cheap and cheerful that will give you both heat and a useful mirror, we’ve compared three smaller heaters that were chosen specifically for bathroom heating and for small rooms. They all differ in their abilities–fan or no fan, low and/or high heat output–but all three give off a similar maximum heat.
Although we would suggest the Vornado, due to its air circulation ability and temperature precision, we know that may be a bit excessive in cost and perhaps a bit larger than most folks might want for a small room heater. So the three small options we chose are all under $30. The best small space heater is the Honeywell Ceramic Heater as its tip-over protection is on par with that of the Vornado and has multiple heat settings.
This heater will keep your mirror fogless and your mind at ease with great tip-over protection.
Unfortunately the Honeywell Heater doesn’t have a fan, which many people would like in a bathroom heater–if that’s the case for you the Lasko 754200 has a fan, but no tip-over protection. So in the end we want you and your family to be safe and worry-free when enjoying a bath or shower.
- The Honeywell Ceramic Heater HFH131- N-TG has an incredible tip-over protection function.
- It provides enough heat for a bathroom or small bedroom.
- There are two different heat settings but no fan.
The other finalists
Dr. Infrared is a high-end heater that looks like a small piece of furniture. At 24 lbs it has the tip-over protection we’re looking for, it stops after a 45 degree angle is reached and has no exposed hot-spots. It provided great direct heat and pretty good room heat although that is most likely because there was no furniture in the room for it to heat up, which is how infrared heaters are designed to work. It’s a tough asterisk for this one to take.
One of our favorite parts of this heater is that it has so many settings and modes–and a very reliable thermostat–so it was customizable heat, and you don’t even have to leave the couch to change it because it comes with a remote. This is luxury heating, perfect for a larger room where it would have a semi-permanent spot. Dr. Infrared does have wheels so you can easily move it if you wish.
Lasko 6435 Oscillating Heater
Lasko Oscillating Heater
The Lasko 6435 looks like artwork, heats up a room quickly with it unique oscillation technique and has a price that is tough to beat.
This space heater is like a miniature Athenian ceramic fountain masterpiece and it is a great room heater. Due to the oscillation technique it was almost as effective as the Vornado at dispersing heat throughout the room and it’s even small enough to put in a bathroom. It too comes with a remote and has the ability to be put on a timer of up to eight hours.
The thermostat options range from 60 to 85 degrees in increments of five. And although it doesn’t have any tip-over protection, this heater is on a stand that is very sturdy and the temperature of the grill doesn’t get hot to the touch. So it’s about as safe as it can be without tip-over protection.
DeLonghi TRH0715 Oil Filled Radiator
Classic oil-filled radiator, it’s old-school. And it is definitely not good at heating up a room quickly. But once it achieves the heat desired it can hold it steady very nicely. Also, because it’s not a fan it doesn’t have that warm air feel, it was one of the coziest feeling heats experienced and would surely keep your room toasty during the winter months.
This would be a nice choice for a bigger room or garage as the type of heat if provides is slow and steady which is exactly what you need if you’re curing things in the shop. So if you want complete silence and have the patience to wait, the DeLonghi Radiator is a fine choice.
Holmes Compact Heater HFH131-N-TG
Holmes Compact Heater
The Holmes Compact Heater HFH131-N-TG is a classic simple, work-hard little heater that provides the body and bathroom with ample heat.
In terms of heating, the $20 Holmes Compact Heater powerhouse was better than the other two bathroom heaters at room heating and absolutely crushed them in direct heating. Unfortunately there is just one setting and only a gradual thermostat. So there is not too many choices with this one, but if you care about a fancy fan space heater then this small space heater is a steal.
Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater
The Lasko 754200 Ceramic Heater almost won the top spot for a bathroom heater because it was the only one with a fan and multiple heat settings. It is also an Amazon bestseller for around 25 bucks. But because it is not equipped with up-to-date safety precautions and because the heat it provided was the worst of the three it did not deserve the top spot.
The bottom line
When we look at what matters it comes down to effectiveness, efficiency and safety. The Vornado – Vortex Heater is our top pick because it has the best safety precautions: both overheating automatic shut off and stellar tip-over protection–plus the beat heat distributing technology for overall room heating. Other electric heaters like Dr. Infrared and Holmes Quartz Tower paralleled the Vornado in a particular area or two, but when the product was looked at in total, the Vornado – Vortex Heater was the clear choice.
Top Pick: Vornado Vortex AVH10
The Vornado -
Vortex Heater is incredibly safe and can heat up a 900 cubic-foot bedroom over eight degrees Fahrenheit in an hour.