What is the most energy efficient space heater?

Updated February 21, 2017

As energy costs rise, alternative sources to keep warm on a budget are sought by many. Until just a few years ago, space heating options were limited to the traditional coil electric heaters or kerosene burning models. These units provided adequate heat but were often inefficient energy-wise and/or posed possible threats to user safety.

Reasons to Choose A Space Heater

People rarely prefer the same temperature in a room. Choices vary based on personal tastes, age, health and overall sensitivity. Not only do space heaters provide extra heat to those who desire it, but the heaters cut energy costs by heating up only the area(s) in need instead of the entire house. If many people spend time in various rooms of the house, it is more energy efficient to have a space heater in each room than to heat the whole house with central heating to no one's satisfaction.

General Space Heater Considerations

Like many options in life, choosing a space heater is largely a matter of personal taste. There is no "best" space heater as they are all energy efficient, so choices are made based on aesthetics and energy source preferences. Regardless of what type is chosen, there are several general guidelines to follow. • Buy a current model, whether new or used, to guarantee the best performance and/or the best energy efficiency. Standards for older models can vary significantly. All heaters should have a visible, attached UL (Underwriter's Laboratory) label. • Make sure whatever model is chosen has an accurate thermostat. This efficiently controls the heat and saves energy. • Check the specifications for how large an area the heater is designed to effectively heat. Choosing the wrong size will significantly reduce energy savings. • Be sure to place the heater in a level, low-traffic area where there is no danger of it being knocked over and/or unplugged.

Choosing the Best Type of Space Heater

Which space heater is best largely depends on how long the heat source is needed and if the heat needs to be distributed throughout the room or directed to a specific area or person.

If the heat source is required for just a few hours, direct radiant heating is the most effective and energy efficient. The heat is comparable to sitting in front of a fireplace as it is stable and intense.

Conversely, space heaters with fans are more appropriate if a larger area needs to be heated for a longer period of time as the convection feature distributes the warm air more evenly throughout the room.

There is little difference in the energy efficiency of modern space heaters as consumer demands and industry competition consistently improve the savings with each model that is introduced.

The Most Popular Space Heater Choices

The most popular choices in space heaters include the ceramic element heater, a convection model praised for its ability to provide even heat over a longer time period due to the ceramic heat retention feature. Coil convection heaters are also popular and utilise fans to disperse the heat throughout the area, although some find the sound of the fan annoying. Halogen heaters, the latest in space heating technology, use halogen bulbs to produce a radiating heat that warms steadily like sunlight and is popular for instant heat gratification. Some find its limited heating area a drawback. Oil filled radiator space heaters never have to be refilled, heat slowly and keep the room warm after being turned off. They are fan-free and their silent operation is a plus to some consumers.


Before purchasing a space heater, check for UL certification to ensure the unit meets safety and performance standards. Be sure the unit is appropriate in size and performance for the area in which it will be used.

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About the Author

Cassie Damewood has been a writer and editor since 1985. She writes about food and cooking for various websites, including My Great Recipes, and serves as the copy editor for "Food Loves Beer" magazine. Damewood completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in creative writing at Miami University.