The Best Space Heater
Any space heater will warm you up, but not all are created equal. The best space heater will include safety features like tip-over protection and UL certification. It should also be easy to move and operate, dispersing heat rapidly without wasting energy. To find our picks, we consulted firefighters, engineers, and consumer reviews to find reliable brands, then gathered 13 highly regarded models to test for ourselves.
This heater ($100) uses a slim tower design that fits well in corners. Like most space heaters, it warms via convection, heating air and dispersing it throughout the room. But two features sold us on the Lasko in particular: An oscillating fan keeps warm air circulating evenly, and a digital display allows you to program precise temperature settings as a safeguard against ratcheting up your energy bill.
Compact enough to carry one-handed, the UberHeat’s ($50) extreme portability makes it easy to fit into tight spaces. Like the Lasko, it’s a convection heater, but its stationary fan makes it best at targeting heat toward just one person.
The Pelonis ($50) is the only one of our picks to use infrared tech to heat, warming you without directly heating the air. It takes a long time to heat entire rooms, but it’s great for instant, targeted warmth in drafty areas.
The Best Space Heater
Space heaters aren’t powerful enough to replace your central heating, but they’re a great option for people who want a little extra warmth during winter or who find themselves constantly bundling up at the office. The marketing surrounding heaters can be misleading though, with many brands claiming innovative technology that, upon closer inspection, turns out to be nothing but marketing. The key facts to keep in mind: All space heaters, including our picks, will hit virtually the same temperatures. But different types of heat — most commonly, convection and infrared — will disperse differently, which affects how quickly you feel warm.
The Lasko AW300 is our favorite for average to large rooms. Like most space heaters on the market, it’s a convection heater: It sucks in cold air, warms it up, and then circulates that warm air to the rest of the room with the help of a fan. The Lasko stood out in part because it has an oscillating fan. Its back-and-forth movement ensures that the entire room warms as evenly as possible (rather than heat pooling in one corner), making it ideal for areas like living rooms or kitchens where multiple people are likely to congregate. It's the largest of our picks, but its tower design allows it to fit easily into corners. It’s also one of the few models we looked at with digital controls, allowing you to set a target temperature to prevent wasting energy.
If you’re looking for a portable heater for a smaller space, like an office cubicle or a reading nook, compact design is key. Here, the Honeywell UberHeat is our choice. Not only did it provide a steady output of warm air, it was the smallest of the heaters we tested, which makes it easy to move around with you. Like the Lasko, it’s a convection heater, blowing warm air to the rest of the room via a fan, but the UberHeat’s fan is stationary and will only propel heat straight forward: Good if you’re planning to sit right in front of it, but not as efficient at heating large areas evenly.
Garages, attics, and basements are a different story. For areas of your home that tend to be drafty, we’d recommend the Pelonis HQ-1000. Unlike our other picks, the Pelonis is a radiant heater. Instead of heating the air directly, it heats up whatever objects (or people) are directly in front of it. We found its intensely focused heat uncomfortably warm indoors, but it’s a great way to stay toasty the next time that you venture down to the basement or head out to the garage for an afternoon, and it was easier to transport than the other radiant heaters that we tested.
How We Found the Best Space Heater
Before we even began our search, we laid out a couple of base criteria.
Safety was first on our minds.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Committee estimates that about 22,000 residential fires are caused by space heaters annually. When we talked to Bill Mace, an Education and Outreach specialist for the Seattle Fire Department, he told us that “heating-related fires” are one of the most common incidents that his department responds to. Following his advice, we only considered space heaters that automatically shut off if they overheat or are knocked over. We also skipped anything that lacked third-party certification from Electrical Testing Laboratories (ETL), Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or the European Union (CE) as proof of electrical safety (looking at you, Ecohouzng).
Cost efficiency was our second consideration.
There’s no such thing as a truly “energy efficient” space heater — if they have the same upper wattage limit, they’ll burn the same amount of energy on their highest setting. The key to not running your electricity bill to astronomical heights is ensuring your heater has an adjustable thermostat and can shut off once you’re warm enough. We didn’t consider any space heaters without this feature.
We found 24 brands with heaters that met our base specifications. We focused on the 11 with the best reputations: Companies that had earned positive Consumer Reports ratings, like Vornado and Dyson, plus a couple of newcomers — Dr. Infrared and Bionaire — that advertised interesting tech we didn’t see elsewhere.
Most brands had four or five models that met our criteria, in which case we chose the product we felt best represented the brand. From Delonghi, a company that’s been manufacturing oil-filled radiant heaters since the 1970s, we chose their popular Dragon radiant heater. From Dyson, a tech-focused company (which also makes sophisticated hair dryers) we chose a high-tech AM09 tower heater. Vornado had the most options, with eight different “Whole Room” heaters offering “Vortex heat technology” and virtually identical specs. In this case, we chose the most basic model, skipping additions like “integrated cord storage” that raised the price of the heater.
As a final step, we included one off-brand model from Lowes: We wanted see if the experience of using a $20 no-name heater was noticeably different from using a high-tech $450 one. This left us with 13 space heaters, in a variety of sizes and price points.
- Ceramic DQ075
- Crane EE-8068
- De’Longhi Dragon 4 TRD040615T
- De’Longhi HCX9115E
- Dyson AM09
- Honeywell HeatGenius HCE840
- Honeywell UberHeat HCE200B
- Lasko AW300
- Vornado VH200
- Dr. Infrared Heater DR998
- Lifesmart ZCHT1001US
- Pelonis HQ-1000
- Bionaire BMH2905-BU
All of our space heaters reached the same temperatures — but they dispersed their heat differently.
Our picks had one thing in common: like the vast majority of space heaters, they max out at 1500-1575 watts. Max Robinson, engineer for Turnbull and Scott Heating, explains “when we talk about increases in wattage, we’re talking about the increase in which energy is transferred.” Simply put, space heaters convert watts into heat. Since each can convert roughly the same amount of watts, the warmth they put out will be virtually identical: Given enough time, every heater on our list will heat a room to the same temperature.
But “given enough time” is key. Space heaters will spread their heat out across the room according to one of three methods, which can affect how quickly you feel warm:
- Convection heaters - This is the most common type of heater, with the most appearances on our list of finalists. Convection heaters work by warming the air around them. Because warm air always rises, the heat will circulate up toward the ceiling and gradually spread out. Most of the convection heaters we looked at had fans, which help the warm air spread more quickly and evenly throughout the room, rather than pooling in one spot.
- Radiant heaters - These models emit heat waves that provide instant warmth to objects in front of them, but they don’t directly warm the air itself. They provide the same type of heat you'd get from sunlight or a campfire. They're a poor choice for whole-room heating, but great for drafty areas or parts of your house that you’ll only be in for a brief amount of time — think 10-15 minutes in your basement as you unpack holiday decorations. You don’t need to wait for the entire area to warm up; you can just keep yourself warm while you’re there.
- Micathermic heaters - This type of heater combines convection and radiant heating, giving off both types of warmth: The heat will feel less prone to temperature fluctuations than convection alone, and more enveloping than radiant alone. These space heaters use sheets of mica as heating elements, which means they usually have a long, flat design that resembles a small TV and are a lot harder to tuck unobtrusively in a corner. They're newer and less common than other heater types.
We made sure to consider all three heater types in our list of finalists, since individual heating needs vary, but we took common use cases into account as we selected our top picks.
We looked for models that minimized the risk of burns, were easy to transport, and easy to control.
How do you test 13 space heaters that all provide equal levels of warmth? By focusing on the details. We unboxed and plugged them all in, then evaluated the following factors:
How hot did each surface guard get?
The surface guard is the screen that protects your fingers from coming into direct contact with the heater’s heating element. Our convection heaters had surface guards that got warm to the touch, but not unbearably so. Our micathermic heater and our three radiant heaters didn't fare as well, all becoming hot enough that we were worried about burning ourselves — not a good combination if you've got pets or children in the house. The radiant Lifesmart was the worst. While checking whether the guard was cool enough to touch, our tester did, in fact, singe his hand.
Were the heaters easy to move around?
Unlike central heating, one of the biggest advantages of a space heater is the ability to carry it from room to room depending on where you’re spending time. So we wanted models that were actually easy to move.
For floor-standing heaters, we prioritized designs that were as lightweight as possible. The 30-pound De’Longhi Dragon 4 convection heater had wheels for portability, but we found it bulky, heavy, and difficult to move up or down stairs. The Lasko AW300 was roughly the same size, but used a lightweight (15 pound) tower design that fit easily into tight corners and could be picked up and moved without breaking a sweat.
Several of our convection heaters billed themselves as tabletop “personal” heaters. These had small footprints and were more portable than floor-standing models. For these, we prioritized shapes and handles that were easy to grab. The Honeywell UberHeat, for instance, was compact enough to pick up and carry around one-handed. But we were annoyed by the off-brand Ceramic DQ075 heater from Lowes, which had a slippery plastic handle that caused us to drop it multiple times.
Floor-standing models usually boast more surface area, along with bigger fans and fancy features like oscillation, which can all speed up heat dispersion. That said, it’s not always a clear-cut distinction. The Vornado is small enough to fit on a table but markets itself as a “whole room heater,” so we considered it for both categories.
How well did each model disperse heat?
We weren’t overly concerned about heat dispersion for personal heaters, since the goal of these models is to provide warmth for a small, targeted area. But for floor heaters, we gave bonus points to models that allowed us to immediately feel heat even from several feet away, like the Lasko and the Vornado, whose powerful fans left the entire room feeling warmer. We only noticed warmth from the Bionaire Micathermic when we stood right next to it, which didn’t leave us confident about its ability to quickly heat a large space.
The infrared heaters that we tested proved almost too powerful. The Pelonis radiant heater, in particular, became so intensely hot after just a minute or two that it felt like overkill for indoor use — akin to sitting right next to a campfire for hours — although we would have welcomed its warmth in a cold garage.
Were the controls self-explanatory and useful?
Heat and thermostat settings came standard on all our space heaters. The heat dial controls the wattage output of the heater, and the thermostat dial lets you tell the heater at which room temperature it should shut off. But on many models, these controls lacked precision: the Vornado, the Honeywell HeatGenius, and the Crane Convection Heater have “high” and “low” dials, but you’ll have to play around with them to find a temperature that feels comfortable, and there’s no way to know what that temperature actually is — a frustration if you’re trying to keep an eye on your power bill. We loved the digital display panel on models like the Dyson and the Lasko, which let us choose a specific temperature.
Many of the models we tested also included extra functions — with varying degrees of usefulness. The Dyson AM09 convection heater scored high marks for including fan settings that took little time to figure out, letting us direct heat exactly where we wanted it. The Crane Convection Heater, by contrast, had poorly labeled timer controls that we had to consult the user manual to decipher, and the Honeywell HeatGenius had a mystifying “floor mode” option that caused the heater to shut off when we tried it.
But a few space heaters stood out for offering the best balance of heat, convenience, and intuitive controls.
Our Picks for the Best Space Heater
Best for Large Rooms
If you’re looking for an unobtrusive way to heat rooms you spend a lot of time in, like a living room or master bedroom, our pick is the Lasko AW300 ($100). For a floor-standing heater, the Lasko has a small footprint. Its tower shape lets it fit easily into the corner of a room, unlike the bulkier design of the oil-filled and micathermic heaters that we tested. It’s also light enough to move one-handed.
The Lasko spreads warm air quickly thanks to a fan that can oscillate up to 180 degrees — or remain locked into a stationary position if you want more targeted heat. The fan was strong enough that we could feel warm air wafting toward us from about 16 feet away as soon as we turned the heater on, and we preferred the efficiency of this design to the Delonghi Flat Panel Convection Heater and the Crane Flat Panel Convection Heater, which had stationary heat vents that sent all of their warm air straight up toward the ceiling.
Space heaters should have at least 3 feet of space between flammable objects such as a curtains or pillows. Bill Mace told us “the most common cause of space heater related fires is when a combustible material is placed too close.” When looking for a heater, the best rule of thumb is to match the size of the heater to the size of the room.
The closest competitor to the Lasko was the $450 Dyson AM09. The Dyson works similarly to the Lasko — it's a tower heater with an oscillating fan — but it has a couple of extra features that the Lasko doesn’t offer: You can adjust the vertical angle of the Dyson's fan for more control over airflow, and the unit also doubles as a fan. The additional features are nice, although none of us felt inclined to shell out an extra $350 for them. But the main reason we preferred the Lasko AW300? It’s more user-friendly. All of the Dyson’s extra features are controlled through a small remote. The heating tower itself only has a power button and the ability to set a target temperature. If you lose the remote, you’ll lose your ability to control all those additional features. The Lasko also comes with a remote control, but all of its controls — setting a target temperature, setting a timer, changing the fan settings, and activating oscillation — are accessible through buttons on the tower itself. Given the amount of times we’ve lost a much larger TV remote, we appreciated this safeguard.
We also appreciated the Lasko AW300’s built-in digital thermostat, which we found surprisingly accurate. When we set a target temperature and then checked heat output with our own thermometer, the Lasko consistently fell within 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit of the target. Like most of the models we looked at, the Lasko hits 90 degrees at its highest setting, and can be set as low as 49 degrees if you’re trying to conserve energy.
Because the Lasko is a convection heater, you won’t feel as intensely warm right next to it as you would with an infrared heater, like the Pelonis and or the Dr. Infrared — the Lasko is designed to spread heat outward rather than keep it pooled in one place. But for highly trafficked areas, this tradeoff feels more than worth it: You’re more likely to achieve an evenly heated room, and the Lasko’s style of heating makes it a safer option around kids and pets. We were able to hold our hands directly on top of the heat guard for over 20 seconds without burning our hands.
The one potential downside is that you can’t turn the Lasko’s fan off without turning the entire heater off. If you want heat but sometimes need a break from air blowing in your face, we’d suggest the Honeywell UberHeat, below.
Best for Small Spaces
If you’re not trying to heat up an entire living room, but want extra warmth for, say, an office cubicle or small bedroom, the Honeywell UberHeat ($33) is our hands-down favorite. We love it for its toasty output of warm air and highly portable design.
The true strength of the UberHeat comes from this portability. Compared to every other heater we tested, the UberHeat was the most compact: a little larger than an alarm clock. The Vornado VH200 and our off-brand personal convection heater from Lowes were both bulkier — harder to pick up and less compatible with tight spaces. And the handle at the top of the UberHeat makes it even easier to carry from room to room — unlike the Ceramic DQ075’s handle, which caused us to drop the heater on three separate occasions when we tried to grab it.
The tradeoff with any small heater is that controls tend to be minimal, and the UberHeat is no exception. The heater has two wattage settings, two fan settings, and a dial-based thermostat. Be warned that the thermostat takes more work to figure out than the Lasko’s digital display: To set your desired temperature on the UberHeat, you’ll need to turn the heater on, wait until you’re comfortably warm, then turn the thermostat dial slowly down until the heater shuts off. There’s no way to know exactly what temperature you’ve chosen, but the heater will kick back on if the temperature begins to dip again.
The UberHeat does offer one function we didn’t get from the Lasko: You can turn the heater itself on without turning the fan on. We liked this fanless setting as a way to accumulate heat in a more targeted area — your favorite reading chair, for example — and the heater is totally silent in this mode (otherwise, you’ll hear a faint but noticeable background whirr).
Best for Garages and Basements
If you need temporary warmth in rooms like attics, basements, or garages — spaces where you don’t spend a lot of time, and which tend to be drafty — a radiant heater is your most efficient option. It lets you stay warm without wasting energy heating the surrounding air. And of the radiants we tested, the Pelonis ($45) is our favorite. It was so effective at putting out targeted heat that testers reported it felt uncomfortably warm indoors, but that same heat output will leave you feeling toasty in a cold basement.
The Pelonis is minimal in design: There are just two wattage settings for heat, plus an adjustable thermostat dial. But we weren’t overly bothered by this: Features like a programmable target temperature are important if you’re trying to heat an entire room, but radiant heaters are better suited to targeted, short-term heat.
Other radiant options like the Dr. Infrared heater ($190) came with more extras, including a digital thermostat and built-in humidifier. But we liked the Pelonis because it traded features for a larger heating element. The Dr. Infrared and Lifesmart infrared heaters had smaller heating panels which would only warm up our legs while working in cold environments. The larger heating panel of the Pelonis managed to heat a wider area, with our tester comparing the experience to sitting near a warm fireplace.
The Pelonis isn’t perfect. The large heating panel and high heat output aren't a good match for children or pets, but cautious adults will be fine, and the heater’s built-in tip-over switch and auto-off controls add a layer of safety. The heater also lacks the wheels found on the Dr. Infrared and Lifesmart infrared heaters, but these two models are heavier and boxier than the Pelonis, which is light enough to pick up by its handle and move without issue. In short? The Pelonis isn't as versatile as our other picks, but it's a useful companion for garage and basement projects.
Did You Know?
Smell something burning? It might just be dust.
If you smell burning when using your space heater after long periods of inactivity, chances are the heater is simply burning off dust. No need to worry: This is normal and can be avoided by wiping down your heater before turning it on. In fact, if you plan to use your heater constantly through the colder months, some manufacturers suggest cleaning it every two weeks.
Space heaters won’t necessarily save you money on electricity bills.
Using a space heater in place of your central heating can sometimes be an energy efficient choice — but only if you limit yourself to a single room, and turn down the heat in the rest of the house. If you want to keep your entire house warm, placing a space heater in every room can actually use more electricity.
And for the most part, no single heater will be more energy efficient than another. Models that boast "Eco" modes simply let you adjust your wattage to lower settings, which also lowers your heat output. Since all of our heaters have the same 1500-1575 upper wattage range (the highest for most space heaters), they will all use virtually the same amount of energy. There might be small fluctuations, but the differences will be too minor to have any real effect. Any claims of being the “Most energy efficient heater” have more to do with marketing.
Pair your space heater with a humidifier for relief from dry air.
As a space heater warms the air, it will lead to a decrease in relative humidity or the amount of water vapor in a room compared to the amount of vapor the air can hold. Put simply, space heaters won’t take moisture out of the air, but will make rooms feel drier. This is a bigger problem during colder months, because the cold air is already drier — the colder the air, the less moisture capacity the air has. While it may not seem like a big deal, a low relative humidity can lead to dry skin and nosebleeds. We recommend pairing your space heater with a humidifier, which will add moisture to the air and keep the room as comfortable as possible.