While all heaters provide warmth to an
indoor or outdoor space, they
differ in terms of energy efficiency, cost, durability and use.
Portable heaters run either on gas or electricity. Of those fueled by gas, natural gas and propane are the two most common fuels used.
Kerosene has a few limited applications, but they are minimal compared
to the others.
Both gas and electric heaters use a variety of heating
methods to distribute heat including using radiant, passive convection
and forced air technology that incorporate a ceramic, quartz, halogen
or gas element. Before you use your new heater, make sure to
read all the safety warnings.
The many types of space heaters include those meant for the
home, workspace and outdoors. Home heaters include fan heaters,
wall-mounted heaters, portable and compact heaters, baseboard heaters
Portable and compact heaters may be tabletop models,
tower heaters or freestanding floor heaters. Workspace heaters are
often very similar to home heaters, but they usually have a higher
wattage output and may be wall or ceiling mounted.
Outdoor space heaters are most commonly natural gas or propane
heaters, but there are outdoor electric heaters as well. They include
portable tower patio heaters of varying size and fixed-position radiant
heaters. Gas and propane heaters may also be used indoors. Forced air
propane heaters provide up to 150,000 BTUs of energy, suitable for
spaces as big as 1,200 square feet.
Indoor natural gas heaters are almost always vented and fixed,
but unvented gas heaters are also available. The many different types
of heaters use a particular heating method to distribute heat
throughout a space, whether indoors or out. The methods differ in terms
of technology, but some heaters use combination methods.
The basic way to distinguish between heaters is to ask whether
it is a radiant, passive convection or fan-forced heater. Radiant
heaters provide direct heat very quickly, heating surfaces and people
with either infrared light or an element/reflector combination. Passive
convection heaters heat indirectly by warming up the air in a space.
They move air over the element, and it rises to fill the room. They
take a little longer and are not suitable for outdoor use.
Fan-forced heaters produce convection heat but then use a
blower to move it throughout a space in less time than passive
convection heaters. All heaters use one of these heating methods, but
there is an additional level of categorization necessary to distinguish
between all heaters.
The next level of differentiation involves the actual heating
element of a space heater, as well as any special feature it uses to
move heat. Gas heaters have a fuel source and element that are one in
the same. Being combustible, the fuel is the element for gas and
Electric heaters are a bit more varied. Heating elements range
from ceramic encased, quartz tubes, metal such as steel or nichrome and
halogen lamps. Each of these elements has their own unique qualities.
Ceramic is an excellent non-conductor of heat, so it stays cooler than
other elements. It also shields the internal element better, producing
more energy-efficient heat. Quartz heats up fast for a convection
heater and, when used with a fan, spreads heat quickly. Steel and
nichrome elements are found in baseboard heaters as well as numerous
types of fan heaters and other portable models. Metal elements are also
enclosed within wall-mounted electric units. Halogen lamps are used as
a radiant heat source and are a part of outdoor electric patio heaters.
In terms of the distribution of heat, an oscillating heater
features a motorized fan that moves heat over a wider area. Radiator
heaters are another type. Among the most energy efficient, radiators
use vertically-situated copper tubes that are filled with diathermic
oil and heating elements. The elements warm the permanently-sealed oil
which then transfers the heat to the copper tubes. From there, clean
heat radiates throughout a room, with no fan required.
The features found on space heaters are provided by the
manufacture for both safety and convenience. Look for the UL listing
when purchasing a heater of any kind. The mark means the heater meets
the industry standards for safe operation. Safety features commonly
found on space heaters include tip-over protection to kill the power if
the heater falls over, automatic thermal shutoff in case the internal
temperature gets too hot and grounded plugs for electric heaters.
Direct vent systems are part of certain gas heaters, while unvented gas
heaters often feature an oxygen depletion sensor that detects when
oxygen gets low in a room. In addition, quality heaters are built from
either flame-resistant plastic, heavy-duty enamel or rust-resistant
Convenience features include complete thermostatic control,
auto heat and energy-saving settings, digital LCD screens for easy
operation and one-touch use. Programmable timers and multiple
temperature controls are standard on many space heaters.
Depending on the type and size of space you need to heat, your
budget and your preference for a particular fuel source and/or heating
method, you literally have thousands of portable and space heaters to
choose from. Evaluate your needs first then learn what is available to
make the most informed decision.
There are hundreds of makers of portable heaters. Most of them
tend to specialize in one particular area of portable heating such as
electric ceramic heaters or forced air propane heaters, although a few
manufacturers produce only one type of heater. Popular, well-known
heater brands include Delonghi, Honeywell, Holmes, Mr. Heater,
Bionaire, Lasko, TPI, Procom, Protemp, Empire, Fire Sense, Coleman,
Northern Tool, Crane, Optimus, Qmark and Infratech. That is not a
complete list, but it gives you an idea of the number of heater
producers out there. The range of heaters these brands produce is
enormous, but all of them fall into a distinct category: gas or
electric. From there, categorization gets a bit more complex due to the
different heating methods used, as well as many heater types.