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Are you shopping for a space heater that will keep your home warm and your energy bills low? The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you’re trying to raise the overall temperature of the room or keep yourself feeling toasty.
Convection space heaters use warm air to raise the ambient air temperature of a room, while radiant space heaters use infrared heat that will be felt right away by people and objects in the room. Both types of space heaters can help ward off winter’s chill, so it's all about whether you prefer the air to be warmed up first, or if you'd like to feel warm immediately after turning the heater on. You should also factor in what size heater you need for your space to optimize energy usage. Look for safety features like an auto-shutoff if the unit overheats or tips over. In addition, consider other features that might add value, like a fan-only mode, air purification, or a digital display.
We tested some of the top space heaters on the market to see what they're like in real world settings. Our testers used them for weeks at a time to see if they really live up to the manufacturers' claims. We asked testers to rate each model on the qualities we think are most important, including heating performance, design, and effectiveness, so we can make the right recommendation based on your needs.
Here, the best radiant and convection space heaters on the market.
Best Overall Radiant: Lasko Cool Touch Infrared Heater
Radiant heaters use electromagnetic energy to warm up the people and objects that are within range of the heater. Similar to the sun’s rays, you’ll feel this type of heat nearly instantly and it makes for a quick fix when you feel chilled. The Lasko Cool Touch Infrared Heater is a great option for a radiant heater, since it features 6 quartz elements and produces up to 5,118 BTU per hour.
This radiant heater has high, low, and auto modes, which enable to select the heater’s operation or leave up to the unit to modify energy usage to maintain a comfortable temperature. The Lasko Cool Touch Infrared heater is intended for use in rooms up to 300 square feet in size, and it includes an easy to read and use digital control pad.
The housing of this radiant heater stays cool to the touch, as the name implies, and makes it a good option if you have children or pets in the home that may bump into the heater. In addition, overheating protection and a tip-over shutoff sensor enhance the safety of this space heater.
Best Overall Convection: Lasko Bladeless Ceramic Heater with Remote Control
A convection heater intakes cool air and puts out warm air, using the natural law of convection. In addition, a blower fan is often used to enhance air circulation. The Lasko Bladeless Ceramic Heater is a great option for a convection heater to raise the temperature of small to medium rooms in your home. In terms of performance and effectiveness, our tester scored this pick moderately well—it was effective in small rooms, but struggled with their open concept living room. These findings are fairly in line with the manufacturer's recommendations, which are to use this 1,500-watt heater in rooms under 300 square feet.
This tower-style heater is just over two feet tall and has a top blower with a bladeless design that is both quiet, efficient, and light enough to move from room to room, if needed. In addition, this heater has an oscillation option to help better distribute heat. These factors together earned the heater a perfect 5 out of 5 in the design category.
Best for Large Rooms: Dr. Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater
Typically, convection heaters are the go-to choice for large rooms, since they quickly change the air temperature in the room, rather than just warming objects close by. The downside is that it takes longer to feel the temperature rise, leaving you with a chill for a longer period of time. On the other hand, radiant heaters put out energy that warms people and objects right away, but won't change the air temperature as efficiently. Taking the best of both approaches, the Dr. Infrared Original Heater is a capable choice for large rooms up to 1,000 square feet.
Our tester loved the efficiency and performance of this little heater, giving it a perfect score in both categories. Because it covers both convection and radiant heat, you feel the warmth immediately, but can also sense an overall warming of the room over time—our tester felt it made a difference, even when it was near freezing outside.
One place we do feel this pick could use some improvement is in the design. In addition to the fact that the unit arrived with chips and scratches, it also makes a statement with its style—but not necessarily one that everyone will like. Those issues earned it just 2/5 for that category. Our tester also noted that at 25 pounds, the heater is heavy and difficult to move around. Though it has wheels, it wouldn't be easy to take up and down stairs to store it, so we took off a point for size,
Best Energy Efficient: DeLonghi ComforTemp Radiator Space Heater
Keep your costs low and your comfort high with an energy-efficient space heater, like this DeLonghi ComforTemp model. An oil-filled radiant heater, the ComforTemp utilizes a sealed system to warm and circulate oil that in turn transmits heat into the room. Since the oil is such a good conductor of heat, the unit continues to radiate warmth for some time, even after the unit has been shut off.
You can also appreciate the energy savings of the ComforTemp button. In this mode, the heater cycles between its three power modes (700, 800, and 1,500 watts) to maintain a temperature of 68 to 70 degrees. As a bonus, this radiator-style heater has attached wheels to make it easy to position the heater in any room where extra warmth is needed.
Best Wall-Mounted: NewAir DiamondHeat 1,500-watt Wall Heater
A wall-mounted heater is a good option for providing heat to a room without sacrificing floor space. The NewAir DiamondHeat is a radiant-style wall heater that uses micathermic technology to warm rooms up to 160 square feet in size. With a depth of less than 5 inches, it’s easy to hang this radiant heater on the wall—although feet are included if you have the space to use it as a freestanding unit.
You can select from two heating modes, using 750 watts or 1,500 watts of power. The lack of a fan means that this heater won’t blow dust or allergens around the room, and also means the heater is incredibly quiet when it's working.
Best Fireplace: Duraflame 3D Infrared Electric Fireplace Stove
This radiant fireplace heater from Duraflame provides both ambiance and heat, thanks to the quartz elements inside that produce infrared energy to warm people and objects. Along with the adjustable heat offered by this fireplace, you can also enjoy a realistic flame display or customize the appearance with varying color and brightness settings.
If you're in the market for a warmer that adds to your home's decor, this is a solid pick. It scored well, although not outstanding, across the board. The faux fireplace received a 4 out of 5 in heating performance and effectiveness, keeping our tester warm in a chilly part of the country, but the tester noted that it's not as powerful if you're far away or in too big of a space.
"One surprising bonus? We discovered we could also use this heater as a de facto ski and snowboard boot dryer/warmer both before and after a day on the slopes. While leaving ski boots on a hearth in front of a real fire often ends up with melted boots, placing boots a few feet in front of the Duraflame worked well without any threat to our gear." —Justin Park, Product Tester
Best for Allergies: Dyson Hot + Cool AM09 Fan Heater
Allergy-sufferers will find this versatile heater to be a worthwhile splurge, thanks to the multifunctional design and built in air purifier. The Dyson Pure Hot + Cool includes a sealed filtration system that traps allergens as small as 0.3 microns and includes both a carbon filter and HEPA filtration system. Aside from its air purification abilities, the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool is a good source of supplemental heat and can help heat or cool spaces.
The only thing preventing this heater from a perfect score is the price. In terms of heating effectiveness and efficiency, our tester felt it heated the room efficiently. In larger spaces, it heated the area directly in front of the fan, but didn't necessarily shine at raising the temperature of the entire room. Our tester also gave it a perfect 5 out of 5 rating for design, for both the style and the intuitiveness of the remote control—and they really appreciated the magnetic remote holder on the top of the device that keeps the controller in place until you need it again.
Best Budget Convection: Comfort Zone Ceramic Electric Portable Heater
This ceramic convection heater offers dual wattage modes (750 or 1,500 watts) and variable temperature control at a very reasonable price. With such a budget-friendly price tag, you can use this small, portable heater in any room in the house and it can heat up to 500 square feet.
If you only need a space heater occasionally, the basic but efficient performance of this budget convection heater is for you. There are few frills, but it does include safety features like an automatic shut-off if the unit tips over or is in danger of overheating.
If you're looking for a high-quality radiant heater that will heat up items and people in small to medium-sized rooms and stay cool to the touch, our best overall pick is the Lasko Cool Touch Infrared Heater (view at Home Depot). If you'd rather invest in a convection heater that blows warm air around the room, we recommend the Lasko Bladeless Ceramic Heater with Remote Control.
How We Tested the Heaters
For this article, we set up some of the top radiant and convection heaters on the market in our testers' homes and asked them to use them in real-life settings to see if they live up to the manufacturers' claims. Our testers rated these heaters across a number of top categories, including heating performance, effectiveness, design, and size. Our testers tried out each of the heaters in multiple rooms to get a sense of how powerful their heating capabilities are, and took notes on how easy the units are to set up and move around from space to space. We combined their testing results with our writers' and editors' own research to bring you this list.
What to Look for
Decide on your heating priorities in order to pick the right type of heater. If you're looking to raise the temperature in an enclosed space, a convection heater (like a ceramic space heater) is the right choice for the task. It works by circulating warm air into the room and gradually heats all the air within the space. On the other hand, you may be benefited more in a drafty, large, or open area by using a radiant heater. This heater type projects warm air that is readily felt by people and objects, though it may take longer to heat the air within an entire room. Infrared heaters that use a quartz bulb are an example of a radiant heater.
To maximize the benefit of a heater and minimize its energy usage, you should choose a model that is the right size for your space. An electric heater that is too small will need to run more and may never be able to output enough heat. Most models have a recommended square footage range and this can help you to more accurately choose a heater.
It's important to be familiar with the safety features of any heaters you're considering and use the unit properly. The National Fire Protection Association recommends that a heater should have a thermostat and an automatic shutoff if the unit overheats. In addition, many heaters also feature a shutoff mechanism if the heater tips over, which is also recommended by the NFPA. Other things to consider include cool-touch housing to prevent burns, especially for homes where children and pets may be in close proximity to the heater.
There are a number of other features available on radiant and convection heaters that don't fit neatly into one category, but are worth considering. For convection heaters, a fan-only function can turn the heater into a useful appliance year-round. Some advanced heaters also include air purification capabilities, which can be great for allergy-sufferers or people sensitive to dust. A digital display and remote control operation can make the heater more user-friendly as well.
How long can space heaters be left on?
Space heaters made today can safely operate for hours at a time, especially since most models are equipped with an automatic shut-off that prevents the unit from overheating. Some space heaters also feature a timer, which typically operates the unit for 1 to 7 hours. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions for use to minimize safety risks.
How much energy do space heaters use?
Most space heaters use between 750 and 1,500 watts of energy per hour. To find out how much it will cost you to run the space heater, multiply the wattage provided by how many hours per day you expect to run the space heater. Multiply this number by 30, then by 1,000. This will tell you how many kilowatt-hours of energy the space heater will use in a month. Check with your energy company to find out the current rate for each kilowatt-hour.
How hot do space heaters get?
Residential space heaters top out at 1,500 watts. Heat is measured in British Thermal Units (BTU) and 1 watt equals 3.413 BTU. So to find out how hot a space heater gets, multiply the wattage by 3.413. This will tell you the amount of heat that the unit puts out in BTUs. The hottest space heater is 5,120 BTUs.
Why Trust The Spruce?
This article was written by Erica Puisis, who has covered heating and cooling products on The Spruce since 2019. She compiled picks for this article by reading The Spruce's reviews on radiant and convection space heaters, researching additional highly rated models from trusted companies, and researching what makes a good space heater before making her final recommendations.