What’s the Difference Between Radiant & Convection Space Heaters?

Shop for the best radiant and convection heaters on the market now

Lifesmart 6 Element Large Room Infrared Quartz Heater w/Wood Cabinet and Remote
Courtesy of Amazon.com.

One of the most important things to know about radiant heaters is that they transfer heat to the objects around them instead of heating the air. So the heat goes directly to you (and the furniture, and anything else in the path of the radiant heater) instead of the air inside the room. Because of that, radiant heaters are best for slowly, evenly taking the chill away in an open or drafty space—think rooms with older windows or high ceilings—but they’re not necessarily the best for quickly...MORE warming an entire room. Infrared heaters, the most common type of radiant heaters, emit warmth that’s often compared to the sun’s rays. They can quickly warm someone sitting directly in front of the heater, but users moving around a larger room might feel like the heater isn’t really working, or at least not working as well as they expected.

Many radiant heaters either don’t blow air with fans or use very low-powered ones, so they might be a better pick for allergy sufferers or anyone who’s sensitive to noise. They also produce heat that sticks around for a while even after the heater is turned off. But some radiant heaters are more likely to get hot to the touch, making them potentially dicey for anyone with small children or pets.

On the other hand, convection heaters forcefully blow hot air out into a room. Air is warmed inside the heater, usually with a fan that blows it across some sort of heating element, before circulating in the room. These convection heaters are best for raising the air temperature quickly in an enclosed space and can make a whole room feel toasty in no time flat. The most common type of convection heater, ceramic heaters, heat air by blowing it across a hot ceramic plate.

In exchange for this fast burst of heat, you’ll be stuck listening to the whir of the heater’s fan, so make sure you can tolerate a little white noise, if you choose a convection heater. It’s also worth noting that the heat will dissipate quickly after the convection heater is turned off, while radiant heat will linger. However, convection heaters usually aren’t as hot to the touch as radiant heaters. They’re also more popular, meaning you’ll have more choices at a variety of price points.  

Still torn? Here are some of our top picks for radiant and convection space heaters.

  • 01 of 04

    For an affordable, efficient convection space heater, the Lasko 755320 Ceramic Tower Heater definitely fits the bill. This highly-rated tower-style heater has several advanced features, including a digital display and remote control, that make it one of the best models available.

    This space heater from Lasko is almost 2 feet tall, and it can produce up to 1,500 watts of heat, which it pushes throughout the room with its oscillating fan. There are control buttons on top of the tower, allowing you...MORE to adjust the temperature and fan speed. Plus, it comes with a multi-function remote control that allows you to turn it on and off, adjust the temperature and more.

    The Lasko 755320 Ceramic Tower Heater has a built-in programmable timer so you don’t have to turn it on and off manually. There’s a handle on top of the tower for portability, and the heater also features standard safety features for peace of mind while it’s in use.

  • 02 of 04

    Owners say the Lifesmart 6-Element Large Room Infrared Quartz Heater keeps them warm even in a larger space such as an open living room or a room with high ceilings. As the name suggests, it relies on six quartz tubes to create heat that takes the chill away. 

    One of the big draws of radiant heaters is that they’re relatively quiet, and reviewers say that’s the case with the Lifesmart heater. There are three heat settings, including an “eco setting” that uses less power. Other features include a...MORE digital thermostat, remote control and 12-hour timer. Reviewers say the heater is easy to use, and they love being able to set their desired temperature and walk away. A few caution that the display is too bright for nighttime use in a bedroom, however.

    At 24 pounds, the Lifesmart 6-Element is no lightweight, and it’s relatively bulky at 17.5 by 16 by 13 inches. Fortunately, there are casters on the bottom to make it easier to move. Reviewers like the heater’s wooden cabinet, which they say blends well in most traditional homes. The cabinet also stays cool to the touch and makes this a safer choice than some other radiant heaters, users say. The Lifesmart will automatically shut off if it overheats or tips over, and there is a child-lock feature that can prevent kids from tampering with the control panel or remote.

  • 03 of 04

    The squat Lasko 754200 can crank up the temperature in any smaller room. It even wins experts’ raves for heat output despite its diminutive size—and equally small price tag.

    Though it gets mixed reviews for noise, most reviewers say the Lasko 745200 is reasonably quiet, particularly on lower settings, and those who like white noise say they don’t mind it even on high. The thermostat and two heat settings can be controlled via two simple, top-mounted dials. Of course, anyone looking for extra...MORE features will need to spend a bit more—for instance, a heater this cheap won’t oscillate or give users an automatic mode.

    At 9 by 7 by 6 inches, the Lasko 754200 needs only a small, out-of-the-way corner. And while experts say most of the unit stays cool, they caution against touching the heat exhaust outlet. The heater automatically shuts off if it overheats, but there is no tip-over sensor.

  • 04 of 04

    This inexpensive radiant heater is a solid investment, as it can be used to heat small spaces both indoors and outdoors. The Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Radiant Heater has two heat settings, and it can warm up spaces up to 225 square feet.

    The Mr. Heater Buddy Portable Radiant Heater runs on 1-pound propane tanks (not included), making it a helpful product to have on hand in case the power goes out. The portable radiant heater has a large heating surface that directs its warmth over a bigger area,...MORE providing even heat for the whole space. Users say it is great for use in workshops, trailers, tents and even tiny houses!

    Don’t worry about the safety of this device, either. The portable heater has built-in safety features, including automatic shut off if it tips over, if the pilot light goes out or if it detects low oxygen levels. Overall, this is a reasonably priced radiant heater that’s perfect for heating smaller spaces, even when you don’t have access to electricity.

Sign up for our daily deals newsletter


Disclosure: E-Commerce Content is independent of editorial content and we may receive compensation in connection with your purchase of products via links on this page.