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How to Pick the Best Portable Heater for Your Space


As the weather cools in the northern United States, home improvement stores, discount stores and other retailers are stocking up on portable electric heaters. These units range from small to large, tall to squatty, inexpensive to something of an investment. Picking the right portable heater for you and your family depends on how and where you plan to use it.

Safety and Portable Heaters

Safety is the most important factor for most people when choosing portable heaters, no matter what room the heater is destined for, and rightly so. In addition to making sure that the portable heaters you buy carry a certification such as ETL, UL, or CSA, you’ll want to choose a size and style of space heater that’s appropriate for the size and function of your room. You don’t want an electric heater to be closer than three feet from any wall, furniture or fabric.

It’s also important to remember that if you’re using a full room heater, these heaters are generally 1500 watts and should be plugged directly into the wall outlet without a lot of other things using the same circuit. Using the heater on the same circuit with other appliances or electronics can cause you to blow the circuit and possibly damage both items.

If you have children or pets, you’ll want to use space heaters that are cool to the touch to avoid burns and, of course, never leave them running unattended. Look on the carton or online product description to see what safety features are included on the model you’re considering.

A Room by Room Look at Choosing the Right Heater

Different rooms have different needs when it comes to choosing portable heaters. Here’s a few things to consider when shopping for a heater for a specific room:

Living Room and Family Room

Because these are high-traffic areas, you may want to look for something that has space-saving qualities like a ceramic tower heater. A cyclonic heater can be placed right up next to the wall, which can keep it out of foot-traffic pathways. You may want a unit that’s tall, like a pedestal heater that can get the heat elevated, up and over things like coffee tables.

Noise is also an important consideration for portable heaters. These are rooms where there’s a lot of activity, such as watching television or entertaining, so you’re going to want something that’s quiet. Ceramic heaters tend to be very quiet. Low-profile baseboard-style heaters don’t have fans at all, so they are going to be totally silent.

Color and style are also important factors in choosing portable heaters for a living room or family room.


Since kitchens have limited floor space, a portable heater for the kitchen needs to be space efficient, such as a ceramic tower heater or one that sits on the countertop. Noise is also a factor to consider with a kitchen heater. You don’t want to have to shout over the noise of the heater to converse during supper. Choosing an energy-efficient model is important, too, for a kitchen heater since it will likely be used for long periods of time. Even a timer or thermostat will help you save energy by shutting the heater down when it’s not needed, as the kitchen heats up as you cook.

Home Office

Space considerations and energy-savings top the list of desirable features for portable heaters in a home office. These tend to be smaller rooms, so a space-saving unit is essential. Portable heaters in home offices are also bound to get a lot of use, so choosing an energy-efficient model will help your energy budget. A personal-sized heater, such as the My Heat® model, is lower wattage so it saves on energy. A small tower heater or a tabletop heater is another good choice for a home office.


In addition to color and style, a bedroom heater needs to be quiet, so you can relax and enjoy your bedroom sanctuary. Ceramic heaters tend to make less noise than other styles of heaters. Another consideration in a bedroom heater is a timer, so you can set the heater to go off before you go to sleep. It’s not a good idea, from a safety point of view, to sleep with a heater running in the bedroom. A bedroom heater should also be designed so that the heat is elevated and directed towards the bed, not the floor. A tabletop heater atop a dresser would be a good choice, or you can use a slim pedestal heater.

Garage or Work Area

Utility heaters for your basement, craft room or garage need to be rugged, portable, and easy to use. These factors are more important for this type of heater than style, color, or fancy features. Heaters for DIY projects are going to get taken out, get used, and get put away. You want to be able to carry your heater around from project to project so a large or easy-grip handle is ideal. You’ll also need it to be durable, to be able to stand up to all that moving around. It needs to be easy to use and quick to heat.

A Few Safety Tips for Portable Heaters

Portable heaters are a great way to add supplemental heating to your home. To be safe, remember these important tips:

  • Unplug your heater when not in use; don’t just turn it off.
  • Never leave the heater unattended.
  • Plug the heater directly into the outlet; don’t use an extension cord, a power strip, surge protector, multiple outlet adapter, cord reel, or outlet-type air freshener.
  • Only place your heater on a dry, flat surface.
  • Keep the heater at least three feet away from walls, furniture and draperies.

If you carefully consider your portable heater needs before you shop and review the variety of portable heaters on the market, you’ll not only stay toasty warm this winter season, but you’ll likely save on your energy bills, too.