Best Space Heaters | Portable Heaters 2020
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A portable heater is like a box full of summer in the winter time. It does more than warm you and your surroundings, it helps chase away the winter blues. Sitting comfortably at your desk, or standing confidently at the garage work bench, suddenly winter doesn’t seem so long. You’ve got heat and you’re going about your usual business with a better attitude than you would sitting or standing there with chattering teeth.
Read on to learn about the 15 models we reviewed and find the best portable heater to fit your needs. Once you’re equipped, winter won’t seem as long.
Heat Storm HS-1500-TT
Flip it on and heat your work area, indoors or out.
Small but mighty, it’s powerful enough to heat a small room.
Best For Large Rooms
Height and powerful air movement give the AW315 good distribution.
Best For A Cabin
Best For The Home Office
Doubling as a fan, it’s effective and quiet.
How Heaters Heat
Heat is transmitted one of three ways.
Radiation: A ray in the infrared (electromagnetic) spectrum travels through space, creating heat energy when it passes through a solid, such as you, furnishings, objects and equipment, or a structure (such as your home).
Convection: Movement of heat energy through a fluid, either a gas such as air or a liquid such as oil or water.
Conduction: Movement of heat energy through a solid, by means of direct physical contact.
And every heater makes use of all of them, to one extent or another.
Electric-coil fan heaters: The simplest and least expensive heaters blow air over an electrical heating element.
Ideal use: Good for quickly producing heat in a small area, such as a shed or office, so that occupants can move about in a small zone of warm air.
Ceramic heaters: Simple, inexpensive, and versatile, these use an electrical resistance element encased in a ceramic block or a ceramic element that is itself semi-electrically conductive and heat generating. The block stores heat and radiates it out as infrared energy. Most of these heaters have a fan, but a few primitive ones do not.
Ideal use: A better and quieter alternative to an electric coil fan heater. These are great for shared offices or wherever quiet heat is needed
Oil-filled radiators: These wheeled appliances are filled with oil heated by a resistance element. They slowly and noiselessly raise the air temperature within the area.
Ideal use: Best for a central location, especially where noiseless (not necessarily quick) heating is the priority, such as a home office or library.
Gas and liquid-fuel heaters: These appliances burn propane or kerosene to warm an infrared emitter that projects the energy.
Ideal use: Construction sites, garages, or work areas are the best places to use these heaters, since you want to place the heater at a comfortable distance and the work area remains unobstructed.
How We Tested
We began our test with a Fluke 345—a clamp-on amp meter and a power-quality test instrument—to check whether the appliances drew more than their rated amperage. And using the meter’s oscilloscope, we examined each heater’s energy use on the high setting to see whether a heating element, switch, or fan motor is misbehaving. Next, we used a thermocouple on a Fluke 233 meter to measure temperature on the heater’s front to gauge whether it’s a burn hazard should you accidentally graze it. After that, we checked whether the appliance would shut off if it tipped over. Many are equipped with a switch on the bottom of their case that will cut the power if the heater should fall. Finally, we shot a thermographic picture of each heater using a Flir C3 camera to search for unusually hot areas or any other anomaly that escaped our other tests.
Heat Storm HS-1500-TT
Watts: 1,500 | Type: Carbon-filament infrared | Highest grill temperature: 323 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 12.2 | Weight: 11.6 lb.
HS-1500-TT Infrared Heater
- Cord is stiff and unwieldy
This no-frills appliance has precisely one control: the on/off switch. Flip it, and the 16-inch carbon fiber heating element glows cherry red in seconds. Its parabolic reflector bounces the infrared ray quite effectively. Don’t stand too close; optimal distance is several feet and we could feel the warmth out to 12 feet. This Heat Storm is rated for outdoor and indoor use, for a construction site, a patio, or in a workshop. Its tripod allows you to adjust the height from three feet to a bit higher than six feet. It could use a cord wrap. The heavy 13-foot cord is fairly stiff and flops around without some means to keep it under control.
Vornado MVH Vortex
Watts: 1,500 | Type: Electrical resistance | Highest grill temperature: 163 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 11.4 | Weight: 4 lb.
MVH Vortex Heater
- Heats a surprisingly large area
The MVH is a simple heater with a circular resistance coil and a three-blade fan that blows through a spiral grill. The result is surprisingly quiet and evenly-distributed heat output adjustable to three settings: low (750 watts), medium (1,125 watts) and high (1,500 watts). The grill temperature we recorded is high but not objectionable. The appliance’s case stays cool to the touch, and a hand hold is molded into the back so you can comfortably reposition it. Sitting at floor level, and moving as much air as it does, the MVH is bound to pull in dust. We think it needs an air filter, to avoid a fire hazard. Lacking that, vacuum the MVH regularly.
―BEST FOR LARGE ROOMS―
Lasko AW315 Tower
Watts: 1,500 | Type: Electrical ceramic | Highest grill temperature: 161 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 12.2 | Weight: 9.4 lb.
AW315 Tower Heater
- Heats a large area quickly
- Battery hatch on the remote is difficult to open
Lasko calls the AW315 “bladeless,” as if it lacked a fan. It uses a multi-vane impeller instead. This fanless design (to call it that) does contribute to the appliance’s quiet operation, as it pulls in air through its base and into its tower. It’s equipped with a cleanable air filter, right outside the impeller, which you can access through a tool-free hatch. We also like the sleek touch pad on the front for controlling the wattage setting for the heating element, tower oscillation, and the eight-hour timer. The large amount of air flow and the appliance’s even heat distribution helps it bring a room up to a comfortable temperature faster than other heaters. One gripe: the battery hatch cover on the remote is difficult to remove.
―BEST BUDGET OPTION―
Watts: 1,500, max | Type: Ceramic with fan | Highest grill temp: 302 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 11.92 | Weight: 2.4 lb.
When we saw that this had more than 4000 Amazon customer reviews to its credit, we had to test it. We were pleasantly surprised by its performance. Its two ceramic heating elements bring up the heat quickly. On the low setting, it’s a 750-watt heater; on the high setting, it’s 1,500 watts. It can also be used as a single-speed fan (without heat). A thermostat control knob on its left is dialed until the appliance shuts off. The thermostat turns the heater back on automatically when it senses that the surrounding air has fallen below the set temperature. Other than the fact that it’s a bit louder than other heaters, there’s not much more to say about it. It throws the heat—cheap. However, the Flir found that its heat pattern is oddly skewed to the left.
―BEST FOR SILENT HEAT―
Watts: 1,500 | Type: Electrical, oil-filled radiator | Highest surface temperature: 162 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 11.9 | Weight: 21.8 lb.
- Takes a long time to heat up
The DeLonghi has a thermostatic control, three heat settings, and a timer. But there’s no denying that it has a simple old school look and feel. Nearly the entire surface of this grill-less appliance gets piping hot—the thermographic view through the Flir showed a large, bright yellow box-shaped hunk of heat. Like a stove, it will set up a convection current, with hot air rising up from it to the ceiling, sinking back down along the walls, toward the heater, and up again. Like all heaters of this type, it’s most effective when positioned in the room’s center. If that doesn’t describe what you have in mind, look elsewhere.
―BEST FOR DESK TOPS―
Watts: 250 | Type: Ceramic with fan | Highest grill temp: 250 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 2.1 | Weight: 1.4 lb.
HCE100R Heat Bud
Honeywell named this appliance the Heat Bud; the name suits it. The little low-wattage appliance is meant to sit on your desk (a safe distance from papers and your computer) and gently blow warm air across one or both of its ceramic heating elements. On its low setting (170 watts), you barely know that it’s on. On high, it projects a substantial amount of warmth, relative to its small size and modest wattage. The Heat Bud is a cute little thing, but keep in mind that its grill gets hot.
―BEST RETRO LOOK―
Watts: 1,500 | Type: Electrical resistance with fan | Highest grill temp: 205 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 11.86 | Weight: 6.4 lb.
188TASA Milk House Style
- Louder than other similar products
They call these appliances milk house heaters. This one is a durable and utilitarian appliance with the heaviest cord in this test, a sheet metal cabinet, a top handle, and two bumper guards on either side of its heavy honeycomb grill. Its two electric elements are robust coils; the heater’s settings are 1,300 and 1,500 watts. You can also use it sans heaters, fan only, and with its thermostat to control its on/off cycle automatically. As with other heaters like this, once you’re comfortable, you dial back the thermostat knob until the appliance shuts down. When the temperature dips far enough below the set point, the heating elements kick in.
―BEST FOR THE HOME OFFICE―
Watts: 1,500 | Type: Electrical ceramic | Highest grill temperature: 263 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 11.9 | Weight: 4.2 lb.
HFX65V15L Ceramic Tower Heater
- Grill got relatively hotter than other indoor units
The DeLonghi oscillating tower heater is an excellent product for several important reasons. First, it’s equipped with two forms of protection. A tip-over switch will shut it off if it falls and an overheat switch if the appliance gets too hot. Its dual ceramic heating elements provide two levels of output, and they can be totally switched off, allowing the heater to function as a low-speed fan. The timer has a 24-hour cycle, allowing you to designate on and off periods as if it were a small furnace. Icing on the cake: it was the only heater with a remote that came with a battery.
―BEST FOR A CABIN―
Mr. Heater F232025 MH9BX
BTUs: 4,000 (low) or 9,000 (high) | Type: Propane-fueled | Highest grill temperature: 360 degrees | Highest recorded amps: N.A. | Weight (with propane cylinder): 9.4 lb.
- Small but extremely effective
- Light and compact
- Slight breeze can blow it out
Twist on a propane cylinder and turn the ignition knob to light: that’s all there is to warming up a frosty space using this little gas-fired dynamo. It’s noiseless and, according to our Flir camera, produces a well-heated circle with a 4-foot diameter. Mr. Heater estimates that, when placed in an enclosed space, the MH9BX’s infrared output can heat up to 225 square feet. That’s a lot of firepower in an appliance about the size of a toolbox. If you need a longer run time than its estimated three hours on high, you can buy a kit that enables you to hook it up to a 20-pound propane cylinder. As for its safety, it’s equipped with both an oxygen-depletion sensor, for operating in enclosed areas, and a tip-over switch that shuts it off. Be warned: It doesn’t take much of a breeze to blow it out.
―BEST FOR THE WORK BENCH―
Watts: 1,500 | Type: Electrical resistance | Highest grill temperature: 146 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 11.4 | Weight: 8 lb.
- Well built
- Delightfully retro
It took some looking, but we found what we believe to be the last portable electrical space heater still made in America. Made by Markel Products Company in Johnson City, Tennessee, the rugged little heater is an all-metal appliance that’s well built and refreshingly retro in a 1970s sort of way. It operates smoothly, quietly, and without vibration, and it appears that it would give you a lifetime of service without complaint. It’s a pity this little gem of an appliance is so expensive.
―BEST FOR PORTABILITY―LASKO 5409
Wattage: 1,500 watts, max | Type: Ceramic with fan | Highest grill temp: 178 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 12.21 | Weight: 3.8 lb.
5409 Top Handle
Look at it this way, for less than the cost of a bag of groceries, you get a pleasant little appliance with two heat settings, 12 thermostat set points, oscillation, and ceramic heating elements. High heat is the typical 1,500 watts, which (unless you happen to be heating an igloo) is more than enough heat for what this appliance is intended for on a desk top, countertop, or at floor level. Really, for those applications, we’d recommend the low-heat setting. The owner’s manual doesn’t say what that is but our clamp-on Fluke meter gave us a reading of 7.6 amps/912 watts. All of those features, and you get one of the better handles we’ve seen in this class of products. The fan has an unintended white noise quality to it; it could be a bit quieter.
―BEST AT FLOOR LEVEL―
Honeywell HCE840B Heat Genius
Watts: 1,500 | Type: Electrical ceramic | Highest grill temperature: 252 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 12.5 | Weight: 4.8 lb.
The aptly-named Heat Genius employs two vertical heating elements, two fans, and a thermostat. You can set the fan speed and temperature to heat a room, or you can set it to heat just at floor level, mid-height, or in the head and chest area. It’s also equipped with a timer that adjusts the heat down over two hours, dropping its output every 30 minutes. After two hours, the heater turns off and remains off. One other feature that we really like is the appliance’s Quiet Mode. It shuts off the lower fan and runs the upper fan on low speed for almost noiseless heat. We wish Honeywell equipped this with a cord wrap for better storage. But that’s a design deficiency shared by most small heaters.
―BEST FOR TAILGATING―
BTU: 68,000, max | Type: Propane gas, 20 pound | Highest grill temp: NA. | Highest recorded amps: NA | Weight: 17.4 lb.
DXH70CFAV Propane Heater
- Powerful and compact
- Runs off cordless tool battery
One of the better heaters in this test and one of the more impressive appliances we’ve seen lately is this DeWalt, built by propane heater company Enerco. If you’re already a 20V Max battery user, this appliance would be a great choice. It’s about as portable as such a large heater can get: move it and a 20-pound propane anywhere. Because it’s battery-powered, you’re not tethered to an outlet, and you’ve got a heating ticket to ride. It’s also reasonably quiet, for such a large heating beast.
―BEST FOR LIVINGROOMS―
Honeywell HCE 323V
Wattage: 1,500 max | Type: Ceramic with fan | Highest grill temp: 217 degrees | Highest recorded amps: 12.67 | Weight: 4.4 lb.
HCE323V Digital Ceramic Tower
This is a well-designed and well made little heater, a nearly flawless execution of what a small heater can be. First, it’s almost noiseless, yet it moves a fair amount of air and quickly heats up a large area around it. That’s also due to a very even heating pattern, based both on our perception of what the heater is putting out and confirmed with our Flir camera and the Fluke thermocouple. Its noiselessness, adjustability, output, and thermostatic control make it perfect for unobtrusive heating in a small home office or even a living room. And in terms of safety, its proximity sensor worked very well in shutting down the heater when something is positioned right in front of it.
―BEST FOR OUTDOORS―
DeWalt DXH 140KTHCF
BTUs: 140,000 | Type: Kerosene-fueled | Highest grill temperature: N.A. | Weight (without fuel): 47 lb.
The DeWalt is a robust heater designed for drafty areas, like construction sites and buildings under renovation. If your garage qualifies as something close to that, so be it. We found that it requires a minimum of two gallons to fire reliably. Yet the fuel cap is in an inconvenient place below the combustion chamber barrel, mystifying on an otherwise well-engineered appliance. (We recommend you get a long-neck flexible spout to fill the tank.) But once it’s loaded, press the on switch, dial the thermostat to the desired temperature, and watch it fire right up. We were pleasantly surprised by several things: its copious heat output, how little current it draws, and how its outside surface does not get hot. Even after a half hour of operation, the barrel surface was only warm, thanks to an insulating air chamber between the barrel’s cover and its inner surface.