General Heating FAQ
All electric heaters are 100% efficient - they convert all of the electrical energy they use into useful heat. However, they are markedly different in the way they distribute the heat into a room.
The heater you use in front of the television may not be the best kind of heater for a bedroom or for a study. To help you find the best heater for your needs, we've put together this list of frequenlty asked questions.
Did you know...
Infrared Heaters (or Radiant Heaters) transfer thermal energy via electromagnetic waves, and all infrared heaters share one common characteristic: heat is emitted or radiated from the heated object or substance, and only objects are warmed (as opposed to entire areas). They are relatively quiet, and no contact or medium between two bodies is needed for this energy transfer. This also makes these heaters very energy efficient. In terms of practical applications, the efficacy of an infrared heater depends on matching the emitted wavelength and the absorption spectrum of the heated material. In general, infrared heaters are great for industrial use such as warehouses and even greenhouses where high temperatures are required quickly, when temperature gradients are needed, or when areas need to be heated in a targeted way. Click here to read more about infrared heaters.
How do I find the type of heater I need?
Choose the type of heater you need based on the size of the room, how the room is used, and how well insulated it is.
Living rooms, family rooms and other large living spaces need background warmth. Heat pumps are the best long-term choice, but panel heaters, electric fireplaces, wall heaters and baseboard heaters are also suitable for providing steady, consistent heat over large areas. To provide spot heating to specific areas - say you're watching TV or standing at the kitchen sink - a portable fan heater or radiant heater will do the job.
For garages, workshops and other other service areas that may be drafty and poorly insulated, powerful fan-forced heaters and radiant heaters do a superior job of keeping occupants comfortable.
For additional information about how to choose a Heater, click here to read our Heater Guide.
What are the different types of heaters?
Heater technology falls into three major categories:
Forced-air heaters have built-in fans that push hot air out and around the room. They are the best choice to quickly heat up a room. However, the fan can be noisy and kick up dust and allergens into the air. They are the most common type of space heater.
Convection heaters are designed to provide background warmth. They warm the air nearby, and the warm air circulates by natural convection around the room. Because they don't have fans, they operate very quietly, which makes them ideal for living spaces. However, it can take longer for your room to reach your ideal temperature. These days, many convection heaters have fans, which our tests have shown provides faster warm-up and more even heating. Baseboard heaters and oil-filled radiators are the most common types of convection heaters.
Radiant heaters use electromagnetic waves and reflectors to heat the objects they are pointed at. They are ideal for use outdoors or in poorly insulated areas where it would be impossible to heat the air to a comfortable temperature. Patio heaters are an example of radiant heaters.
Outside these major distinctions, there are many varieties of heaters available to consumers. For a complete list of heater types, click here.
How many feet will a normal space heater heat?
Most 120 volt space heaters are rated up to 1500 watts (and 12.5 amps) and should heat an insulated area up to 150 sq. ft. (with 10 foot ceilings). Our electric garage heaters are perfect for insulated areas around 400 square feet.
Are space heaters safe?
Though stories of fires caused by space heaters make the news each winter, in fact there are fewer than 900 fires in the U.S. each year that are the result of a space heater - just 2% of the fires due to residential heating annually. And in most cases these fires are the result of improper use. As long as you follow common sense safety precautions and operate the heater in accordance with manufacturer directions, you should have no reason to worry for your safety. Learn more about space heater safety by clicking here.
How can I save money with a space heater?
The U.S. Department of Energy has stated that for every degree you lower thermostat on your central heating, you can save 3% on your energy bills. With space heaters, you can turn down the thermostat and pay to heat only the rooms you are actually using. Electric heaters are 100% efficient, with every bit of electricity turned into usable heat. And with a space heater you won't lose heat in the ducts as it travels from the furnace. Learn more about energy efficient heating here.
What are the general key features of a heater?
Some of the features to look for when choosing a heater are:
Safety - Your heater should have built-in safety features such as overheat cutoff and a tip-over switch. Also confirm that a space heater is certified by a national testing laboratory such as UL.
Coverage Area - Usually listed in square feet, this measurement tells you how much space a heater can effectively warm. Conditions such as insulation, exposure and use can affect the actual effectiveness.
Watts & Volts - The watts listed on a heater indicate how much electricity it uses, and how much heat it can produce. The voltage tells you what kind of circuit is needed to operate the heater. Standard household voltage is 120V, and is capable of operating up to 1500 watts. 240 volt heaters are available if you the proper circuits installed, and provide more power, more efficient heat. Learn more about watts and volts by clicking here.
Portability - Can the heater be moved from room to room or is it designed to be hard-wired into your electrical system?
Thermostats - A built-in thermostat help maintains a comfortable temperature in your room and conserves electricity. While not necessary for a portable heater, a thermostat can help it run more efficiently. Hardwired heaters require a thermostat, so if one is not included it will need to be purchased separately.
Timers - Program your heater to turn off automatically so you never have to worry about forgetting it when you go to bed or leave the house.
What about natural gas, propane, kerosene or oil heaters?
Many people prefer heaters powered by gas, propane or oil, because the fuel is less expensive when compared to electricity. They are also capable of producing a greater blast of heat than the average electric heater. But because oil and gas burning heaters produce carbon monoxide when used, they should never be used indoors. However, for outdoor use - patios, camping, construction sites - gas, propane and oil heaters provide an inexpensive and convenient way to keep warm. Read more about the benefits of gas heaters here.