Best Portable Heaters

Updated June 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

65 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
212 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best portable heaters

If you live in an area where winter is cruel, you know the cost and discomfort of dealing with cold weather. A portable heater can help to alleviate both of these issues.

With a portable heater, you can keep your home thermostat low and only heat the room you’re in. A portable heater is also a great way to quickly bring the room temperature up to a comfortable level and keep it there. And because it’s portable, this type of heater is easy to take from room to room, so you always have heat where you need it.

When shopping for a portable heater, you’ll find a confusing variety of types, all with different capabilities and features. This buying guide examines all these factors to help you find the portable heater that is right for your needs. We also cover what you can expect to pay for one of these heaters and offer a few suggestions for some of our favorite portable heaters on the market.

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To save money on your electric bill, try to find a portable heater that offers an energy-saver mode.

Key considerations

Convection vs. radiant heating

There are two primary types of heating technologies used in portable heaters: convection heating and radiant heating. Choosing the proper one for your needs is your first major choice when buying a portable heater.

Convection heaters: In these heaters, a fan circulates air around heating elements and then pushes it out into the room. A convection heater is your best bet if you’re heating a single room that you spend a fair amount of time in.

Radiant heaters: These heaters produce more focused — or spot —  heat. Instead of heating the room, a radiant heater works best when directed at one or more people. While this type of heater really only heats certain spots in the room, it can do so relatively quickly. Radiant heaters are often used in offices and bedrooms.

Micathermic heaters: While less common, this third type of heating technology, which uses layers of mica, combines elements of both convection heaters and radiant heaters.

Types of portable heaters

In addition to the heating technologies used by portable heaters use, there are several different types of portable heater. Some of the more common include the following:

Ceramic: This type of heater uses an internal heating element made of ceramic. A ceramic heater is generally safe and long-lasting.

Oil-filled: Oil-filled portable heaters are a type of convection heater. In this type, which resembles a radiator, oil is warmed inside the heater and the heat is moved through the heater and into the room by convection and thermal radiation. This type of heater can heat a room of small to medium size, but it can take longer to warm the space than other types of heaters.

Infrared: This type of radiant heater works either with quartz tubes or tubular heating elements to heat larger rooms.

Features

Shape and size

While most portable heaters are box-like cubes, others are slender towers, while some are realistic simulated fireplaces with an attractive “fire” effect that doubles as a night-light. While most are small, some can be quite large. Since you’re looking for a portable heater, it should be neither too bulky nor too heavy. A more compact size will be easier to move around and fit better in a room where space is an issue.

Heating area

This is one of the biggest questions you’ll face when shopping for a portable heater, and the answer varies from heater to heater. The best answer is that a heater should heat the space you need it to heat. Know the square footage of the room you plan to heat, and buy accordingly. Note that factors such as inadequate insulation and excessive drafts can also affect the size of the area a portable heater can comfortably heat. Both of these conditions mean you’ll have to buy a slightly larger heater. See the FAQ section for more on heating area.

Thermostat

Portable heaters typically have one of two types of thermostat: programmable or adjustable.

Programmable: You set your desired temperature and the heater maintains it, shutting off when the room goes above the selected temperature and turning back on when the room cools.

Adjustable: These thermostats don’t allow you to set the heater to a specific temperature. You select the heat setting (high or low, for example), and the heater runs at that setting.

"One negative of a fan-based convection heater is that it can circulate dust and other allergens around the room, which can cause breathing problems for those suffering from asthma or allergies."
STAFF
BestReviews

Remote control

While not standard, some portable heaters include a remote control that allows you to adjust the heater from across the room. In addition to turning the heater on or off and controlling the temperature, some remote controls also have a timer, so you can automatically shut the heater off or turn it on at specific intervals.

Portability

These heaters are supposed to be portable, so you need an easy way to move them around. Some have casters so you can roll the heater to where you want to use it. For safety purposes, any casters used should be securely attached to the heater and shouldn’t make it susceptible to tipping over. Many portable heaters that lack casters have a handle or some areas built into the heater body that allows it to be easily lifted and moved around, often while still hot.

Cord

Be sure that the cord is long enough to keep the heater away from furniture, drapes, and other flammable objects when it’s in use.

Portable heater prices

Portable heaters start at under $20 and can go for as much as $100 or more. You’ll find most of them in the $20 to $40 range. At the lower end, you can expect simple space heaters with limited controls. These are generally compact, largely ceramic heaters with minimal adjustability.

As you spend more, you’ll find heaters with a better build and more attention to design elements such as artificial fire effects. Features such as built-in timers, programmable thermostats, and remote controls are frequently found here, as are the majority of oil-filled radiant heaters. What you won’t find is more power, because heaters capable of 1,500 watts are pretty standard at all price levels.

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For your safety
For safety, always run a portable heater on a flat surface away from both foot traffic and furniture and other flammable objects.
STAFF
BestReviews

Tips

  • Buy a new model. When purchasing a portable heater, always go with a newer model. These incorporate the latest safety and efficiency features to protect your family and save you money.
  • Don’t plug an electric heater into an extension cord or power strip. Electric heaters draw a considerable amount of power and can easily overheat extension cords or power strips, which can cause a fire. The safest way to use an electric heater is to plug it directly into the wall.
  • Pay attention to room size. Purchasing a heater that is too large for the space you plan to use it in will cost you more upfront and down the road in terms of higher utility bills. If you want to heat a room with a high ceiling, you’ll need a heater with about 25% more power than you would need for a room with a regular ceiling.
  • Use the right heater in bathrooms. Some portable heaters are capable of withstanding excessive moisture and are better protected against the possibility of shocks.
  • Check your insurance. Before using one of these portable heaters for the first time, check your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to verify that the heater is allowed.
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Oscillating heaters rotate left and right, blowing heat over a wider area more quickly.

FAQ

Q. What size heater should I buy?
A.
To verify that you’re buying the right size heater, measure the width and length of the space where you want to use it. Multiply the two numbers together to find the square footage of the room. Compare this to the heater specifications in the listing. If the listing only mentions the wattage of the portable heater, you can still find out what size heater you need. For each square foot of the room you want to heat, you need 10 watts of power. For example, for 100 square feet, you need 1,000 watts of power.


Q. How loud are these heaters?
A.
The noise that portable heaters make can range from none to annoying. Most are somewhere in the middle. If the heater has a fan, it’s going to create noise, but this is usually a minor issue. Oil-filled radiant heaters and other fanless heaters are silent. If you’re worried about heater noise, you can compare the decibel level of the heater (listed in the specs) with that of several other heaters.


Q. Are these heaters safe to use?
A.
Portable heaters can produce a considerable amount of heat, so you should know what kinds of safety features one has before purchasing it. This is especially important if you have young children or pets in the house. Heaters that have been certified as safe by reputable testing labs, such as UL or CSA, should be on your radar if safety is a paramount concern. Some safety features to keep an eye out for (and not all heaters have all of these) include the following:

  • Cool exterior: Is the housing of the heater cool to the touch when it’s running?
  • Protected heating elements: This is especially important around paws or small hands.
  • Tip-over protection: This shuts the heater off if it’s accidentally knocked over.
  • Overheat protection: This shuts the heater off if it becomes too hot.
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