Updated February 2022
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Buying guide for Best radiant heaters

If you live in a cold climate or just have a drafty home, staying warm can be difficult, even with a central heating system in place. A space heater can definitely help, though, and a radiant heater is one of the most effective space heater options out there.

Unlike a traditional convection heater that circulates warm air through an entire room, a radiant heater passes heat directly to the people and items in the room. This allows the space around you to heat up more quickly and evenly. Radiant heaters work especially well for rooms in which you don’t move around much, like a bedroom. Because radiant heaters don’t blow dust and dander around, they’re a great for choice people with allergies.

When looking for a radiant heater, you’ll have some important decisions to make. Should you get a portable or stationary heater? A large model or several small ones?

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A radiant heater doesn’t dry out the air in a room the way other space heaters can, which means it’s less likely to cause issues if you have asthma or sinusitis.

Key considerations

Portable vs. stationary

Most radiant heaters are portable, so you can easily move your heat source from one spot to another. However, some are permanent fixtures that you install in a wall or ceiling. A permanent installation may be more appropriate if you only have one area of your home you want to heat. For most people, however, the versatility of a portable heater is more appealing.

Portable radiant heaters tend to be less expensive than permanent installations. And, if you’re a renter, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of asking permission to drill holes in your wall or ceiling.

Power type

Most radiant heaters intended for indoor use are powered by electricity. A power cord plugs into a standard wall outlet, allowing you to place the heater anywhere in that vicinity. However, you can also find gas-powered radiant heaters. Some models use propane; these work well for outdoor use, such as on a patio. A propane radiant heater is also a good choice if you’re looking for a way to heat an outdoor worksite.

Other gas-powered radiant heaters run on natural gas, though certain models are only permitted for outdoor use in some states and counties in the U.S. You must have a gas line at your home to connect the heater, so installation must be done by a qualified technician.

Heater size

Heater size matters: you want something large enough to heat the desired area but not so large that it significantly drives up your electricity bill. To determine the heating radius of a radiant heater, consider its wattage. For the most effective heating, you’ll need approximately 10 watts per square foot of space. Here are some general guidelines.

  • For 100 square feet, opt for a 1000-watt heater.
  • For 125 square feet, opt for a 1250-watt heater.
  • For 150 square feet, opt for a 1500-watt heater.

Keep in mind that using a radiant heater as a supplemental heating source to your main HVAC system usually allows it to heat a larger area.

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Expert Tip
For the greatest versatility, opt for a radiant heater with a cord that’s approximately 70 inches long. You’ll have more placement options for the heater this way.

Radiant heater features

Digital controls and adjustable thermostat

Some radiant heaters have simple button or dial controls. These are easy to use but don’t offer as much precision as a heater with digital controls. If you opt for a digitally controlled heater, look for one with a clear, easy-to-read LCD display. The display should tell you the current temperature, your chosen heat setting, and any particular heating modes that are in use.

Digitally controlled radiant heaters usually feature an adjustable thermostat as well. This allows you to choose a specific temperature for the heater. This feature affords you great control over how warm your space becomes, so it can be extremely handy for keeping energy costs down and your home as comfortable as possible.

Heating settings

Most radiant heaters offer at least two heat settings with different wattages, such as “high” and “low.” For example, a low setting may operate at 900 watts, while a high setting may operate at 1500 watts. Even models with an adjustable thermostat have multiple heat settings for when you want to heat your room quickly and easily.

Some radiant heaters have an economy mode that automatically shuts the heater off when it reaches a specific temperature. If the temperature begins to drop, the heater turns back on.


If you want your home to be warm as soon as you get home from work or school, choose a radiant heater with a timer. You can program the times at which the heater will turn on and off, so it’s always working exactly as you want it to. Most timers can be set to run for a span of nine to 12 hours.

Safety features

As with any space heater, it’s important to choose a radiant heater with safety features that give you peace of mind. Safety features to look for include the following.

  • A cool-touch exterior helps keep the outside of the heater cool so you don’t have to worry about children or pets coming into contact with it.

  • A tip-over switch automatically cuts the power to the heater if it tips over.

  • An auto-shutoff feature turns the heater off when it reaches a specific temperature to prevent overheating.


If portability is a priority, pay attention to any features that would make a radiant heater easier to move. Some heaters have wheels or casters that allow you to roll it from room to room. Others have handles that make picking the heater up and carrying it to another spot easier.

Remote control

Want to adjust your radiant heater settings without getting off the sofa? Many radiant heaters come with a remote control for this very purpose. Most remotes have controls for all heater features, so you can change the heat setting, adjust the temperature, or set the timer without having to get up.

Radiant heater prices

You could buy a radiant heater for as little as $15 or as much as $475, depending on what features and wattage you want.


Radiant heaters of 900 watts or less are designed to heat small spaces. These heaters have few special features, and the price reflects that. You can buy an entry-level radiant heater for $15 to $60.


Radiant heaters in this range can heat slightly larger spaces, and their wattage varies from 900 all the way up to 1,500. Priced from $60 to about $250, these products may have special features, such as digital controls or a timer. As you might expect, the more you pay, the more wattage and features you’re likely to get.


The most expensive radiant heaters can heat large spaces. Wattage is 1,500 at minimum and may be more. Expect to pay between $250 and $475 for a heater like this, and expect a bevy of great features to accompany your purchase: digital controls, timer, adjustable thermostat, and more.

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Did you know?
Because radiant heaters warm people and objects directly, the heat is less likely to escape through windows.


  • Keep all flammable materials, including furniture, bedding, and curtains, three feet or more from your radiant heater.

  • For efficiency, position your radiant heater so it’s approximately one to two feet from the wall to prevent the wall from absorbing the heat that it emits.

  • Closing the door to a room where you place a radiant heater can help trap the heat so the space heats up faster and stays warm longer.

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If you’re concerned about safety, opt for a radiant heater that has been verified by Underwriters Laboratory (UL), an independent testing organization that determines whether a product meets safety standards.


Q. Is a radiant heater an energy-efficient choice?
If you’re going to be sitting close to it, yes. A radiant heater warms you and the objects around you directly rather than working hard to heat up the entire space. Radiant heaters work especially well in small spaces because you can easily position yourself to be directly in line with the heater.

Q. How noisy is a radiant heater?
Radiant heaters are extremely quiet. In fact, most don’t make any noise at all. They’re able to work silently because they don’t have a fan that forces the warm air throughout the space like other space heaters do.

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