September 25, 2023   8:11pm

Text Size

No sooner did I run into a neighbor in my pre-war apartment building complaining about his lack of heat than I saw this useful article on space heaters …

In The New York Times, “Heat, Yes. Chestnuts, No.” Jay Romano educates us about space heaters. Here are some highlights (the bold type is ours):

WITH the fluctuating prices of heating oil and natural gas, many homeowners are using electric space heaters to keep costs manageable during the winter.

The space-heater industry is responding on two fronts, by marketing designs that look as if they’d be at home in George Jetson’s living room, and by promoting safety awareness.

An electric space heater heats a room in one of two ways (or a combination of the two): through convection, in which heated air rises out of the top of the unit and unheated air is drawn in from the bottom, or radiant heating, in which infrared rays heat the objects and people in a room.

There are four basic types of heater: fan-forced, baseboard and oil-filled radiator heaters (all of which use convection heat) and flat-panel heaters (which use convection or radiant heat, or a combination).

With fan-forced and baseboard heaters, hot air generated by a heating element in the unit circulates through it and into the room. In a fan-forced heater, though, a fan circulates the air, while a baseboard unit relies solely on natural convection.

An oil-filled radiator also relies on natural convection, but it is filled with oil that heats up relatively slowly and stays hot even after the unit is turned off by the thermostat. Flat-panel heaters, relatively new, have a high-tech look and, like flat-screen TVs, can sit on a stand or hang on a wall.

All portable heaters that plug into regular wall outlets can draw a maximum of 1,500 watts, producing 4,500 B.T.U.’s of heat, or enough to provide supplemental heat for a small- to medium-size room, said Jim Nanni, a manager in the appliance and home-improvement department of Consumers Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports.

But some have features making them more efficient than others. For example, Mr. Nanni said, temperature control is crucial. Consumers should look for units with thermostats that turn them off or on, based on the setting.

Also look for safety features, he said, including those with children and pets in mind. Some units shut off if tipped over, and others do so if the front grill is touched. But even if you buy a unit with those features, “keep the heater away from curtains, drapes and upholstery,” he said. “And never run the wire under a carpet.”

Consumer Reports evaluated heating units more than a year ago and reported its findings in October 2007. It has not retested since then, Mr. Nanni said, so he could not say if better ones have come along. But the top four were the DeLonghi SafeHeat Flat Panel Micathermic HHP 1500, a convection heater (about $89; prices for all heaters at; the Honeywell Mini Tower 360 Surround HZ-2200 convection heater ($23.95); the Holmes Quartz Tower HQH319, a radiant heater ($65); and the Pelonis Disc Furnace VHC-461 convection heater (about $ $110, but the maker says it is out of stock until June).

NOTE from SNOETY: I’ve used other models of DeLonghi space heaters and have been very happy with them. Do recognize that all space heaters will impact your electric bill.

No matter the unit, though, the key to saving money is to heat a single room and to lower the temperature in other rooms in the house, said Michael Peterson, a project manager in the Golden, Colo., office of the United States Department of Energy. “We’re not just talking about technology,” he said. “We’re talking about changing behavior.”


In The New York Times, “Heat, Yes. Chestnuts, No.” by Jay Romano, January 21, 2009.

| Share your thoughts