An energy efficient indoor space heater can help save money on the energy bill this winter. Here are our top picks for energy efficient space heaters that can be moved from room to room.
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A portable space heater is an excellent addition to any eco-friendly home. Why? Because a small space heater moved from room to room as needed can let you keep your overall heating bill (and energy usage) low. After all, there’s no sense in heating a whole house when you spend most of your time in one room. Portable space heaters also let the more cold-sensitive members of your household stay warm and cozy while you don’t overheat.
My wife and I recently moved to a new home and we set up my home office in the basement, which is a lot colder than the rest of the house. As such, I quickly invested in a small energy efficient space heater for my home office, so I can feel cozy and comfortable without blasting hot air into the rest of the house unnecessarily.
If you’re looking to trim your utility bills, make sure to also take a look at our top picks for energy-efficient air conditioners, as well as our favorite smart thermostats for your eco-friendly home.
Below, you’ll find our rankings for the best energy-efficient space heaters. We believe every model on this list is a smart buy, but you can read more about our methodology to learn how we make these decisions.
Highlights: Our top choice for an all-season space heater and fan with a small footprint and plenty of oomph.
No need to spend hundreds of dollars on a Dyson tower. If you’ve only got a slim space in which to fit a heater and a fan, the Lasko FH500 Tower is for you. And even if you’ve got plenty of room, this is still our top pick for an eco-friendly space heater.
The Lasko FH500 ceramic heater is great at heating a whole room and can also be used without the oscillating fan as a personal heater for direct heat to one spot. It stays cool to the touch, has a tip-over shut-off, and creates just the right amount of white noise, so it’s a great choice for the bedroom and for households with kids and pets.
The Lasko is a 3-speed ceramic heater with 4 fan speeds. It can quickly heat a room while maintaining excellent air circulation. And it fits in a 13” by 13” space, standing 42” tall, making it just the ticket for small city apartments where you just don’t have room for a separate fan and heater.
When the time comes for a fan and space heater for my eco-nursery, this is the model I’m favoring, especially as it’s lightweight, easy to assemble, easy to clean the filter, comes with a carry handle, has optional oscillation, an energy-efficient adjustable digital thermostat and 8-hr programmable timer and a remote control.
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Like all Lasko heaters, this one has a 3-year limited guarantee and comes from a company that’s been making appliances for more than 100 years. Lasko are also one of my top choices because they take corporate social responsibility seriously, including being committed to environmentally friendly manufacturing (using recycled materials and taking part in recycling programs), and complying with the European Union’s Recast Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive 2011/65/EU (RoHS 2). This covers lead, mercury, hexavalent chromium, and cadmium, as well as brominated flame-retardants (polybrominated biphenyl and polybrominated diphenyl ether).
Lasko also have a policy of not working with suppliers they can’t be sure aren’t engaging in human trafficking, slavery, or child labor, or prison labor. And they are also committed to a conflict-free supply chain, including not using tin, tantalum, gold, and tungsten sourced from conflict-affected mines in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Highlights: Low-energy, low-cost, super-efficient mini heater from a great company.
If all you need is a little bit of heat to keep your toes or hands warm, the Lasko 101 My Heat Personal Heater is a great choice and costs less than $30. This low-wattage (200 W!) mini space heater puts out 682 Btu, stands just 6” tall and has a 4” square footprint.
No assembly required, this one is good to go as soon as you open the box. So, if you’re suddenly working from home in a chilly make-do office space, the Lasko 101 may become your new best friend. Handily, this model has a 6-foot long cord and is compact and portable, so it’ll work pretty much anywhere you need to feel cozy quickly. It draws just 2 Amps, fits a standard plug, and is an energy efficient ceramic heater that turns on with the flip of a switch. It’s not loud and it’s not fancy, but you can choose between four colors (white, black, blue, and purple).
As for safety, the My Heat has an overheating shut-off for safety, and on/off lights, as well as a cool exterior and self-regulating ceramic heating element.
Highlights: Highly efficient, well-designed space heater with auto-climate control and a generous 5-year warranty.
The Vornado VMH600 is a fantastic space heater with a clear LED temperature display, remote control, auto-climate control, and excellent heat circulation to quickly warm even a fairly large room. The low heat uses 750 W and 6.25 Amps and the high heat setting uses 1500 W and 12.5 Amps, making it a great choice for a variety of needs.
This smart appliance also makes smart decisions to adjust heat and air circulation to maintain your chosen temperature. There’s a fan only option for staying cool in summer, and there’s a 12-hour timer to prevent accidental overuse. The Vornado is also relatively quiet, at least at its low setting, and weighs just 10 lbs, so you can lift it with ease.
I love that this is made with stainless steel, making it a lot more robust and eco-friendly compared to more plastic heavy models. Still, it has a cool-touch exterior to keep pets and children safe, as well as tip-over protection and an automatic safety shut-off.
The Vornado also has a 5-year warranty that is very generous in an industry where most other companies barely offer a 12-month warranty. And the customer service team is based in the USA. That said, Vornado don’t seem to have anything in the way of a corporate social responsibility policy, so they’re easily beaten by Lasko on that front.
Highlights: Fully-assembled, lightweight, self-regulating ceramic fireplace style heater from a great company.
The Lasko CA20100 Ultra Ceramic Fireplace Heater has a space-saving design with an easy grip handle and 3 settings (one high heat, one low, and one flame-only). It has a quiet fan, self-regulating ceramic for rapid heat, and an automatic overheat protection, as well as a cool-touch window and tip-over shut-off. The 6-foot cord makes it easy to position and it has a GFI plug, making it safe for use in bathrooms and other rooms that might be damp.
It’s easy to keep this heater in great condition thanks to a simple back access panel that lets you vacuum up dust to increase efficiency. Still, should something go wrong, rest assured that this heater comes with a 3-year warranty. And, as I’ve mentioned above, Lasko earn top marks for their CSR, with a bunch of environmental initiatives and fair labor practice policies.
If you want a more traditional looking fireplace type heater, check out the Duraflame DFS-550-21 Maxwell Electric Heater (View Price on Amazon). This one is a lightweight, cozy feeling fireplace style heater that is efficient and cool to the touch. It can pump out 4,600 Btu and easily heat a 400 sq. ft. room using 1,000 to 1,500 Watts and it looks darn good doing it. That said, the Duraflame heater is about twice the price of the Lasko and is made by Twin-Star, a company that doesn’t have a great reputation for customer service, let alone CSR. So, if you can, go for the Lasko.
Highlights: Wall-mounted or floor-standing energy efficient micathermic panel heater from a trusted brand.
The De’Longhi Mica Thermic Panel Heater is a great option if you need or want to mount your space heater on a wall. It can also sit on the floor and has both handles and wheels for ease of moving. The heater is lightweight and relatively thin, so it’s probably good that it has a tip-over automatic shut-off as well as an overheat safety shut-off. It can get pretty hot when mounted on a wall, so be careful where you mount it and what’s behind it.
The thermostat has two power settings, high at 1500 W and low at 750 W, and this heater can easily heat medium to large rooms, up to 300 sq. ft. in size. Because the panel has no fan, it’s very quiet even at the higher setting. The adjustable thermostat, multiple heat settings, and indicator lights make it easy to use.
My top tip: run this panel on high heat for an hour with the windows open and a fan to disperse air as some customers report a noxious smelling factory residue that needs to burn off initially. This is probably a good idea for most space heaters.
De’Longhi are a bit late to the game in terms of corporate social responsibility, but it does seem that they’re finally taking it seriously. They released their first sustainability report in 2017 and another in 2018, which is also when they created a sustainability steering committee comprising upper management at the global company.
They’ve a long way to go to catch up with Lasko on this front (let alone Smeg or Bosch, their competitors for other small appliances), but they’re on the right track. This includes optimizing operations at their factories to improve energy efficiency and reduce CO2 emission (they reported a 7% decrease in 2018 compared to 2017). Here’s hoping they continue to do better!
How to Choose the Right Eco-Friendly Heater
You need a space heater, but how do you work out what size and type of space heater to buy? Typically, space heaters range in capacity from 10,000 British thermal units (Btu) to 40,000 Btu per hour. They are powered by electricity, propane, natural gas, and kerosene. Given how the latter three energy sources are fossil fuels and ruin air quality, your best bet is an electric space heater, ideally run on renewable energy. If you’re off-grid and need a back-up oil-filled radiator, check out the Costway (View Price on Amazon).
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Thankfully, portable space heaters are around three times more energy-efficient than fireplaces, and far easier to move around as needed (go for a lightweight model and/or one on wheels or with a carry handle). They’re also a lot safer and more versatile, with convection, radiant, infrared, ceramic, and panel heaters available. How do space heaters work? Here’s a quick summary of each type:
- Convection heaters – usually the most energy-efficient for large, enclosed spaces. They warm the surrounding air, which means they take a while to heat a room but the effect lasts longer once the heater is turned off.
- Radiant and infrared heaters – they offer direct heat and warm up fast, but the warmth is lost almost immediately when you turn off the heater.
- Ceramic heaters – made with a high-resistance ceramic heating element and aluminum baffles to absorb and then emit heat, these heaters circulate hot air well but stay cool to the touch. They can direct heat as needed but are also great for warming up a whole room. They’re super energy efficient as ceramic has very high resistance that increases with more power running through it!
- Panel (micathermic) heaters – combine radiant and convection heating to heat up quickly and help spread warm air around a room.
Portable Heater Safety and Efficiency
The most energy-efficient space heaters are those that push air out into a room, rather than just offering a narrow strip of directed warmth. As such, you’ll want to invest in a space heater that has an oscillation system to ensure even heat distribution. These can quickly warm a room, keeping overall use low.
You’ll also probably want a model with a timer, to avoid accidentally letting the heater run for hours unnecessarily. A timer also lets you set a heater to warm up a room just before you expect to use it, such as just before you get home from walking the dog. Some models have programmable capacity, so you can set the heater to run Monday to Friday but not on weekends, for instance. And some are able to be controlled via smartphone, so you never need to worry yourself into returning to the house in case you left the heater on.
Naturally, the best space heaters have a simple thermostat, so it doesn’t keep chugging away even when the room is warm and cozy. Avoid any heaters that don’t have an automatic shut-off as these are both wasteful and a safety risk. Heaters should also have an overheating or kill switch. This will cut power if the heater itself gets so hot that it might fry the circuits or start a fire. If this gets triggered, you usually have to wait fifteen minutes or so for the heater to cool sufficiently to restart safely.
Speaking of safety, it’s best not to let a heater run unattended and you should always plug heaters directly into an outlet, not into an extension cord or power strip. And don’t bury the cord under rugs or carpet or use the heater in a wet room. For households with small children, pets, and other vulnerable individuals, it’s also smart to choose a heater that will stay cool to the touch, such as a ceramic heater.
Now you know a few of the features to look for, how about the thermal output of your heater? Ideally, you’ll find a heater that is capable at its highest setting of heating the largest room in which you might use it and that has mid-range and low settings that will be adequate for smaller spaces. For a small home office, a 750 Watt heater may be perfectly adequate, while heating a larger living space may require 1,500 Watts.
Noise is also an important consideration, especially if you’re looking for a heater for your home office where you’ll be taking calls. Some space heaters are horribly noisy, beep incessantly for no good reason, and are an awful distraction. Others are relatively quiet and run with a tolerable level of white noise.
Finally, if you’re buying a space heater for a room that gets cold in winter and hot in summer, consider a heater that also has a fan-only option. After all, this can save you money and prevent unnecessary additional resource use for a separate home appliance.
- Leaving a heater on unattended
- Plugging a heater into an extension cord or power strip
- Burying heater cords beneath rugs or carpet
- Heaters that don’t stay cool to the touch
- An oscillation system for even heat distribution
- Automatic shut-off features
- A fan-only option to get double the use out of your heater
- A timer feature to cater heat times to your needs
Make Your Space Heater More Energy Efficient
So, now you’ve (hopefully) found the perfect space heater for your needs; how about making it even more energy efficient? Here are a few quick tips to improve efficiency and feel extra cozy in your space:
- Wear a sweater – yep. Why spend money on heating a whole room when you can conserve your own body heat way more efficiently with a lovely sweater and slippers? (We’ve got a list of sustainable cashmere sweaters you may like!)
- Clean your heaters – regularly clearing dust off the grill and body will help improve efficiency and keep you from recirculating airborne allergens!
- Keep it to 21 degrees Celsius (69.8 F) – any higher is just wasteful. Put on a sweater!
- Use foil or another reflector to reflect heat – especially for infrared, convection, or oil-filled radiators, a reflective foil behind the heater can help send more heat out into the room.
- Put up curtains and use draught excluders – if you’re working late or in a room that doesn’t get sun anyway, curtains can really help to keep heat in, as can a good draught excluder under the door. A rubber seal excluder or even a homemade knitted sausage dog draught excluder can help.