Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter
Space heaters are essential for use in between seasons, and in poorly heated homes or extensions. From bathroom fan heaters to kerosene heaters, gas heaters to oil-filled radiators, there are many different types of space heater. Looking for an inexpensive and efficient portable heater? Read on for our top tips!
- Heating capacity
What is a space heater?
A space heater is a type of additional heating device designed to be used alongside your central heating system in order to increase the temperature of the room it is placed in.
Space heaters may operate using different power sources such as gas, petrol, bioethanol or, more commonly, electricity.
These portable devices may be mounted on feet or wheels. Their size, shape and design will vary depending on their heating technology and power.
Why purchase a space heater?
Space heaters are practical for combating the first low temperatures that occur between seasons (the end of winter or start of autumn).
These portable heaters mean you don't have to set up a permanent heating system in a room where it is not necessary (e.g. a guest room, workshop, etc.). They allow you to increase the temperature of your home during very cold spells and/or to make up for an inefficient central heating system.
A space heater that does not require electricity (such as gas or petrol heaters) can provide a secondary heat source in case of power cuts.
Different types of space heater
Space heaters are categorised in terms of their power source.
Electric space heaters
There are several different types of electric space heaters. Their heat production varies depending on their type of heat technology and distribution.
These devices heat up quickly and heat by convection.
Convector heaters are lightweight and mounted on feet; some models are equipped with a fan.
These inertia radiators are filled with heat transfer fluid and release radiant heat. They heat up less quickly but are more cost-effective to run as they store the heat even after they are switched off.
Oil-filled radiators are heavy and are therefore mounted on castor wheels.
These heaters are lightweight and send out heat via a fan which is housed behind an electric element.
They are small, lightweight and can be placed on a counter top or shelf. They heat up quickly and are suitable for small, well-insulated rooms.
These devices release radiant heat and can also be equipped with a fan for more efficient heat-up times.
Heavier and more fragile than fan heaters, these heaters can also be placed on a flat surface.
These heaters are lightweight and take up as much room as convector heaters, but release radiant heat instead.
Mounted on wheels, these heaters are popular as they offer instant heat.
They can be fixed or simply put in place and offer a range of design options from traditional to modern.
Fireplace heaters are designed to fit seamlessly into homes and act as a decorative element.
Heated towel rails
Electric towel rails function in a similar way to space heaters. However, they are considered part of your central heating system if powered by hot water from the boiler. Electric towel rails can also be programmed. Towel rails can be fixed in place or free-standing and vary in size. These inertia heaters release radiant heat.
Gas space heaters
In general, gas space heaters are bulky, less attractive and usually require a 13 kg gas bottle to function. It is sometimes possible to use a 6 kg gas bottle but you will have to adapt your pressure regulator accordingly. Gas space heaters do not require an electrical connection and are usuallymounted on wheels.
Catalytic gas heaters
These heaters work by radiant heat technology.
They are mainly used in large rooms thanks to their efficient heating capacity and size.
Infrared gas heaters
Infrared gas heaters are as bulky as catalytic heaters. The gas is distributed and burned on a ceramic tile producing convective and radiant heat transfer.
These heaters are more attractive and are used indoors.Blue flame heaters
Less commonly found than the two previous types of heater, blue flame gas heaters feature a stainless steel burner and produce heat by convection and radiation.
These heaters take up quite a bit of room and are comparable to catalyst heaters in terms of appearance.
Gas site heaters
Gas site heaters are space heaters designed for use on work sites or even in ventilated workshops or garages. However, you will have to work close to the heater as they produce low intensity radiant heat.
These heaters are connected directly to a gas bottle via a pressure regulator and hose.
Kerosene space heaters
There are two different types of kerosene space heaters: conventional and forced-air.
Conventional kerosene heaters
Conventional kerosene heaters may feature one or two burning chambers; the latter type are more cost-effective to run and offer more efficient performance. These heaters do not require electricity to function, offer variable heat settings and generally operate using two LR20 batteries which are used to light the flame.
They offer an operation time of around 15 hours and the wick must be replaced regularly. Designed to produce radiant heat, these models are rather heavy and can be placed on the ground
Forced-air kerosene heaters
These heaters function using both kerosene and electricity to run the inverter technology (a type of control system). They can be programmed (with delayed start up to 7 days), self-regulate as soon as a set temperature is reached and feature a fan system. They are also more attractive and produce less odour.
Bioethanol heaters are best for those who place more importance on design than energy performance. They can be placed or fixed in place but are not recommended for households with young children. They operate using bioethanol and must only be used in a well-ventilated room. These heaters can be large in size and can be placed on or fixed to a flat surface, such as a coffee table.
Choosing the right space heater for your room
All heaters vary in terms of heating technology, shape, weight and size. These factors make certain models better suited to certain rooms.
Oil filled radiator
Heated towel rail
In the grand scheme of things, there's nothing stopping you from using a bioethanol heater in a garage or a kerosene heater in a bedroom. However, some space heaters are simply better suited to certain room types owing to differences in performance, thermal comfort, odour emission (however slight), heat distribution and design.
Choosing a power rating for your space heater
It is easy to calculate the right power rating for your space heater as it just depends on the size or volume of the room where it will be used. You should account for roughly 100 watts (or 0.1 kW) per m². First, you'll need to calculate the size of the room by multiplying the length by the width of the room in metres. Next, multiply this number by 0.1 kW to find out how much power you need.
If you want to calculate based on the volume of the room you plan on heating, you will have to multiply the length and breadth of the room by its height before multiplying the result by 0.04 kW.
If you intend to use your space heater in several rooms, make your calculations in line with the largest room it will be used in and opt for a model with variable heat settings.
6 tips for choosing the right space heater
- Be sure to carefully calculate the power rating required with as much accuracy as possible and measure your heater up to the largest room it will be used in.
- Choose a space heater with several heat settings so that it can be used in several different rooms.
- In order to heat up a bathroom quickly, go for an electric heater equipped with a fan. It's with noting that electric heated towel rails occasionally offer this feature.
- Bioethanol fireplaces and conventional kerosene heaters are not recommended for households with young children.
- If you are looking for a space heater for a bedroom or living room, electric fireplaces offer the most attractive option.
- If you plan on purchasing a kerosene heater for a smaller room and you're not terribly handy, opt for an electric model rather than a conventional one – or think twice about your decision – as the cost of paying someone to replace the wick and ignition system can be pricey.
Guide written by:
Sebastian, self-taught DIY-er, Exeter, 192 guides
Redo a roof with wooden beams? Check.Advise Mister everybody in the DIY shop? Check.Redo the bathroom plumbing? Check.Fit together, build the walls, paint a partition, throw my hammer in a rage thinking that it will fix the problem? Check. The DIY motto ? Learning is better than delegating… well, it's also a question about your wallet! The satisfaction? The beer at the end of the job! What do the best have in common? The influence of Gyro Gearloose, Mac Gyver and Carol Smiley depending on your generation, a good dose of curiosity, a average hand-eye coordination and a taste for risks… and if it doesn't work, try again! Advise you? I'll do my best!