In cold climates, small space heaters are often used to supplement the main heating system. They may help reduce the temperature settings of heating systems by some degrees, in some rooms. Or can be used to keep a small room or a person warm.
But they may have a larger role, in other climates.
Space heaters vs. Central Heating
Very high levels of insulation and sealing, high-performance windows and a good home design will keep the heat inside the house and reduce the home heating needs to low levels, that can be met by smaller systems or even by small space heaters; if you are in new construction or planning a major renovation, consider this strategy.
Most portable heaters – called radiant heaters - are designed to heat people in their line of sight.
Most small heaters - ceramic and quartz heaters, for instance - are radiant heaters.
And that raises a question? Which type of small heaters should we choose? Radiant or convective?
Gas is cheaper than electricity. The price of gas can be 1/2 or 1/3 of electricity, per unit of heat. Why then not use small gas heaters instead of portable electric heaters?
One of the reasons is that unvented gas heaters are unsafe. On the other hand, electric heaters are cheaper to buy and to install, and safer.
That explains a lot. But vented wall gas heaters can be a good alternative to electric heaters, and since they have a larger capacity they can be used in other more ambitious heating strategies.
Electric heating is safe and inexpensive to buy, install and maintain, but expensive to run.
For extensive use, only electric heat pumps are competitive with gas. They are the “new electric furnaces".
Fans can help to distribute heat more evenly and efficiently, but they... make noise. Another possible disadvantage is that they may re-circulate dust or allergens throughout the room.
Electric baseboard heaters and oil-filled portable heaters are quieter than other small heaters, and can provide steady temperatures. But they also take longer to heat up, and they consume more energy..
Electric ceiling and electric wall panels have an extremely quick response time. They are relatively inexpensive and can heat almost instantaneously the people in their line of sight - as long as they are turned off as people leave rooms.
See, about their advantages and disadvantages: Ceiling and Wall Electric Radiant Panels
Electric thermal storage heaters are designed to take advantage of off-peak electricity rates.
They only are cost-effective in areas where utilities have off-peak electricity rates and as long as the heat losses – to which they are prone and that can go up to 50% or more - are minimized.
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Our Video on Small Space Heaters: