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Buyer's Guide to Wall Mounted Heaters

Updated on September 11, 2018
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Chris enjoys DIY'ing around the house. Electrical, flooring, roofing, foundations, and home maintenance are all in the wheelhouse. Enjoy!

Decorative electric wall mounted heater.
Decorative electric wall mounted heater.

Types of Wall Mount Heaters

There are fuel choices when it comes to wall mount heaters. The three most popular choices for fuel are electric, natural gas, and propane. Other fuel types have attempted to break into the market without much penetration, such as wood fuel pellets.

For most situations, I would recommend either electric or the fuel source currently used within your house. The reasoning is that electric is easy to either do it yourself or fine a qualified person to hook up. The other easier option is to stay compliant with the fuel you already use. This makes it simply branch off a supply line and run to the wall mount heating unit. Again, if you have the knowledge to do this it is a simple task and if you don't feel comfortable, it would be easy to find a qualified person. Let's look at electric, natural gas, and propane in a little more detail. After looking at fuel types we will discuss different types of heat to make your decision on heaters the best possible for your situation.

Common Traits of Wall Mounted Units

There are several traits that most wall mounted units have in common and instead of mentioning these within each type we talk about, we will mention them now. Wall mounted heaters generally heat up rather quickly. Within 60 to 120 seconds, providing quick, quiet, and efficient heat to the area it is installed in.

Most units have thermostats so users can set it not have to worry about keeping vigilant about being too hot or cold. This is nice because of the ease of use provided by the units. I remember having to wake up and put wood in the stove to keep warm, with a wall mounted heater set it and forget it.

These heaters can be used to heat only a living space or as a supplemental heat to offset higher fuel costs. As prices continue to rise, some of the wall mounted heaters look more attractive. The last several years propane has increased in price and some in my area have stated that they need to purchase a large quantity for the supplier to come out at times. This may wreck the budget for the winter if a complete propane tank fill wasn't planned on.

With basic construction skills most people can install a wall mounted heater, and if they don't have the skills there are many in your area that can install them safely and correctly. With the ease of install and simple maintenance, there should be fewer concerns about these heaters.

Descendants of the radiator, the wall mount heaters have become common in households in modern times because of their efficiency of energy and space. The initial innovation came for heating while taking advantage of space for studio apartments and other smaller living areas, and became a space heater for houses as well.

Electrical, natural gas, and propane wall mounted heaters can all be either radiant heat or convection heat. Talking about fuel type, we will discuss different heat types to help you in choosing the best heat type before choosing the best fuel type for your needs.

The cost to run each unit has many variables that are mainly dependent on the heater's efficiency and the heat at which the unit is being ran. In each section, I will include the cost to heat a 10'x10' room with average insulation with the cost of fuel matching the United States national average.

Three heat types.
Three heat types.

Three Types of Heat

There are three heats: conduction, convection, and radiation. Conduction is the transfer of heat through touch and generally we only see this advertised with stove tops. The two we are interested in are convection heat and radiation, although radiation is called radiant with it comes to heaters.

Let's look into what convection heat is and then what radiant heat is. The pros of each as well as the cons for each. Knowing the difference before you buy a heater could save you money in the long run or cost you money.

Convection Heat

Convection heat is the transfer of heat through gas or liquid. This method is not the most efficient at heat transfer, but the advantage to convection heat is that it is good at heating a small area for extended duration as long as the area is closed off and sealed. Convection heat will warm the actual air in a room up. The heat will slowly rise upwards and if there is a draft, the heat will be carried away with air movement. Convection heat is best for small, well sealed areas as stated. But convection heating transfer will heat all the air, creating a circular motion as well. The heated air will rise and the cooler air will settle. As the lower air warms it will rise and replace the cooling air that was higher and creates an updraft.

Pros and Cons of Convection Heat

Pro
Con
Heat entire room
Drafts cut efficiency quickly
Heat for extended periods
Rely on fan to cool heating element
Heat quickly
Cost more to run usually
Don't burn you if touched
Easy to block flow of air
Often less expensive
Heats room top to bottom

Radiant Heat

Radiant heat is the oldest type of heating that is used today. When a person goes outside and they feel the warmth of the sun on them, that is radiant heat warming them. The invisible electromagnetic infrared waves that hit and warm an object. In regards to wall mounted heaters, the heater will heat object that are directly around it. Then those objects will heat objects around them and so on and so forth. Since the objects like flooring, walls, furniture, people, etc. are all heated and not the air, the heat stays lower in the room as well. And air flow is not necessary for the heat to create a warm room because of this. And since objects are being heated, they will give off heat longer since they retain heat better than the air does.

Pros and Cons of Radiant Heat

Pro
Con
Average 15% savings
Longer to heat room
Less maintenance
Greater initial cost
Fewer allergies spread
 
Better for areas where less movement. Bedroom, office, etc.
 
Usually quieter than other heat types
 
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Electric wall mounted heater.Built-in electric wall mounted heater.Protruding electric wall mounted heater.
Electric wall mounted heater.
Electric wall mounted heater.
Built-in electric wall mounted heater.
Built-in electric wall mounted heater.
Protruding electric wall mounted heater.
Protruding electric wall mounted heater.

Electrical

With electric wall mounted heaters there are built-in units and wall mounted units. The built-in wall heaters will recess into the wall and be fairly close to flush with the wall. This helps in smaller spaces to avoid taking up space and leaving as much room as possible. The wall mounted wall heaters will mount heaters will mount one to wall with brackets and/or anchors to secure it safely. The first image directly above, is a wall mount and the second image is a built-in. There are some wall mounts that protrude further, such as the third image directly above.

These heaters are not intended to heat a whole house, but are comparable to space heaters and have a range from a small room to a large room depending on the wattage the unit is. When using suggestions for wall mount heaters, remember that the square footage that is advertised considers a space to have 8 foot ceilings. Electric wall mounted heaters are pretty advanced and as long as you purchase from a reputable company, there generally isn't an issue with quality. There are higher end heating elements and such, but most are quite standard. Find a unit that fits your budget and design that matches your style. With the internet it is easy enough to find reviews on specific units that interest you. Below is wattage and square footage, remember that the industry standard is 8 foot ceilings.

Currently, the United States average kilowatt hour is 12¢. To heat a 10'x10' room would take 3.64 kilowatt hours to hit the 12,432 BTU's needed to heat this room to 74 degrees Fahrenheit. So a 1,000 watt heater would cost $2.88 to run non-stop. In zone 3 and maybe 4, with average insulation the cost would be close to $1.00 per day most likely because of the slower heat dissipation.

Room Size ( Square Feet w/ 8' Ceilings)
Wattage w/ Poor Insulation
Wattage w/ Avg. Insulation
Wattage w/ Full Insulation
60 sq. feet (8 ft. x 7.5 ft.)
750
750
450
80 sq. feet (8 ft. x 10 ft.)
1,000
1,000
750
100 sq. feet (10 ft. x 10 ft.)
1,250
1,000
750
120 sq. feet (10 ft. x 12 ft.)
1,500
1,000
1,000
140 sq. feet (~11 ft. x 13 ft.)
1,750
1,500
1,250
There are larger units, but these will fit the majority of houses.
Click thumbnail to view full-size
Decorative with flame effect.Plaque heater, also known as radiant heat.Blue flame, also known as convection heat.
Decorative with flame effect.
Decorative with flame effect.
Plaque heater, also known as radiant heat.
Plaque heater, also known as radiant heat.
Blue flame, also known as convection heat.
Blue flame, also known as convection heat.

Natural Gas

Natural gas heaters cost less than the other wall mounted heaters but they do need a gas line ran to them. The only electric natural gas heaters need is for the pilot light for turning on automatically. But even in a power outage, you could light the unit manually in case of a black out or other emergency.

Natural gas heaters determine square foot coverage by the use of British Thermal Units (BTU). BTU by definition is the amount of energy to raise one pound of liquid water one degree Fahrenheit from approximately 39 degrees, which is the temperature that water is the most dense. Generally, BTU's are referred to in natural heating and propane but in electrical heaters 1 kilowatt hour is equal to 3,412 BTU's.

To determine the BTU's you will need to heat your space, in commercial application the packaging will advertise square feet for the unit to heat. This will be for a room with an 8 foot ceiling and normal to good insulation. There is a BTU calculator that has multiple variables to help determine your needs and from there you can more accurately determine a heater that will suit your needs. That BTU calculator is located at calculator.net.

After determining the size unit that will suit your heating needs, it is recommended that you then find the wall mounted heater that suits your taste. There are very decorative units that look like fireplaces there are also very utilitarian units. This is the time to know your budget as well. The more decorative ones are generally more expensive and have more luxury options.

Finding the cost to heat a 10'x10' room per hour would simply be an average. So instead, I calculated the cost of heating with natural gas to 36.1¢ per day. This would be an increase of $10.83 per month to hit the 12,432 BTU's to heat 100 sq. feet.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Decorative ventless propaneWall or ceiling mount propane heater.Plaque or radiant propane heater - ventless.
Decorative ventless propane
Decorative ventless propane
Wall or ceiling mount propane heater.
Wall or ceiling mount propane heater.
Plaque or radiant propane heater - ventless.
Plaque or radiant propane heater - ventless.

Propane

The biggest difference between propane and natural gas heaters are generally take different size fittings and the fuel source. Besides that, the BTU's between the two units are the same. The only time that I would recommend propane, is when there is no natural gas and electric is the only other option. This would give a person the option for heat during an outage. And most people in the country do not have natural gas, they either have electric or propane as their heat source. I always advocate having options and backups in case of emergencies.

Propane is a more limited resource than electric and natural gas so it generally cost more and has to be delivered. Being at the mercy of a supplier is not an ideal situation to be in and in a harsh winter the supplier may not have the opportunity to deliver propane if someone is running short. But with planning, a person can have a 100 pound propane tank ready as back up. Smaller tanks will not work because the pressure becomes too low before the tank has been used. Generally a propane tank will quit supplying propane to the heater when it is approximately half empty if less than a 100 pound cylinder.

Another way to determine the BTU requirement is listed below. This method does take climate into consideration, which many will take into consideration for furnace and air conditioner sizing for a house. Being aware of this will help determine a good fit for your heating needs.

The average cost of propane in March of 2018 was $2.48 a gallon. One gallon of propane provides about 100,000 BTU's, so for a 10'x10' room that requires 12,432 BTU's per hour a gallon of propane will last just over 8 hours. This is approximately 31¢ per hour, $7.44 a day, and $223.20 a month to heat a 100 sq. foot room.

Zone:
BTU's / sq. ft.
1
30 - 35
2
35 - 40
3
40 - 45
4
45 - 50
5
50 - 60
These heating zones are the same as the more popular Hardiness Zones.

© 2018 Chris Andrews

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