Portable Electric Heaters for Home or Office
If you read my hub on Alternative Home Heating, you know that there are other ways to heat your home besides using propane, electricity, or other commonly used fuels. In that hub, I discussed heating with wood, pellet, and corn stoves.
But what if you just want to heat a small area, such as a small room or maybe the area by your desk or home computer? You are probably looking for something portable and easy to operate when you need it.
You might also be looking for a small portable heater for use at work. Many work places lower their temperatures in response to rising heating costs. This may make your work area or office cold.
In this article I will talk about portable electric heaters that are suitable for home or work. I'll stick to ones that are readily available, relatively inexpensive, and easy to use.
Portable heaters are not a good way of heating your entire home but they can lower your heating bills by letting you turn down your central heat, while keeping the area you are currently using, warm. They are also great for those fall or spring days where you just want to take the chill off.
Electric heaters are safer than other types of portable heaters, such as propane or kerosene heaters, because they don't create a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Heaters using propane or kerosene usually have to be vented to the outdoors.
Portable Heater Safety Tips
Plug the heater directly into a wall outlet. Do not use power strips. If you have to use an extension cord make sure it is a heavy-duty cord having 14-gauge wire or larger.
Make sure your heater has a tip-over switch and overheat sensor.
Keep the heater on a level surface.
Make sure there is a clear area, free of any flammable materials, for at least 3 feet around all sides of the heater (including the back).
Never place anything on top of a portable heater.
Inspect and clean the heater on a regular basis, as dust and dirt build-up, or any damage, may cause a fire hazard.
Turn the heater off and unplug it if you'll be leaving it unattended.
As with any electrical device, do not use the heater in damp or wet areas as it may create a risk of electrical shock.
Always keep children and pets away from the heater.
Portable Heater Basics
Portable heaters designed for home or work are usually convection heaters or radiant heaters.
Convection heaters work by circulating warm air in a room or area. This is usually done by blowing air across a heating element. A convection heater will warm the air in an area and raise the air temperature. Radiant heaters create heat which radiates to surrounding objects, similar to the heat you feel when standing near a hot stove.
Unlike convection heaters, radiant heaters do not raise the air temperature in a room. They are “spot” heaters, only heating the object they are directed at. Most radiant heaters use a glowing heat element and reflector to direct heat.
Since they raise the overall air temperature, convection heaters are generally what a person would want for heating a small room or work area.
Electric heaters are plugged into an outlet and usually have on-off and heat setting or thermostat controls. Some have remote controls as well. They are available in a number of different models and sizes.
Choosing a Heater
Choose your heater size realistically, based on the area you want to heat. Portable heaters usually have a high setting of around 1500 watts or 5120 BTU/h (British Thermal Units per hour). The high setting should be enough to raise the heat in a 10 foot by 10 foot room by about 10 degrees. If you just want it to warm your work area, by your desk, for example, the low setting might be enough or you may be able to use a smaller heater.
Look for a heater that has a tip-over safety switch and an overheat sensor. The tip-over switch will turn the heater off if it is knocked over. This can be especially important at home where you may have pets or children roaming around. The overheat sensor switch should turn the heater off if it exceeds a certain temperature.
Look at the different features that are available. Many heaters have digital thermostats, timers, and remote controls. Decide what you need based on how you will use your portable heater. If you are using the heater at home, some of these features may be nice to have. If the heater is for work, you may not need items such as a remote control.
Ceramic heaters are convection heaters. They use aluminum baffles and ceramic plates which are heated as electricity runs through them. The heat is then blown out into the room, warming the air. Ceramic heaters are very energy efficient and are insulated in a way which keeps them cool to the touch.
Radiant heaters (also called quartz heaters) provide heat through the use of a glowing heat element. They
use very little energy and are also very energy efficient. This
type of portable heater is commonly used for heating a small work area or in small
rooms. Radiant heaters display a red glow, which some people may or may not like.
Micathermic heaters combine the effects of convection and radiant heating. They provide almost instant heat and distribute heat very evenly. Micathermic heaters are very energy efficient but are more expensive than some of the other heaters. They are typically available as a flat panel model. Since micathermic heaters do not use fans, they don't blow dust throughout the room, which can be an important benefit for allergy and asthma sufferers.
Which Portable Heater is for You?
Each of the portable electric heater types mentioned has its own characteristics but any of the three will probably do the job for you. I believe that either the ceramic or radiant heaters would be fine at home or work. With their size and portability, I think they make the ideal heater to get for heating small places or if moving the heater around often will be necessary. Their lower price may be affordable enough to get a couple for home or one for home and one for work.
Due to their size I think the micathermic heaters would probably be most suitable for home use. While they are still portable, I would be more likely to place the micathermic heater in the room or location where it would be used most and leave it there.
Whatever you decide on make sure you read the manual fully and that you understand all the safety features and precautions before using the heater.
If you decide to buy a portable heater, I hope that my hub has been helpful!
Need an alternative heating method for the entire house?
Looking for some alternative home heating methods? Check out my article on Alternative Home Heating. The article has a complete guide along with some recommendations!