What Is the Safest Type of Space Heater

The safest type of space heater on the market today is the infrared space heater. This is because they are built with safety features to prevent burns and fires, but they still effectively warm objects directly in front of them, like the sun warms the earth. 

Like all safe space heaters, they must be used correctly to prevent burns or fires.

Safe space heating depends on three factors:

  • Where is the heater being used? Certain heaters are better in specific areas of the house than others. 
  • Who is around the space heater? For example, depending on the heating method involved, it may be safer or more dangerous for children and pets. 
  • How cluttered is the room? Heaters of any kind must have a minimum of three feet between it and the nearest object. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSP) calls this the three-feet rule. If objects are closer than three feet, you risk a house fire.  

4 Safest Space Heaters

There is no space heater that can be used without some risk, even among infrared space heaters. For more on this, see our 10 Space Heater Safety Tips article.

1. Oil-Filled Radiator Heaters

Oil-filled radiators are a common type of convection heating appliance. They use oil as a heat reservoir—not as fuel. The purpose of using oil is that it retains heat longer than space heaters with just a hot element.

The electric component, located at the base of the appliance, heats up the oil. The warmer oil rises to the top as the radiator expands, and the colder oil sinks down toward the electric component to be warmed. The heat radiates into the room. 

Oil-filled heaters are best used in smaller rooms and dryer spaces. As with most electric appliances that sit on the floor, you must never use them in a bathroom. 

Oil-filled heater advantages:

  • Energy efficiency. Oil-filled heaters effectively convert most, if not all, of the energy it uses into heat. 
  • Quieter. Because this type of heating does not use a fan, oil heaters are on the quieter side. 
  • Heat retention. Excess heat lingers while the appliance is off and cooling. This allows the room to stay warm for a while longer.
  • No extra oil needed. Since the oil is not used as fuel, you should never have to replace it. 
  • Good air quality. Oil heating does not dry out the air when used only a few hours at a time. 
  • Thermostat-controlled. Some oil heater models have thermostats that allow you to maintain how much heat is emitted. This can save you money on monthly bills. 

Oil-filled heater disadvantages:

  • Gets hot more slowly than space heaters with a bare element. It takes a while for an oil heater to warm up a room. Consumer Reports found that even the best heaters on the market can take up to 15 minutes to warm an average-sized space (200 square feet). 
  • Heat retention. As much as prolonged heat can be an advantage, it is also a drawback. When turned off, your heater will be too hot to touch for a while. This may especially be dangerous if you have kids and pets in the room. 
  • Maintenance upkeep and potential dangers. Oil heaters must be properly cared for, or you risk extreme dangers. If, for example, the circuitry shorts or the oil leaks, the appliance can catch on fire.  

2. Ceramic Space Heaters

Ceramic space heaters use resistive heating, which means they pass an electric current through a conductor (a ceramic plate) to produce heat. There are two types of ceramic heaters:

  1. Convection: The hot air rises and is blown into the room via a fan, while the cold air is forced over the ceramic plate to be heated, then released. 
  2. Radiant: The ceramic plate absorbs and emits the heat into the room. No fan is used in the process. 

Ceramic heaters are best used in smaller office spaces and bedrooms. 

Ceramic heater advantages:

  • Energy efficiency. Ceramic heating effectively uses most of its energy. On average, it is 85-90% efficient.
  • Heat-to-size ratio. This type of heater tends to be smaller and more compact, yet it produces a sufficient amount of heat by comparison. 
  • Instant heating. It quickly warms its surrounding area. 
  • Portable. Ceramic heaters are commonly smaller and light, which makes them easy to move from one place to another.

Ceramic heater disadvantages:

  • Limited heating. Because of their typically smaller size, ceramic heaters are not effective for medium-to-larger rooms. 
  • Slower heating without a fan. Radiant heating takes longer to warm a room than convection heating since no fan is involved.
  • Noisier. Convection ceramic heaters are noisier because of their fan.

3. Infrared Heaters

These heaters are the most energy-efficient, as infrared heating uses all its needed energy. This is due to the fact that infrared heaters do not heat the air. They instead convert electricity into radiant heat and directly transfer that heat to the surrounding objects. This process is similar to how the sun’s rays warm something up. 

Infrared heaters are best used in open family rooms and insulated garages. 

Infrared heater advantages:

  • Energy efficiency and environmentally friendly. Infrared efficiently turns the energy it uses into heat, but it won’t pollute your indoor air quality either. It does not operate on carbon combustion, open flames, or fuel lines, which means it will not add or remove anything from the air.  
  • Instant heating. Infrared heating takes almost no time to start up and warm anything in front of it. 
  • Silent. No fan is involved, which makes these heaters quiet when in use.
  • Low maintenance. Without a fan or motor, infrared heaters do not have any moving parts that will undergo natural wear and tear or need replacement. They do not even require an air filter. All you should do is periodically dust the reflectors.

Infrared heater disadvantages:

  • Hot coils. Infrared heating uses coils to convert the energy into heat. These coils are hot and can be dangerous around children or pets. However, newer models tend to have added features, such as cool-touch surfaces or a guard over the heating component.
  • Limited heating. Infrared heating is less ideal for medium-to-large rooms with several people. It only heats in a straight line, which benefits a limited number of people at one time, and it will not reach every corner of a larger space. 
  • No heating when off. When your heater is turned off, the heat instantly stops, unlike an oil heater that stays warm and continues to give off heat for 10-30 minutes. 

4. Wall-Mount Electric Heaters

Wall-mount electric heaters are, as the name implies, permanently on an interior wall. In other words, they are not portable like space heaters. They are usually installed in smaller rooms including bathrooms, office spaces, or compact living spaces. 

This type of heater is hard-wired into an electric panel and uses convection heating to warm a room.

Wall-mount heater advantages:

  • Easy installation and maintenance. Wall-mount heaters are easy to install, especially when compared to central heating systems, and they require less maintenance than most space heaters.
  • No cords. Unlike most space heaters, wall-mount heaters have no external cords. This makes them especially safer around children and pets.
  • Fast heating. While not as fast as infrared or ceramic heating, wall-mount heaters can warm a room within a few minutes.
  • Special features. Most newer models have Wi-Fi, thermostats, remote controls, digital displays, and sensitive thermal reading.

Wall-mount heater disadvantages:

  • Higher monthly bills. This type of heater tends to have a low initial cost and installation fee, but it will rack up your monthly bills, depending on how much/often you use it.
  • Lower energy efficiency. Some wall-mount heaters are more efficient than others. However, most have an 80-85% energy efficiency rating, which is lower than many space heaters on the market.
  • Noisier. Due to using a fan, wall-mount heaters are noisy.
  • Three-feet rule. Because of its heating components, you will still need to keep flammable materials at least three feet away from this heater.

Which Safety Features Should We Consider?

New space heater models have a range of useful features that reduce risk when using them. Some of these features include:

  • A tip-over safety switch: This automatically shuts off the heater if/when it tips over. 
  • Overheat protection/automatic shut-off: This detects when internal components get hotter than they are supposed to, automatically shutting the space heater off. 
  • A thermostat: This allows for better temperature control, reducing energy waste and potential injuries. However, heaters with thermostats often cost more than simple On/Off heaters.
  • An extra-long cord: This helps when you need to use an outlet in an adjacent room, and it reduces the need for an extension cord. The longest cords tend to be around 72 inches, or 6 feet. Note: One drawback to this is that manufacturers recommend keeping the cord over rugs and away from couches, papers, or anything else that is flammable. Otherwise, you risk a house fire.
  • A remote: This allows you to turn on/off the heater from a distance, to adjust the heater’s setting, and/or to adjust the heater’s direction. 
  • Different heat settings: Some models have three settings: “Low,” “Medium,” and “High.” Other models also include “Eco” for more energy-saving functionality.
  • A cool-touch surface: Keeps the heater’s surface cool to prevent burns. 

Which Brands Make the Safest Space Heater?

Lasko, Dreo, Comfort Zone, EdenPURE and Dyson make the safest space heaters because they include the best safety features. 

Since all space heaters come with risk, no brand produces a space heater that is entirely safe. As such, you have to look at each individual model to see which is best for your living arrangement.

The safest models consist of as many safety features as possible. Here are some models to get you started:

Written by

Rene has worked 10 years in the HVAC field and now is the Senior Comfort Specialist for PICKHVAC. He holds an HVAC associate degree and EPA & R-410A Certifications.
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