Photo used courtesy of Vagawi
The U.S. Department of Energy has established that in many cases using an electric space heater in one room is much more efficient that heating an entire home efficiently with a gas furnace (especially an older unit). With so many space heater options out there, it is not so much a question of using one, but which one to use.
There are a lot of great options out there, so while we can't cover all the great ones, we are going to focus on a few models which have either been praised by online reviews (such as Amazon, Viewpoints, Epinions, etc), Consumer Reports, and/or Good Housekeeping.
We have separated these units out to the more common forms of portable heat. You have your basic convection heater, fan forced convection, oil filled heater, mica panel, and radiant heater. Each of these offer a slightly different means of heat to meet your needs, and we shall describe their pros and cons along with their unique features.Convection Heater- Honeywell Low Profile Model HZ-519 ($60)
Convection heat is great where you are looking for a low profile, quiet, and economical heat source. These do not heat a room quite as quickly as other choices, but once the room gets up to temperature, they can hold the heat quite efficiently.
The Honeywell Low Profile Convection Heater Model HZ-519 is our choice. It offers all the safety benefits of tip-over and overheat shut-off protection, in a low profile, temperature controlled, "old fashion" baseboard design.
Fan Forced Convection Heater- Pelonis Four Disc Furnace VHC-461 ($100)
Fan Forced Convection Heating, while often substantially noisier than regular convection, can usually heat quicker using a fan to force the warm air into the room. This is the most popular style of space heater today.
The Pelonis Disc Furnace VHC-461 is consistently reviewed at being one of the safest and most effective units on the market. Its four ceramic discs offer a huge amount of heat using your standard 120 volt line. For its small size, it can heat a large space relatively quickly.
Oil Filled Heater- DeLonghi Model TRD0715T ($70)
Oil filled heaters are very economical, due to the fact that they rely on energy to heat their internal oil, then once warm, it can use the warm oil to continue to heat the room. The negative side is that these types of heaters are not as cool to the touch as many of these other heater types.
The Delonghi oil heater is credited for its safety features (tip-over protection) and impressive ability to heat an entire room. That temperature can then be maintained for just a matter of cents per hour. Reviewers claim that this heater can get a little hot to the touch, but that is one of the downsides of any oil heater that works this well.
Mica Panel Heater DeLonghi Model HHP1500 ($80)
The Mica Panel heater functions much the same way as an oil heater. It is quiet, effective, and economical. Like the oil heater, these can get hot to the touch and will emit an unpleasant odor for the first couple hours of use (but most new heaters will to some degree).
The Delonghi HHP1500 is a good solid entire room heater. It works with the similar effectiveness of Delonghi's TRD0715T oil heater, but it has the bonus of being wall mountable. This is a great feature to have for homes with children and pets, as it will keep their prying hands and paws away from any of its hot surfaces.
Radiant Heater- Holmes Quartz Tower Model HQH319 ($60)
Radiant Space Heaters are designed for ultra quick heating. The moment these units are turned on, they immediately radiate a sun-like warmth to whoever is within the path of its glow. For heating an entire room, radiant heaters are not usually the best choice, as they heat objects rather than the air.
The Holmes Quartz Tower offers a lot of heat for the money. This would be one of the best models to use in an area without insulation, such as a porch or workshop. This heater works so well in fact, you will need to keep a clear path of 4 feet in front of its grill, in order to keep things from getting too hot.
As mentioned, these are just a few notable portable electric heaters out there, but please share your own experiences with any of these or other available brands or models.