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Electric Space Heaters

By: Jonathan Z. Kremer

When the cold weather starts to creep up on us, we are all looking for a good way to keep warm, and at the same time save money. With the rising cost of heating, many homeowners think twice before putting on the central heating to heat up the whole house while most of the rooms remain empty, or when remaining in the house only for a short amount of time. Even when the central heating is on, there is always a room or a corner that remains chilly and could use a little more heat. This is where the portable electric space heaters steps in. They are an effective and convenient way to add supplementary heating to a chilly room or to heat a small unheated space.

Advantages Over Other Types Of Space Heaters

Electric heaters have many advantages over other types of heaters such as gas or kerosene. Not only do they cost significantly less to buy, but they are much safer. They don't have open flames, use dangerous fuels, or produce carbon monoxide. There is no gas piping needed nor any other special installations.

Unlike fossil fuel space heaters, electric models are 100 percent efficient, converting every bit of energy they consume to heat.

Things To Look For In A Heater

There are a number of things that you should look for when choosing a space heater.

1. Make sure that the model is steady and does not tip over easily.
2. If the heater has a fan check to see that it's not overly noisy.
3. The unit should have at least two or more heat settings and a thermostat that will shut off the heating element when the area reaches the desired temperature.
4. The enclosures should be sufficient to keep out wandering fingers.
5. An overheat sensor that shuts the heater off if the internal temperature gets too high.

Basic Types of Electric Space Heaters

Radiant Heaters
Radiant energy is the oldest form of heating. They provide warmth in much the same way as does the sun's rays or an open fire (fireplace). It is totally pure radiation and is absorbed by an object without physical contact with the heat source itself.

Radiant Heater

A variety of heating elements, such as quartz, metal coils tubes, and halogen lamps, are used to emit the radiated heat. Most models use reflectors to focus that heat in a certain direction. Objects must be within the heater's line of sight to feel the heat.

Radiant heaters present the greatest potential danger of accidental ignition of nearby furnishings due to their design, focused intensity of their output, and lack of overheat protection.

Convection Heaters
Convection heaters work by using natural currents of warm air to heat the room. The cold air near the floor enters the heater, gets heated up by the heating element, and rises up into the room. The colder air in the room descends and the cycle is repeated. Most of these heaters have a thermostat that will turn the heater off and on according to your desired heat level.

Convection heaters are designed to heat an entire room by heating the air, rather than focusing the heat on any particular object.

Convection Heater
There are two types of convection heaters, natural convectors and fan forced convectors. Natural convectors let the current of hot air naturally rise, while the fan forced convectors use a fan to help with the circulation. Fan forced convectors are the quickest for heating an entire room. On the downside, the area right in front of the heater may be somewhat warmer than the rest of the room

Although using convection heaters, by virtue of their design, do not pose as much of a potential danger as radiant heaters, they can still be a safety hazard, especially when children are running around the house.

Fan Heater

Fan Heaters
Portable fan heaters can provide very rapid heating by using a fan to pass air over a heating element. Although they're not as good as convection heaters for providing general background warmth for the whole room, fan heaters are relatively inexpensive to buy and can be used to heat smaller areas quickly, or where other heating solutions are not practical.

Oil Filled Radiator Heaters

Oil Filled Radiator

Oil filled radiators have become a popular choice for many, due to the fact that they are reliable, stable, quiet and efficient. The oil may take a little time to heat up, but once hot, stays hot and uses relatively little power to stay that way. The thermal mass of oil holds heat well, minimizing fluctuations in temperature. Although the outside of the radiator can get very warm, these heaters don't get so hot as to cause accidental burns. Radiators work like convectors, depending on the natural flow of the air to circulate the heat. There are no fans to cause noise. They also give off some radiant heat.

Oil filled radiators generate non-directional heat which effectively heats larger areas better than other types of small space heaters. They are best when you need a constant heat for a good amount of time.

Ceramic Heaters

Ceramic Heater

Relatively new type of heaters, ceramic heaters are fan heaters that utilize a special ceramic heating element. They provide directional space heating. The fan helps distribute the heat throughout the room, while models with the oscillation function distribute directional heat over an even larger area. Some of the disc heaters are equipped with a rheostat that sends full voltage to the element when the room is cold, and as it heats up, slows down its output of electricity to the fan, saving electricity.

Safety Tips For Using Space Heaters

  • Do not use extension cords with the heaters, especially the light duty type.
  • Keep drapes, newspapers, clothing and other combustible objects a safe distance away.
  • Always put heaters in a place where they can't be tipped over easily. It's best to keep them on the floor where they have less of a chance of falling and becoming a potential fire or shock hazard.
  • Do not use heaters in wet or moist areas, such as bathrooms, unless they are specifically built for that purpose. Doing so can not only corrode the heater, but can be a dangerous shock hazard.
  • Make sure that the plug of the heater fits snugly in the outlet. A worn-out outlet can overheat, burning up both the outlet and plug. If left unnoticed, this can start a fire throughout the house.
    Note: The plug of the heater will usually get warm to the touch when the heater is in use. This is OK. Make sure that it doesn't get hot.
  • Do not run cords under rugs or carpets. Doing so can cause the cord to overheat and start a fire.
  • Broken heaters should be checked and repaired only by a qualified appliance service center. Do not attempt to make any repairs to the heater yourself.

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