Jump to content

Space heater

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Electric infrared space heater

A space heater is a device used to heat a single, small- to medium-sized area.[1] This type of heater can be contrasted with central heating, which distributes heat to multiple areas.



Dominant mode of heat transfer


All space heaters transfer heat to their environment via some combination of the three fundamental modes of heat transfer: convection, radiation, and conduction. Typically heaters are designed with either convection or radiation as the sole dominant mode.

Convective heaters


Convective space heaters utilize convection to transfer heat from the power source to a space. These heaters typically either rely on natural or forced convection. Natural convection is a phenomenon where temperature variations in an environment generate fluid flow.

Forced convection heaters utilize a device like a fan to generate air flow and spread heat at a faster rate. Sometimes called "fan heaters," these are often cheap but lack in efficiency and versatility.[2]

Radiant heaters


Radiant space heaters transfer heat to directly to bodies in front of them via thermal radiation. Thermal radiation is a process by which objects at a high temperature emit heat in the form of electromagnetic waves. These heaters are often designed such that the frequency of the emitted waves are in the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum.

The materials used in radiant heaters can vary. Halogen heaters have tungsten filaments in sealed quartz envelopes, mounted in front of a metal reflector in a plastic case. They operate at a higher temperature than nichrome-wire heaters but not as high as incandescent light bulbs, radiating primarily in the infrared spectrum. They convert up to 86 percent of their input power to radiant energy, losing the remainder to conductive and convective heat.[3]

Mixed convective and radiant heaters

Oil heaters transfer heat by convection and radiation[4]

Oil heaters transfer heat by convection and radiation.[4] They can silently heat larger rooms, but take longer to heat up. Like infrared models, they lack a fan, but circulate heat according to a room's air patterns, which is why it may take longer for a user to discern a difference in temperature. By the mid-2010s, some higher-end models included more precise controls.[2]

Source of power


The power source used in a radiant heater depends on the resources that are available. Most space heaters are either powered by electricity or combustion.



Electric space heaters convert electricity into heat through the process of Joule heating. The main component of these heaters is called the heating element. Heating elements come in many different geometries and styles and can be used in either convective or radiant space heaters.



Combustion space heaters convert chemical energy into heat through combustion of a fuel. These heaters often do not require electricity to function and can therefore be used off-the-grid.

Rectangular space heater
Honeywell electric infrared radiant heater
Sunbeam quartz space heater uses quartz tubing for infrared heating



Fire, burns, and carbon monoxide poisoning are the main risks of space heaters. About 25,000 fires are caused by space heaters in the United States each year, resulting in about 300 deaths. Roughly 6,000 hospital emergency department visits annually in the US are caused by space heaters, mainly from burns.[5]

Fire and burns


Improper use can increase the risk of fire and burns. Safe operation includes:[6][5][7]

  • Plugging space heaters directly into a wall outlet and not an extension cord (except for heavy duty extension cords (14-gauge wire or larger) or relocatable power tap, as they can overheat and cause fires.
  • Inspecting plugs and cords periodically for cracks or damage, and replacing them if needed.
  • Keeping flammable materials, such as paper, plastics, curtains, furniture, and bedding, at least 3 feet (0.91 m) away from the heater.
  • Turning off the heater when the last adult leaves the room or goes to sleep and keeping children and pets three feet away from the heater.
  • Placing heaters on a flat, hard, nonflammable surface.
  • Avoiding the use of heaters near flammable materials such as paint or gasoline.
  • Installing smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors nearby.

The risk of fire (and burns) is sometimes less with oil-filled heaters than those with fans,[8][9] but some fan-assisted heaters have a lower risk of fire (and burns) than other oil-filled heaters.[10]



No one type of heater is safer than any other type. The risk of fire and burns can vary, depending on model and manufacturer.[10]



In the United States, Underwriters Laboratories' UL 1278[11] (for portable electric space heaters) and UL 1042[12] standards (for portable and fixed baseboard electric heaters) certify heater safety. Although the General Services Administration had Specification W-H-193[13] for electric space heaters, it was replaced in 1995 by the UL standards. Additional information on portable-heater safety may be found at the Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency website.[14]



New York City law regulates the safety of space heaters. Space heaters for sale in the city must have a thermostat to control temperature, an automatic shut-off feature if the heater tips over or overheats, and must be certified and labeled by a nationally approved organization or laboratory.[15]



The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has evaluated a number of space heaters, but none have received its Energy Star label.[16]

See also



  1. ^ "the definition of space heater". Dictionary.com. Retrieved 2017-03-13.
  2. ^ a b Tedeschi, Bob (2015-02-25). "Space Heater Reviews". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on February 27, 2015. Retrieved 2018-01-16.
  3. ^ 2008 ASHRAE Handbook – Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning Systems and Equipment (I-P Edition) American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers, Inc., 2008, Electronic ISBN 978-1-60119-795-5, table 2 page 15.3
  4. ^ a b QBIC Heating. "What Are Oil-Filled Radiators?". Retrieved 2023-08-24.
  5. ^ a b "Portable Heaters". United States Department of Energy. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  6. ^ "Why Space Heaters Need Their Space". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  7. ^ "Space heaters involved in 79 percent of fatal home heating fires". National Fire Protection Agency. 2019-02-11. Archived from the original on 2019-02-26. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  8. ^ "Residential Energy Efficiency Space Heaters". Missouri Department of Natural Resources. Archived from the original on 2004-01-28. Retrieved 2015-03-07.
  9. ^ New Fix-it-yourself Manual. Pleasantville, NY: The Reader's Digest Association. 2009. ISBN 978-0895778710.
  10. ^ a b "Space Heater Ratings". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 2017-10-19.
  11. ^ Underwriters Laboratories (2000-06-21). "UL 1278, Standard for Movable and Wall- or Ceiling-Hung Electric Room Heaters". Retrieved 2011-10-29.
  12. ^ Underwriters Laboratories (2009-08-31). "UL 1042, Electric Baseboard Heating Equipment". Retrieved 2011-10-29.
  13. ^ General Services Administration (1977-09-13). "W-H-193D, Heater, Space, Electric (Portable)". Retrieved 2011-10-29.
  14. ^ Department of Energy (2011-02-09). "Portable Heaters". Retrieved 2011-10-29.
  15. ^ "Electric Space Heater Sale Complaint". NYC 311. Retrieved 2023-09-24.
  16. ^ Environmental Protection Agency. "Space Heaters". Retrieved 2011-10-29.