9 Different Types of Portable Heaters

Interior with portable electric heater, a patterned rug, and a rocking chair.

Portable heaters are a perfect option for people who need to add supplemental heat to their house or their outdoor space. They are practical and relatively fuel-efficient. Stay toasty warm through cold winter nights, or keep your outdoor space open and functional through the fall. A portable heater is available in many styles and sizes, making this a practical and valuable tool to include with your home or outdoor space.

Propane Heater

Gas burning propane heater on a patio.

A propane portable heater is a wonderful and efficient way to get hot air to fill a space quickly. A propane heater is easy to use, affordable, and relatively cheap to refill the fuel. If used and purchased correctly, a propane heater can be used indoors or outdoors, providing hours of warm heat to keep you warm.

The propane heater is a portable heater that uses a conventional propane tank to supply fuel to the heater. A propane tank is similar to what you might find on a gas grill. The propane tank is usually attached to the heater, which is linked to a fan mechanism that helps blow the converted hot air toward space or room that you are trying to heat.  Be cautious when moving a full propane tank.  These tanks can be very heavy and cumbersome to move.

The propane space heater has several benefits, which make them incredibly popular. This type of heater is usually very small and portable. They are also easy to use and fit just about anywhere and come in a wide range of available sizes.

Plus, the propane space heater is safe to use and is extremely quiet to run. This feature makes it ideal for indoor or outdoor use. Because many propane fuel tanks are universal, a portable propane heater can easily plumb into an existing propane gas line, forming a tight connection and allow you to use a current fuel source.

Unfortunately, propane space heaters also have some downsides. Compared to other portable heaters, this type of heater can be expensive to run for significant periods. The cost of a replacement fuel tank of propane can be $50, and running the heater for hours on end can quickly burn through your supply.

Plus, this type of heater does not allow any temperature control. There is simply the option to turn the heater on and off. This characteristic can make using the portable heater indoors problematic without any temperature control. Further, the propane heater tends to create humid air, which creates excess moisture through your home.

While the propane heater can be used indoors, never attempt to move the propane heater when it is on and running. Also, never leave your home unattended while the propane heater is running. This action is a safety risk. Before leaving the house, be sure to turn off the propane heater properly. This type of heater is best used outdoors due to the lack of temperature adjustment and is perfect for heating a deck or patio space in chilly weather.

Electric Heater

Office with electric heater over the hardwood floor.

One of the most common types of portable heaters is an electric heater. This type of heater is an easy-to-use heater that is perfect for indoors or out. The electric heater comes in a range of styles and sizes, all with different performance features.

Choose a simple space heater to help heat a cool office, or choose a technologically advanced heater to help heat a room of your home. The electric heater has been in existence for years and is a tried and true staple in the portable heater industry.

The electric heater runs with electricity. This feature means that you must have an available outlet with the right power, to run this type of heater. Many electric heaters are corded, which can limit their placement in the home. Using an extension cord or a power strip with an electric heater can be dangerous.

Always make sure your power strip and extension cord are rated correctly to handle the electrical load surging through the coil. Electric heaters can pull a great deal of electricity, and failure to use the correct connections and outlets can create a fire hazard.

This type of heater is extremely popular because of its several benefits. The heater comes in various sizes, ranging from a tiny model that can sit under a desk to keep your feet warm or a large heater that can provide heat to your house’s entire space.

The electric heater is usually lightweight and portable, making it super easy to move the heater from one room to another. Plus, the electric heater makes a suitable room heater, with many advanced models featuring an accurate temperature control gauge.

Electric heat is generally very cost-efficient and only will cost the difference of electricity you are using to power the device. In some cases, running an efficient electric heater is a cheaper alternative than running conventional gas or electric heat from a heat pump through your home.

Many people will choose to use an electric space heater to supplement the heat source within their home. Keep in mind that other subsets of space heaters, like a ceramic heater, infrared heater, and fan heater, are in a sense a type of electric heater. These heaters will require electricity to run but create hot air using a different mechanism.

Using an electric heater does have some downsides. The range of your power cord limits this type of heater. Having a limited range can be difficult, especially if you are trying to use this type of heater outdoors.

Also, an electric heater can be limited in its power output. Compared to a propane heater or a kerosene heater, the power output will be incredibly small compared to some other heavier heaters. Lastly, an electric heater does run the risk of fire if not properly paired with an extension cord and properly used.

As is true with any heater type, never run a space heater when you are not home, and always turn off your heater completely before leaving the house with the heater unattended.

Radiant Heater

Radiant heater on hardwood floor.

While many people think of an older home when they think of radiant heat, there are plenty of portable heaters that rely on this technology type. A radiant heater still creates a hot liquid, usually oil, and runs the hot liquid through connected coils. By moving the hot substance through the coils, you can generate a steady stream of hot air, which can easily be controlled and harnessed to heat a room in your home.

Compared to smaller electric space heater options, the radiant heater option is usually slightly larger. Although the portable variety of radiant heat is not a baseboard heater, like you may see in a house, the radiant heater does utilize similar technology. These heaters are usually tall and skinny and have the exposed coils on the heater.

These heaters are usually decently heavy but are on wheels to make it easier to move the heater from room to room in your house. Many of the commercially available radiant heaters for your home are filled with oil. The heaters are plugged into a power source and utilize electricity to heat the oil pumped through the coils.

Using a radiant space heater is a great idea to provide efficient and clean heat. This type of oil-filled heater does not use a great deal of energy to run, and it is incredibly cost-effective. Plus, a radiant heater has variable controls for the temperature, allowing you to dial in a specific temperature range for your home.

Some more advanced models will come with a shut-off timer or thermometer, allowing your heater to shut off once the optimal temperature has been achieved. Not only can this feature help to save you money, but it is also an excellent safety feature to have in your space heater.

The oil-filled radiant heater does have its disadvantages too. Although this is a portable heater, it is quite large and heavy compared to some other models on our list. Plus, this type of heater does not provide instant hot heat.

It can take a bit of time for the oil to heat up and run through the heating coils. Lastly, the radiant heater is very top-heavy, which can cause it to tip over easily. Using a heater that has been tipped over can be extremely dangerous. Avoid using this type of heater around small children or pets that could inadvertently tip the heater.

Kerosene Heater

Kerosene heater

A kerosene heater is a popular option for many people because the fuel source is relatively inexpensive, and the heater can produce a great deal of energy and heat. This non-electric heater comes in a range of sizes and is a good choice for indoor and outdoor uses.

Many kerosene heaters are very small and portable, making them a great fit for several applications. The heater is lightweight and easy to move from place to place. Compared to propane, kerosene is a much cheaper fuel source that lasts longer and burns hotter.

Depending on the heater, most kerosene heaters can run about 10 hours on a single load of fuel. It can be difficult to get kerosene to replace your heating source, depending on the area in which you live. Sometimes kerosene is not readily available in a particular area.

A kerosene heater can run inside without supervision, as this fuel source is considered relatively safe. If the heater is a ventless design, it is perfectly safe to use the kerosene heater while sleeping. Of course, it is always best to turn off a kerosene heater if you plan to be out of your house for an extended period.

One of the downside aspects of using a kerosene heater is that there is no way to control the temperature. This feature means that the heater will always run at one temperature as long as the heater is on. While this is perfectly alright for heating a large space or heating an outdoor space, it can often provide too much heat for a small room inside.

Infrared Heater

Living room with a gray sofa, floor lamp, and an infrared heater.

Using infrared technology to convert electricity into infrared heat, this new heater makes it possible to use an infrared heater to heat your space. This relatively new technology is quite popular because it has many benefits that make this portable heater beneficial. Using a portable heater with infrared heat is a great way to heat just a small space or a larger outdoor area.

This type of portable heater is incredibly popular because it is very quiet and clean. The heater must be plugged into an outlet to get the electricity to convert to infrared heat. This heater is a very efficient and low-cost space heater that works well to heat a space. This type of technology is also considered incredibly green and sustainable, making it a great choice if you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint.

The infrared portable heater is very popular because it can be used indoors and outdoors and comes in several different styles. Choose a large but portable heater to heat your outdoor patio or deck, or choose a smaller heater to take to work to take the chill out of a cool office.

This heater is the type of heater that is typically used in a restaurant or an outdoor bar area.
One of the best attributes of an infrared heater is that it gets hot when it is plugged into the outlet.  You do not have to wait for the heater to heat up like other portable heater varieties.

Unfortunately, that also means that it can cool the moment it is unplugged. Unlike other heathers that will remain warm even after the power has been cut, this heater will instantly get cool.
Many people consider this type of heater unsafe because the coils that radiate heat are very hot to the touch. If a pet or a small child inadvertently puts his or her hand against the coils, they could receive quite a nasty burn. Always be sure to keep any heater out of the reach of small children.

Fan Heater

Woman in rainbow socks warms her feet on the fan heater.

One of the most popular types of portable heaters is a fan heater. This type of heater looks like a traditional fan but uses infrared technology to produce heat. The heat is then blown through an area or space, allowing the fan to work to provide supplemental heat. Fan heaters are made from many top brands and are small, lightweight, portable, and easily accessible.

The fan heater is perfect for indoor or outdoor use and is versatile. This heater is a popular option for people who want to provide supplemental heat to a small room or office. Like other infrared heaters, though, the internal coils can get extremely hot.

If you touch the coils, you could receive a nasty burn. Similar to other infrared heaters, a fan heater uses an electric source. This feature could limit the number of available outlets you can use for the heater or limit where you can place the fan due to a  short cord length.

Halogen Heater

Halogen heater against a wooden background.

Another new technology that is extremely popular right now is a halogen heater. These heaters are very eco-friendly and are a great way to help heat a small room. Running on electricity and utilizing halogen lightbulbs, a halogen heater is small, portable, and efficient.

One of the biggest benefits of running a halogen heater is that this type of heater is extremely energy efficient. The heater uses a series of halogen light bulbs to create enough energy to create heat—an electric source in your home powers the halogen bulbs.

Halogen heaters are perfect to heat just one room in your home. This heater makes it an ideal option to save money on your utility bill month to month. By heating just one room in your home to take the chill away, you can prevent turning on the larger heating system in your home. These heaters are small, portable, and incredibly lightweight.

While it is more common to use this type of heater inside your home, this heater can also heat an outdoor space like a patio, deck, or three-season room. Most halogen heaters can be temperature controlled, allowing you to set the temperature with a convenient timer. They have an internal thermostat that will turn off when the temperature has been achieved. This portable space heater is ideal for a supplemental heating source in your home.

The only real downside to this type of heater is that it does have a limited power capacity. The heater can only heat a small room or space and isn’t ideal for a large room or to heat an entire home. Further, the halogen heating bulbs can get quite hot to the touch, so avoid direct contact with the bulbs. Never run a heater when you are not home or when you are sleeping. Despite the halogen heater’s relatively safe setup, the heater could always tip over and run the risk of starting a space heater disaster in your home.

Ceramic Heater

Living room with a brown sofa and a ceramic heater.

The ceramic heater is another type of heater that uses an electric source to power the heater. The electricity runs through the ceramic elements creating heat that can be distributed through a room. Ceramic heaters are usually small and portable, making them an ideal heater to heat a small space in your home. Like other electric heaters, you may be limited by outlet location and cord length when placing your ceramic heater in your home.

This option is a little heater that works great as a personal heater. The small size makes it ideal for heating just one room in the house but doesn’t work well to heat a large space. While the little ceramic heater gets hot instantly, it will also get cold instantly when the power source is cut off.

Many ceramic heater designs feature an internal fan that helps to blow and distribute the hot air throughout the room. This fan often comes with an internal thermostat that will allow you to adjust your room temperature fully. This feature is a great way to save money on monthly utility bills using the small ceramic heater as a supplemental heat source. This little heater is great for the office or just adding some heat to your bedroom at night.

Space Heater Reminder

Space heater with a blurred lady on the background reading on a couch.

A space heater is a great way to provide a small amount of heat into an indoor space or an outdoor space. A space heater can come in many shapes and sizes and run on different fuel types. A space heater is called a space heater because it is intended just to heat a single room or area of your house.

A space heater is commonly used for supplemental heat and should not be used to heat an entire house. Keep a space heater as a backup heating source to keep you warm through chilly parts of the year.

FAQs

We understand that you have plenty of options when it comes to choosing a portable heater. Between deciding what size heater you want and what fuel type works best for you, it can be overwhelming.

Below, we have put together a list of the most commonly asked questions surrounding portable heaters. Hopefully, by reading through these frequently asked questions, you will find just the right portable heater for your needs.

How safe are portable heaters?

Modern technology for portable heaters has come a long way in recent years, and many portable heaters are relatively safe. Even kerosene and propane heaters can be safe if run with supervision. These heaters will work well to distribute hot air throughout the home, and many heaters can even be used while you are sleeping.

When running electric heaters, including infrared and ceramic heaters, the biggest concern is overloading the circuit they are plugged into. These heaters can pull a tremendous amount of power, so it is important only to use outlets that are rated for that much electricity. If you are using an extension cord or a power strip, make sure that both are rated for the voltage and current that will be running through the wires.

One of the biggest concerns with heaters is their stability. If a hot heater tips over, it could cause serious injury or damage to your home. Traditional oil-filled heaters have long been a source of fire throughout the house.

Luckily, today’s technology has rendered most heaters, even oil heaters, safe. Some internal thermostats and safeguards will cut the power off to the heater if they are tipped over. Further, internal thermostats will automatically shut the heater off if they become too hot.

What types of electric heaters are available?

When it comes to electric heaters, you have plenty of options. Many electric heaters simply provide dry heat by converting the electricity and blowing the heat through an internal fan. Other electric heaters utilize modern technology, such as the infrared heater or the halogen bulb heater.

Many electric heaters use tried and true heating methods, including using internal oil to heat the coils or using a ceramic style coil to produce heat. Of course, while the mechanism to generate the heat may change from heater to heater, each portable heater is still using electricity to power the source.

How much will your portable heater cost you?

There is a great deal of variation when it comes to the cost of a portable heater. A basic, small model that can be used to take the chill off your room may cost you $30. This style will most likely utilize electricity and blow-dry, hot air through space.

More advanced technology, like halogen heat or infrared heat, will run you slightly more money. Some of the tops of the line infrared heaters can cost hundreds of dollars. Halogen-style heaters will typically run under $50 for a small model. Oil-based electric heaters will run between $50 and $80 for a larger unit.

Of course, gas-powered portable heaters are also an option. These tend to cost slightly more because the mechanism to produce heat is more advanced. Expect to pay about $75 for a propane heater and about $150 for a small and portable kerosene heater. Larger, commercial portable heaters that use gas can cost hundreds of dollars and are used to heat large, outdoor spaces.

Can a portable heater cause a fire?

Just like any electric appliance in your home, it is possible to start a fire with a portable heater. Any time you are using oil, gas, or electricity to produce heat, you run the risk of a fire. Luckily, many modern heaters are made with safety features that will prevent a fire. This includes internal thermostats that will shut off if the heater becomes too hot or safeguards that will turn the heater off if the heater tips over or falls over.

To avoid fire from a portable heater, always use caution. Avoid running your heater when you are not home or when you cannot attend the heater. Try not to run the heater at night while you are asleep unless you have necessary safeguards on the portable heater to prevent overheating.

Keep animals and small children away from a heater. If a child or animal climbs on the heater, it could cause it to tip, or the child could get burned from the internal hot coils in the portable heater.

Do electric heaters need ventilation?

Usually, electric heaters do not require much ventilation. That is because the heater is converting electricity into heat and blowing the dry, hot air through the room using an internal fan. Be sure to keep the back of your heater, where the fan is located, clear and free of dust.

You want to ensure the internal fan will be able to pull fresh air into the system so that the motor and mechanisms do not become overheated. Always give a few inches of clearance around your electric heater to prevent overheating.

How much electricity does a portable heater use?

Compared to a traditional heat source, like a baseboard heater or a heat pump, a portable heater barely uses any electricity. This characteristic makes portable heaters energy efficient and a great option to provide additional heat to your home if you have a particularly cool or chilly night.

The average portable heater will use just 1500 watts to run at full power. If you were to run a small space heater for a full 16 hours a day, this would use only about $2.80 worth of electricity to run.

What types of electric heaters are best for you?

When it comes time to choose an electric heater, you should be sure to think about how you will use the heater. Do you want a device that is only for a small room that you can use indoors? If this is the case, perhaps a halogen or a ceramic heater may be an excellent option for you. If you have a larger space to heat, consider using an oil-based electric heater or an infrared heater to heat your room.

Next, think about any features you may like to have on your portable heater. Most electric heaters will have some sort of fan to blow the hot air from the unit at the very basic model, but not all the heaters will have a thermostat and timer.

These features can be convenient if you want to set your heater to run for a certain length of time or to run to reach a certain temperature. Having a thermostat on your electric heater will also allow you to fully adjust and hone in your temperature, reaching the ultimate interior climate.

Remember that an electric heater should never be used as your primary heat source in your home. These portable heaters will heat up but not create enough heat to power large spaces. Always use an electric heater for supplemental heat or to take the chill off of a room. These devices are perfect for lowering your monthly utility costs and giving you a comfortable and inviting home.