Some of the best space heaters cost $100 or less

Some of the best space heaters cost $ 100 or less

You don’t have to look far to see ads hawking space heaters, with special sales of the portable Dyson AM04 and the Heat Surge HT-XL—the so-called Amish heater—as close as your home-shopping TV channels. But even if you need to settle quickly on a model, you don’t have to spring for one of the sale-priced but still-pricey units making the rounds. In fact, you can pay far less.

The $ 300 Dyson AM04, in our tests, did particularly well at spot heating—the ability to heat a person sitting in its path, not just the room. It offered the best blend of heating speed and safety and has multiple fan speeds plus a remote control. A newer model, the $ 400 Dyson AM05, can cool as well as heat. The furniture-like Heat Surge HT-XL (see photo), $ 400, mimics a fireplace and is encased in an oak cabinet the manufacturer touts as Amish-built. (The working parts are made in China.) While overall it did no better than the best portables, it heated rooms impressively and shields its heat-exhaust area well, important if you have young children.

Yet other top-scoring heaters can heat you and an average-sized room for as little as $ 40. The Duraflame 10HM4126-0107 edged out the Heat Surge HT-XL by a hair in overall performance and, at $ 230, costs $ 170 less. And of the five portable models that fared nearly as well as the Dyson AM04—but cost much less—the $ 40 Holmes HFH436 came closest and even shielded its heat-exhaust area more completely. What you give up for the price are multiple fan speeds, oscillation, a tip-over switch (which shuts the unit off if it’s kicked over), a timer, and a remote control. Other top-scoring models include the $ 65 Lasko 6462 and the $ 55 Bionaire BCH9212.

Space heater safety
When you shop for an electric space heater, look for a label from a recognized testing lab such as UL (Underwriters Laboratory), ETL (Intertek), or CSA (Canadian Standards Association) verifying that the heater’s construction and performance meet voluntary U.S. safety standards. And use it with care. Not all are risk-free: Many we tested got hot enough to cause the equivalent of a bad sunburn within a second of contact. Here are some helpful safety tips from our experts.

  • With any heater, keep it on a level, flat surface where children and pets can’t reach it and never in a child’s room.
  • Use a heater on a tabletop only when specified by the manufacturer.
  • Use it only in dry areas, away from paint, gas cans, or matches, and keep combustible materials such as furniture, bedding, and curtains at least three feet from the front of the heater, and away from its sides and rear.
  • Never leave the heater unattended while it’s plugged in.
  • Position the cord so it isn’t a tripping hazard.
  • And be careful what other electrical devices are running on the same circuit. This includes the same extension cord, the same outlet, or even the same group of outlets on one circuit.

Before viewing our Ratings of almost 20 space heaters, be sure to check out our buying guide. You’ll also find Ratings with buying guides for thermostats, gas furnaces, and pellet and wood stoves.

—Ed Perratore

Consumer Reports has no relationship with any advertisers or sponsors on this website. Copyright © 2007-2013 Consumers Union of U.S.

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