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Ask Mr. Tight-Watt: Most Efficient Space Heaters  Smart Choices Archive

Ask Mr. Tight-Watt: Most Efficient Space Heaters

This is an example of a high-temperature radiant space heater.

Ask Mr. Tight-Watt

A reader sent the following question to Mr. Tight Watt:


“What is the most efficient electric space heater?”

Answer: Mr. Tight Watt contacted Richard Hiatt at the Rural Electricity Resource Council.

According to Richard, there are three types of electric space heaters: High-Temperature Radiant, Natural Convection, and Fan-Forced. He goes on to describe each:

High-Temperature Radiant: Has the glowing red heating elements and shiny mirrored reflector behind the coils. Like the sun, this type of heat doesn’t heat the air; instead it heats people and objects.

Natural Convection: Instead of using coils, heat is distributed over a wider surface of the unit; these may look like the old-fashioned radiator heaters. They don’t get really hot to the touch; an oil-like substance spreads the heat around the surface. Watt for watt, these heaters put out as much warmth, but they don’t feel as hot as radiant heaters.

Fan-Forced Heaters: Like a mini furnace, these heaters use a blower to heat the air. These heaters are often smaller than the others. (Note: Some radiant heaters also have a fan, but do rely on the coils to provide the heat.)

ALL THREE TYPES DELIVER THE SAME AMOUNT OF HEAT (FOR EXAMPLE, 1,500 WATTS) AND ALL ARE 100% EFFICIENT.  

As Richard explains, you might choose one over the other because of the way you want to use the heater. They each deliver heat to people and objects differently. 

More on electric space heaters: "Can a portable electric space heater cut your winter heating bills?" (pdf) from Living with Energy in Iowa.

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