Heater Buying Guide

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Portable heaters provide a quick and effective way of heating rooms, and may be the cheapest way of warming areas of the home not reached by central heating. This heaters buying guide should help you decide what factors are important before you decide to buy a portable heater.

1 Type: Electric vs. Gas

Your first consideration is likely to be whether to opt for an electric or gas heater, with both types having their own unique benefits.



  • Usually cheaper to run
  • Do not require an electrical outlet
  • Works during power outages
  • More portable

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2 Heating: Heating Elements

There are three main types of heating element available for electric heaters: quartz, column heaters and ceramic.

Quartz Heaters

These heaters have one or more glowing tubes that act as the heating element and are often the cheapest models. The heating elements are usually hidden behind a metal grid, but are still exposed, so you may need to be careful if you have children or small pets.

Column Heaters

Column heaters are also known as oil heaters, as while they are powered from an electrical socket, they use oil as a heat reservoir (rather than a fuel). While safer than quartz heaters, they can take a while to get started.

Ceramic Heaters

Using a ceramic heating element, these appliances generate heat from a wider area than quartz models. They can also be quite thin, enabling you to mount them on walls.

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3 Features: Additional Features

  • Tilt-safety switch in case the unit is knocked over
  • Fan for better distribution of air
  • Overheat shut-off mechanism
  • Oxygen depletion safety device (gas heaters)
  • Flame failure shut-off (gas heaters)
  • Thermostat
  • Oscillation – turns from side to side for better heat distribution
  • Humidifiers
  • Air filter

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4 Controls: Control Settings

More expensive models will tend to have electronic controls and displays, with a range of automated programs. For instance, some heaters are controlled thermostatically, which means they measure the room temperature and switch the unit off and on when necessary. There are also programmable timers that allow you to choose what times of the day you would like the heater to function.

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