Photo of the Types of Space Heaters AvailableAre you thinking of buying a space heater but not sure which one to get?

Do you want a clear overview of the different types of space heaters available so you can find the one that’s right for you?

If so, this guide is for you.

There are several factors to consider when choosing a space heater and what may be perfect for one person may not be the best option for another.

So, to help you get the best space heater for your home, office, or apartment, we’ve created a simple guide that explains how each type of space heater works along with the pros and cons of each device.

Types of Space Heaters

1. Ceramic Space Heaters

Photo of Ceramic Space Heater
Lasko CD09250
Ceramic Space Heater

A ceramic space heater is outfitted with ceramic plates that are attached to metal coils. It runs on electricity.

As electricity passes through those coils, the ceramic plates heat up. The ceramic plates continue to absorb electrical heat and that heat has to go somewhere, so it gets released into the air.

This heating process for a ceramic space heater is instant and it takes very little time for you to feel the warming effects of this type of heater.

There are two types of ceramic space heaters: with a fan and without a fan.

If the ceramic heater has a fan, then the fan blows air over the ceramic plates to help distribute the heater air more quickly into the room. If the ceramic heater doesn’t have a fan, then the heating process takes a bit longer since the air has to absorb the heat that’s being slowly released by the ceramic plates.

You can find our best ceramic space heater reviews here.

Pros of this Type of Heater

  • Compact in size
  • Lightweight
  • Instant heat
  • Heat can be oscillated
  • Ceramic plates take a while to cool down (heat still radiates after being turned off)
  • Cool-to-the-touch housing
  • Easy to move around
  • Some include a digital thermostat

Cons of This Type of Heater

  • Doesn’t heat a very large space (best for smaller areas)
  • Ceramic heaters without a fan are slow to heat up a room
  • Most types have to constantly run (and use electrical energy) to deliver heat
  • Heat transfer can be blocked by physical objects

2. Fan Space Heaters

Photo of Fan Space Heater
Vornado MVH
Fan Space Heater

A fan space heater is very similar to a ceramic heater. In fact, it operates in almost every single way except for the heating element.

Instead of using ceramic plates, these types of space heaters heat up a metal coil, and that coil is what transfers heat into the air.

Fan heaters come in one type: with a fan.

The fan blows air over the metal coil which pushes heat into the room.

Pros of this Type of Heater

  • Cheap to buy
  • Compact in size
  • Lightweight
  • Instant heat
  • Heat can be oscillated
  • Cool-to-the-touch housing
  • Easy to move around

For apartment renters, this can be a good choice. Check out our best space heater for apartments here to find out more.

Cons of This Type of Heater

  • Heat stops being transferred as soon as the heater is turned off
  • Must constantly run (and use electrical energy) to deliver heat
  • Doesn’t heat a very large space (best for smaller areas)
  • Most of these types of heaters only include turn-dial thermostats, so you can pick a precise degree
  • Heat transfer can be blocked by physical objects

3. Infrared Space Heater

Photo of Infrared Space Heater
Dr. Infrared DR-968
Infrared Space Heater

An infrared space heater works in a completely different way than a ceramic heater or fan heater. However, it is powered by electricity.

The way an infrared heater warms up a space is by emitting electromagnetic waves into the air that heat up the physical objects that are present. The process is similar to how the sun uses radiation to heat up the Earth.

Instead of warming up the air, infrared heater types heat up the objects (e.g. furniture, carpeting, wall) and human bodies that are around it.

Infrared heaters come in two types: with a fan and without a fan.

Since infrared use electromagnetic waves, and not a heating element, to warm up an area, they don’t need a fan to operate. However, some models do include a fan to help speed up the heating process.

You can find our best infrared heater reviews here.

These types of heaters are also good for large basements. If you’re looking for a heater for downstairs check out our guide on the best electric heater for basement here.

Pros of this Type of Heater

  • Heat is not blocked by objects (objects absorb the heat)
  • Heat is long-lasting and continues even when the infrared heater is turned off
  • Some models have wood cabinet designs and look like furniture
  • Cool-to-the-touch housing
  • Some include a digital thermostat
  • Easy to move around if it has wheels or a handle

Cons of This Type of Heater

  • Can be heavy
  • Heat is one-directional
  • Requires physical objects in the room to absorb the heat transfer (fewer objects = less heat)
  • More expensive than ceramic and fan heaters

4. Oil Filled Space Heaters

Photo of Oil Filled Space Heater
Costway 22913-CYPE
Oil Filled Space Heater

An oil filled space heater is often referred to as a “radiator heater”. That’s because these heater types looked very similar to the old-fashioned radiator heaters found in older homes.

Oil filled space heaters are portable and run on electricity.

Inside the body of the heater is diathermic oil. This oil gets heated up and circulates through the columns (or fins).

As those fins get hot, the surface temperature rises and heat is released into the air.

Oil filled space heaters come in one type: without a fan.

Since oil filled space heaters use an internal fluid to heat up a large exterior metal surface, a fan cannot be used in these heaters to help distribute the heat. The heat can only radiate off of the unit through the process of convection.

Pros of this Type of Heater

  • Heat is long-lasting and continues even when the heater is turned off
  • Very efficient and doesn’t have to continuously run to provide heat
  • Some include a digital thermostat
  • Easy to move around if it has wheels

Cons of This Type of Heater

  • Speed of the heat can’t be controlled
  • Can’t heat large rooms as most max out at 150 sq. ft. as a primary heat source and 300 sq. ft. as a supplemental heat source
  • The housing gets very hot
  • Heavier than other types of heaters (around 16-20 lbs.)
  • Heat can’t be oscillated

You can find our best oil filled heater reviews here.

5. Propane Space Heaters

Photo of Propane Space Heater
Dura Heat TT-360
Propane Space Heater

A propane space heater is the only type of space heater that doesn’t use electricity as a power source. Instead, it uses liquid propane (LP) to fuel its operation.

Since propane space heaters use fuel, this makes them the most portable space heaters you can buy. They’re not limited by constraints of a power cord and can operate even if the electricity goes out in your home.

Another major advantage of propane space heaters is that they produce the hottest amount of heat. And, they’re about 20% cheaper to run than a space heater that uses electricity as its power source.

The way a propane space heater works to heat up a room is similar to an infrared heater: it emits electromagnetic waves into the air to heat up objects close by.

The only difference is that propane space heaters liquid propane (LP) to fuel the heating process, not electricity like an infrared heater.

Propane heaters come in two types: with a fan and without a fan.

Also like infrared heaters, propane heaters don’t need a fan to deliver heat. However, some models do include a fan to help speed up the heating process.

You can find our best propane heater reviews here.

Pros of this Type of Heater

  • Most portable and not restricted by a power cord
  • Doesn’t require electricity to run
  • Hottest heat available
  • Cheapest type of heater to operate
  • Inexpensive to buy

Cons of This Type of Heater

  • Requires fuel to operate so you must have enough available to keep the heat going
  • Higher risk of fire and explosion risks due to a flame and burning fuel
  • Not every type can be used indoors safely
  • Some types of propane space heaters emit carbon dioxide and must be well ventilated

6. Panel Space Heaters

Photo of Flat Panel Space Heater
De’Longhi HCX9115E
Panel Space Heater

Panel space heaters are a relatively new invention that are gaining fast in popularity.

A panel space heater can either be mounted on a wall or sit on the floor with the included stand.

Panel space heaters work similarly to oil filled heaters by letting hot air radiate off of the device.

The main difference, however, is that flat panel space heaters don’t use oil, but rather electrical currents to produce heated air.

While a panel space heater may seem like the best type to buy, the truth is that many of these heaters are best used to take the chill out of a room, not heat it up entirely.

There are still some improvements that need to be made with panel heater technology to allow them to fully replace the other types of space heaters mentioned in this guide.

So for now, consider it a good option as a supplemental heat source in your home for rooms that don’t get quite as hot as you need them to.

We recommend these types as an option for the best space heater for large rooms here.

Pros of this Type of Heater

  • Stylish and modern looking
  • Can be mounted on a wall or set on the floor
  • Easiest to use, just plug it in and let it work
  • Can always run without fear of a fire

Cons of This Type of Heater

  • Don’t produce as much heat as other kinds of space heaters
  • Mostly used to take the chill out of the air, and not heat up a room entirely
  • Not many controls
  • Not all models include a fan
  • Can’t move it from room to room if it’s wall-mounted

Which Types of Space Heaters are Best for You?

We hope you enjoyed this guide on the various types of space heaters.

Hopefully, after reading it, you now have a better idea about which type of space heater is right for you.

If you’re still not sure, visit the linked pages above to see reviews on the top heaters for each type. After reading about the best space heaters available, you should be able to narrow down which heater is best for your needs.

Avatar for David Morrison

About David Morrison

David is an Air Quality & Comfort Technician. He has expert knowledge on the technology and design of air purification, air conditioning, and heating systems. His main role is to write content that helps people get the most value out of their air purifiers, air conditioners, and heating units. (See Full Bio)