What Should I Consider When Buying an Electric Heater?

A Kaminsky

When chilly weather approaches, many people think about buying an electric heater. They may consider it for a workshop, a small outbuilding, the garage or any room that needs a little extra heat in the winter time. Sometimes called a space heater, an electric heater is a useful appliance in many homes.

Electric heaters can be used to heat individual rooms of a home.
Electric heaters can be used to heat individual rooms of a home.

An electric heater may be especially useful in older homes that do not have central heating and are heated with steam radiators, or with gas. A small electric heater may be cheaper to use than heating a room with gas or steam. Most people choose an electric heater by price, physical size and British thermal units (BTU).

BTU measures how much heat the electric heater actually produces. The higher the BTU, the more power the heater has. One type of electric heater has the old-fashioned metal coils that heat to a bright red to produce warmth, but technology in the form of semiconductors has arrived, and many new models have ceramic heating elements.

The main advantage of an electric heater with a ceramic element is that it can be completely closed off, with only a fine mesh screen in front. The heating element is not exposed, reducing the risk of fire. Also, a ceramic element is smaller for the BTU it produces. It relies on a fan blower to distribute the heat. This means it is more economical to use.

The physical size of an electric heater is also important. The size of the room will, to a certain degree, dictate the size of the heater. A smaller room will need a smaller heater, to prevent people from tripping on cords or the heater being placed too close to other objects. A larger room means a larger electric heater can be used.

A person can purchase an electric heater beginning at about 30 US dollars (USD). They go up from there, depending on the features and BTU. Some heaters have timers that cut them off at certain times of the day or night.

A person always needs to consider safety when using an electric heater. They should never be left on when no one is home. Cords should be in places where they cannot be stepped on, and should not be wrapped around the heater itself when stored. These cords fray easily and can become fire hazards.

An electric heater should also be placed where there is plenty of room all around it, and nothing placed close by that could catch fire. It should never be placed in front of curtains or under another piece of furniture, such as a table. A person should also look for overheating and tip-over features. which allow the heater to cut itself off if it gets too hot or is knocked over. These are vital features for preventing fire.

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Discussion Comments


BTU required to heat room space = (Desired Temp - Starting Temp) x Square Footage of Room

to figure the BTU of a heater

watts x 3.41 = BTU



Thank you for the guide. Though must of the heaters are between 700 to 1500W, is there a formula for determining how much wattage is needed for a certain size of space?

Thank You

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