Which space heater is best?

How to be the best consumer you can be.
Feb. 10 2009 7:05 AM

Heated Debate

Which space heater is best?

(Continued from Page 1)
Honeywell HZ-7200 Cool Touch Oscillating Heater With Smart Energy Digital Control Plus, $58.63

Honeywell HZ-7200 Cool Touch Oscillating Heater With Smart Energy Digital Control Plus, $58.63 For the money, this thing cooks. It's the only one of the smaller convection heaters I tested with a frost-watch setting that will kick the heater on if the room temperature reaches close to freezing. The major drawback of this black, oval-shaped model—which looks like a squished, miniature Death Star—is its short, 22-inch power cord. If you don't have a lot of outlets in your house or they are not conveniently located, this could present a problem. (Also note that only heavy-duty extension cords should be used with space heaters.) Safety features include tip-over shut-off and overheating protection.

Warm Up: 6
Noise: 2
Safety: 2 (reduced due to short power cord)
Bells and Whistles: 6
Total: 16

DeLonghi HHP1500 Mica Panel Radiator, $89.99
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DeLonghi HHP1500 Mica Panel Radiator, $89.99 This was the best heater for instant, silent, blazing toastiness. While the large panel—which looks somewhat like a flat-screen television on wheels—fires up quickly and emits a strong radiant heat, there's no fan to circulate the air, so it's a bit slow on room warm-up time. A ceiling fan or a small stand-up fan would work well in tandem with this unit.

What prevents this perfectly good heater from being a really great one is that it's a little skimpy when it comes to features—no timer, no thermostat readout. It also seems odd and somewhat frightening that it doesn't have a tip-over safety shut-off, as its height and slender shape makes it really easy to topple.

Warm Up: 5
Noise: 5
Safety: 2
Bells and Whistles: 6
Total: 18

Delonghi Safe Heat Ceramic Tower, $90.20

Delonghi Safe Heat Ceramic Tower, $90.20
At the highest setting, the Delonghi Tower seemed to crank out a bit more powerfully than other ceramic heaters. It's also nicely tricked out, with a remote control, 24-hour timer, automatic overheat protection, and a tip-over safety mechanism—which, considering its height (28 inches from the base), is definitely a wise addition. But the interface was the least user-friendly of the bunch. (If your father regularly asks you how to turn on a computer, don't buy him this heater.) And like the Vornado fan, this heater makes an annoying beeping sound when you change the temperature.

Warm Up: 9
Noise: 2
Safety: 4
Bells and Whistles: 8
Total: 23

Honeywell HZ-385BP Safety Sentinel Electronic Ceramic Tower Heater, $78.99

Honeywell HZ-385BP Safety Sentinel Electronic Ceramic Tower Heater, $78.99
This model has the most safety features of the bunch: automatic tip-over shut-off, overheating shut-off, and a power cutoff if something—child, pet, strewn clothing—gets too close to the infrared sensor mounted on the bottom front of the unit. It's also the only model I tested that has the option of displaying temperature in Fahrenheit or Celsius. (My Scottish girlfriend speaks only Celsius, so I found this particularly useful.) Some Amazon users complained of a beeping noise when changing the temperature settings, but Honeywell must have heard their cries—this model worked without beeps.

Warm Up: 9
Noise: 2
Safety: 6
Bells and Whistles: 8
Total: 25

Conclusion
Finding the best heater depends on what you're using it for—how big is the room you are heating? How cold is it? In general, electric convection (oil-filled heaters or heat panels) seemed best for heating a room slowly but surely while fan-forced convection heaters are best for quickly raising the temperature. 

As for me, I'm not sure I found the best heater. My ideal machine would've been some Frankenstein version of the Delonghi Mica Panel with an internal fan like the Vornado's, a simple digital readout, a multi-hour programmable timer (so I could set it to turn on early in the morning and before bedtime), and all the safety features.

It's 2009—how hard can this be?

Dan Crane is a writer and musician living in Los Angeles. He is the author of To Air is Human: One Man's Quest to Become the World's Greatest Air Guitarist.

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