Smart bargain hunters can save some money on energy bills this winter with a little help from a strategically placed electric heater. A cheap space heater is just the right size to keep a small space toasty, letting you comfortably lower the central heating -- and your energy costs along with it. The market is full of effective, portable space heaters that won't put your budget on ice.

See full Buying Guide

Our Top Pick

Honeywell HCE311V
Our Picks
Honeywell HCE311V

Pros:

  • Oscillating fan warms up sizeable rooms quickly, reviewers say.
  • Easy-to-use controls, including a digital thermostat and 1- to 8-hour timer.
  • Quiet operation, according to users.
  • Overheat and tip-over protection; cool-touch housing and handle.

Cons:

  • A few reports of malfunctions (within the 3-year warranty period).
  • No fan-only setting.

Takeaway: Users and consumer product experts vouch for the Honeywell HCE311V as one of the best cheap ceramic heaters on the market. The oscillating design and features such as the digital, programmable thermostat and timer are uncommon at this price.

Vornado VH202

Pros:

  • Quickly and effectively heats small spaces, according to online reviews, with less than half the energy of other cheap space heaters (750 watts vs. 1,500 watts).
  • Tip-over protection and cool-touch case.
  • Fan-only mode for use in the summer.
  • Lightweight -- only about 2 pounds -- and less than 8 inches square.

Cons:

  • No thermostat.
  • Some users wish it generated a little more heat.
  • Mixed reviews for noise.
  • Some reviewers say the heater stopped working after a few months.

Takeaway: This Vornado space heater is an excellent choice for a workspace. It's small enough to sit on a tabletop and stays cool to the touch. It also uses considerably less power than most cheap electric heaters and doubles as a standard fan. An updated version, the VH203, has few reviews but identical specs, so we expect that model to perform just as well.

Lasko 754200

Lasko 754200 Review

Pros:

  • Heats up small spaces quickly, experts say.
  • Overheat protection and low operating temperature in testing.
  • Compact design with carrying handle.
  • Fan-only setting makes it useful in summer, as well.
  • The Sweethome's top pick for small rooms.
  • No.1 best seller on Amazon with an average of 4 out of 5 stars and more than 13,000 reviews.

Cons:

  • Mixed reviews for fan noise; not the quietest appliance.
  • Some buyers report that the heater broke down after about a year of use, but it has reliably served others through several winters.
  • Some users have detected a burning smell.

Takeaway: This Lasko space heater is one of the cheapest and most popular models around. With an adjustable thermostat, high and low heat settings, and a fan-only mode, this unobtrusive and portable heater keeps small rooms comfortable.

DeLonghi HVY1030

Pros:

  • Designed to be portable, with a carrying handle on the back and weight of less than 3 pounds.
  • Effectively heats small rooms, users report.
  • Anti-freeze setting.
  • Fan-only mode.
  • Overheat protection and power indicator light for safety.
  • Available in blue, orange, or gray.

Cons:

  • Mixed reviews for fan noise.
  • Some buyers say the heater broke down in short order or generally isn't very durable.
  • A handful of reports (among hundreds of reviews) of a smell like burning plastic that goes away after a while.
  • A handle on top would be easier to grasp than the notch at the back.
  • 1-year warranty vs. 3 years for our other picks.

Takeaway: In addition to standard features such as thermal cut-off to prevent overheating, this DeLonghi space heater offers an anti-freeze setting, which automatically turns on the unit when the temperature falls below a certain level, and three color options. Only a short warranty period and a handful of reviewer complaints cool our fervor.

Vornado SRTH

Pros:

  • Generates a good amount of heat considering its small size and 900 watts of power, according to some buyers.
  • Tip-over protection and cool-touch exterior.
  • 4-hour automatic shut-off timer.
  • 5-year warranty.

Cons:

  • No thermostat.
  • Several buyers report that the heater broke down.
  • Some complain it's too loud or makes a rattling noise.
  • Some reviewers say it's fine for spot heating but not sufficient to warm up even a small room.

Takeaway: Vornado's portable space heaters are generally well-liked, but the SRTH seems like a miss from this company. Although it does come with a five-year warranty and some buyers like it well enough, we saw too many complaints about the heater breaking down or clattering noisily while it's running.

Buying Guide

Choosing a Space Heater

Smart bargain hunters can save some money on energy bills this winter with a little help from a strategically placed electric heater. A cheap space heater is just the right size to keep a small space toasty, letting you comfortably lower the central heating -- and your energy costs along with it. The market is full of effective, portable space heaters that won't put your budget on ice.

Expensive vs. Cheap Space Heaters.

Lasko, Vornado, DeLonghi, Honeywell, and Holmes dominate the low end with a bevy of choices for less than $40. The same brands offer showier, pricier, more powerful space heaters with fancy features such as digital displays, programmable settings, and remote controls. Some of the most expensive heaters boast ultra-efficient infrared quartz heating elements, air filters, and settings that can be customized to the size of the space. Among the pricier models are oil-filled heaters built to look like radiators (some of these have worrisome safety reports). Generally, high-end space heaters are powerful enough to heat large rooms and open interior spaces. If you’re on a budget, though, you should find that a no-frills electric heater does a fine job of safely heating up a relatively small room or warming an office cubicle.

Convection Space Heaters.

Electric space heaters come in two basic types that differ in how they deliver heat. Convection space heaters force the surrounding air across a heating element and circulate the newly heated air. The heat builds slowly and lasts a long time. Most of our top picks are convection heaters. (Products labeled “ceramic” are usually convection models with ceramic heating elements.) Cheap convection heaters are recommended for small, enclosed rooms. They generally use a lot of energy and can run up your electric bill, but if you use one for supplemental or spot heating -- while also turning down your home thermostat -- you may realize some overall savings.

Radiant Space Heaters.

The second type, radiant space heaters, radiate heat around them like a campfire, warming nearby objects and people rather than moving air. They can be put to good use in very small spaces, such as warming feet under a desk, but the heat doesn’t last long or spread out around a room very well, because there’s no circulation component. Radiant space heaters are less prevalent, and we found few reviews of cheap models.

Space Heater Reviews: What We Considered

For the most part, online space heater reviews come from users posting on retail sites such as Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, Target, and Walmart. We also considered the outcomes of product testing by Consumer Reports and The Sweethome. Some of our picks appear in roundups of the best space heaters by TopTenReviews and Digital Trends, which also test products they review, although it's not clear whether their recommendations in this category reflect hands-on experience.

Reviewers place high value on effectiveness, portability, quiet operation, and durability. They want an appliance that generates heat quickly and spreads it throughout the room, maintaining a comfortable temperature. Most users want the option of easily moving a space heater from room to room at home or transporting it to a workspace. Reviewers frequently bring up noise level as a factor in their overall satisfaction. The fans in convection models, in particular, can be bothersome. While maintenance is easy for this product category, consumers often comment on durability, because once a part breaks, the heater must be replaced.

Heating Performance.

Space heater ratings are no doubt influenced by users’ success in matching their heating needs with the right space heater. Inexpensive electric heaters are intended for targeted warmth in small, enclosed areas. Consumers who try to use even the best small space heater in a large, open space will wind up disappointed and cold. When used as intended, our top picks provide a much-appreciated temperature boost. In space heater reviews, many users express pleasant surprise at the heat output of these models given their compact size. Some warn that it can take a little while to heat an entire room.

Temperature Control.

Most of our top picks have two knobs: one for the power and one for the thermostat. Users can choose a high or low heat setting. Using the lowest setting (which draws less power, measured in watts) can help decrease energy use and reduce costs. Most of our picks also have a fan-only setting for unheated air circulation. This adds value by letting the appliance function as a fan during warm weather (and potentially lower cooling costs) or simply circulate the air in a stuffy room. Heaters with adjustable thermostats turn on and off automatically to maintain a relatively constant temperature. They save energy by ceasing to run when the desired temperature has been reached. Some models also feature an anti-freeze function that automatically turns on the unit if the temperature falls below a certain level.

Portability.

If your goal is to control utility costs by turning down the central heating and using a space heater to warm only the room you're occupying, it helps to have a portable space heater you can carry from room to room. Some expensive space heaters that give off a lot of heat are quite large and basically stationary. Our low-cost picks are small and designed to be portable. Features such as a handle and a long power cord increase convenience and ease of use. (The nonprofit advocacy group Electrical Safety Foundation International warns consumers not to use an extension cord with a space heater.)

Noise.

All our top picks rely on fans to circulate the air warmed by the heating element, helping it disperse more quickly. While a fan makes a space heater effective and versatile, it can also up the noise level. A convection space heater may emit whirring or buzzing sounds and be disruptive in a home or office. Some users don’t mind white noise from a heater, and some even enjoy it, but overly loud models draw criticism. Although heaters designed without whirring fans may be quieter, they take longer to make a room feel cozy and generally cost more.

Durability.

Electric space heaters require little maintenance, save for a light dusting from time to time. However, they are not designed to be repaired. There really aren’t any disposable or replaceable parts, so when something breaks, you just have to buy a new heater. The models we researched do come with one-, three-, or five-year limited warranties. Reviews indicate that the best heaters provide consumers at least a couple of years of service -- four seems to be realistic with fairly heavy use -- although we did read scattered reports stating that some models have given out within weeks.

Safety Features.

A space heater can be a safety hazard, so be sure to choose one that includes critical safety features, no matter which type you buy. The first thing to look for is a label certifying that the product meets voluntary safety standards set by the U.S. government. Perhaps the most common label is ETL, from an outfit called Interek. Others are UL (from the Underwriters Laboratory) and CSA (Canadian Standards Association), which likewise indicate that the product has been tested and meets accepted standards.

A safe space heater should also have an automatic shutoff or overheat protection feature, which turns off the heating element if it gets too hot. Another key safety feature -- especially for taller, more top-heavy models -- is a tilt switch that shuts off the unit if it tips over. Some heaters have “cool touch” housing that’s designed to be safe to handle even on the high heat setting. A power indicator light can deter people from touching a potentially hot appliance while it's running.

Regardless, make sure to follow general safety guidelines:

  • Read the owner’s manual.
  • Never plug a space heater into an extension cord.
  • Keep the heater 3 feet away from combustible materials such as drapes, bedding, and furniture.
  • Keep the heater on a flat surface where children and pets can’t reach it.
  • Don’t use a space heater around water, paint, chemicals, gas cans, or matches.
  • Unplug the heater when it’s not in use and unattended.
  • Keep the cord out of the way but visible, so you don’t trip and knock over the unit.
  • Discontinue use if you notice overheating or detect a burning smell.

Features Comparison

Sort by:
Review Score:
Product Title
Type
Wattage
Heat Control
Fan Mode
Timer
Safety Features
Warranty
Product Title
Type
Wattage
Heat Control
Fan Mode
Timer
Safety Features
Warranty

Honeywell HCE311V

$37
Ceramic convection
1,500
2 power settings, digital thermostat
No
1- to 8-hour
Overheat and tip-over protection, cool-touch housing and handle
3 years

Vornado VH202

$30
Forced air
750
2 power settings
Yes
No
Tip-over protection, cool-touch case
3 years

Lasko 754200

$25
Ceramic convection
1,500
2 power settings, adjustable thermostat
Yes
No
Overheat protection
3 years

DeLonghi HVY1030

$30
Ceramic convection
1,500
2 power settings, adjustable thermostat, anti-freeze setting
Yes
No
Overheat protection, power indicator light
1 year

Vornado SRTH

$40
Ceramic convection
900
2 power settings
Yes
4-hour
Overheat and tip-over protection, cool-touch exterior
5 years

Crane EE-6490

$35
Ceramic convection
1,200
2 power settings
Yes
No
Overheat and tip-over protection
1 year