Cozy Up With Cheap Heat

Sometimes even the best furnaces don’t quite cut it during the coldest winter months. If you don’t want to waste energy or money with a thermostat that’s constantly cranked up to the max, a personal space heater can make all the difference and provide enough warmth in a small room, bedroom, or office to help you keep utility costs down. After comparing specifications and reviews from consumers and experts, Cheapism has recommended the best cheap space heaters under $50. Most of our selections are ceramic space heaters that use fans to disperse warm air, and all are designed to be easily portable and weigh only a few pounds. We’ve also included a few alternative options if you need coverage for a larger area, or if you’re willing to spend just a bit more for an infrared model or an oil-filled, radiator-style heater. Our full buying guide explains what to look for in a space heater, as well as important safety measures to keep in mind.

Prices and availability are subject to change.

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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.
  • Built-in safety features include 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 an excellent cheap ceramic tower space heater. The oscillating design and features such as the adjustable digital thermostat and timer are uncommon at this price (which, although it tends to go up in season, usually falls close to $40). This heater is available in two larger sizes, but several owners say that even this small model is effective at keeping a bedroom or moderately-sized living room warm. It’s also nice and compact enough that many claim it’s a perfect solution for cold and drafty bathrooms.

Vornado VH202

Pros:

  • Quickly and effectively heats small spaces, according to online reviews.
  • Tip-over protection and cool-touch case.
  • Lightweight (about 2 pounds) and compact, at 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, with a strong fan to quickly circulate warm air. It's small enough to sit on a tabletop and stays cool to the touch. It also uses considerably less power (750 watts) than most cheap electric heaters do. A fan-only mode extends its use value, as it can keep air circulating during warm months, too. There's an updated version, the VH203, but reviews for that model are still fairly sparse. Shoppers who need a space heater to cover a larger room size might consider the more powerful Vornado VH200 whole room heater. Although you'll pay about twice as much for that model, you'll get a few more features and a five-year warranty for the money. It's Wirecutter's top pick for best space heater.

Lasko 754200

Pros:

  • Longtime top seller on Amazon with an average of 4 out of 5 stars and more than 17,000 reviews.
  • Heats up small spaces quickly, experts say.
  • Fan-only setting makes it useful in summer as well.
  • Wirecutter, Popular Mechanics, Good Housekeeping, and Digital Trends have all named it best space heater for shoppers on a budget.

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 electric ceramic space heater is one of the cheapest models around, and most experts agree it's an excellent purchase for the price. With an adjustable thermostat, high and low heat settings, and a fan-only mode, this unobtrusive and portable heater keeps small rooms comfortable. The Lasko 754200 also has a fan-only mode to keep air circulating. It's an incredibly popular choice with consumers, and feedback at Amazon and Home Depot is generally quite positive, with just a handful of unhappy owners. The Lasko CD09250 electric ceramic space heater, a slightly newer model that is mechanically similar to the Lasko 754200, gets similarly positive consumer reviews. It’s a few dollars more and available in black.

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 isn't very durable.
  • A handful of owners describe a burning plastic odor that goes away after a while.
  • 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. A few people say the "handle," which is actually an indented grip area in the back, is poorly designed, and some owners complain this 1500-watt fan heater is louder than they expected. But, aside from these minor gripes, the short warranty is the only thing that cools our enthusiastic endorsement of the DeLonghi HVY1030.

Crane EE-6490

Pros:

  • Provides a lot of heat for a small area such as a desktop or bathroom.
  • Stylish, compact design with brushed-aluminum housing and a black or white faceplate.
  • Quiet operation, according to users.

Cons:

  • No adjustable thermostat, just a two-speed fan.
  • Housing can get hot to touch, some reviewers say.

Takeaway: This Crane ceramic space heater is a basic but stylish model that appeals to design-conscious consumers. Most user feedback indicates that the Crane does a great job of cranking out heat quickly and is an excellent choice for keeping small spaces like offices warm. However, a word of warning: Several owners say the “cool-touch” housing and front grille can get dangerously hot. Also, a few purchasers wish this heater had a carrying handle, but the majority of reviewers maintain it’s easy to tote from room to room.

DeLonghi TRD4-0615T

Pros:

  • Designed to heat a whole room efficiently.
  • 3 power settings, anti-frost function, and 24-hour timer.
  • Built-in handle, wheels, and cord storage make it easy to move around.
  • Whisper-quiet operation.

Cons:

  • Struggles to warm basements and other larger spaces, according to feedback.
  • Controls aren’t very user-friendly.
  • A handful of owners complain of a burning plastic odor while the heater is operating.

Takeaway: Radiator-style, oil-filled space heaters are more expensive than ceramic space heaters and other convection space heaters, but some users prefer them because they are more energy efficient. Unlike forced-air space heaters, oil-filled heaters like the DeLonghi TRD4-0615T don’t use fans to circulate heat; as a result, this model is nearly silent when on, owners say. On the other hand, that lack of a fan means that the DeLonghi takes longer to heat a room, something a few owners point out.

Dr. Infrared Heater DR968

Pros:

  • Heats rooms up to 1,000 square feet and effectively maintains the temperature, users say.
  • Very quiet; rated only 39 dB by the manufacturer
  • Digital thermostat and remote control.
  • 12-hour automatic shut-off timer.

Cons:

  • Weighs 25 pounds, heavier than most portable space heaters, but has wheels to make moving easy.
  • A few buyers say it broke down after a year or so.

Takeaway: Some consumers prefer infrared heaters like the Dr. Infrared DR968 because they don’t dry out the air like many other electric space heaters can. This model —which actually uses two types of heating technologies and includes a fan to circulate heated air — can warm up a room quickly, according to the reviews we consulted. It also includes extras such as a remote control, and several owners also praise the built-in safety features, like automatic overheat protection. Consumers aren’t the only satisfied reviewers; Popular Mechanics named the Dr. Infrared heater to its list of the best space heaters.

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 room toasty, letting you comfortably lower the central heating, and your energy costs along with it. The market is full of effective, portable space heaters — from traditional ceramic and fan space heaters to infrared space heaters and more — that won't put your budget on ice.

Top brands include Lasko, Vornado, DeLonghi, Honeywell, and Holmes, all of which make a range of space heaters that are designed to warm up rooms of many sizes. While our report is focused on fairly basic, low-priced models that are made for small spaces, if you need to heat a space like a garage, basement, or living room, a medium or large space heater that uses propane or kerosene, or an oil-filled radiator, is probably a better option. Prices for a large or medium space heater such as these range from about $100 to $300.

To determine our picks, we considered both expert and consumer feedback. We looked closely at the outcomes of testing by Consumer Reports and Wirecutter, as well as space heater roundups by product reviewers at Popular Mechanics and Digital Trends, among others. At the same time, we found that the best space heater reviews often come from consumers posting on retail sites such as Amazon, Best Buy, Home Depot, Target, and Walmart. This input from users offers valuable insight into how these products actually fare when it comes to real-world performance.

Reviewers place high value on effectiveness, user-friendliness, and durability. First and foremost, consumers are looking for a personal space heater that generates heat quickly and spreads it throughout the room, maintaining a comfortable temperature. Portable heaters are especially in demand because most users want the option of easily moving a space heater from room to room at home or transporting it to a workspace. Pricier heaters often come with fancy features such as digital displays, programmable settings, and even air filters. But, with cheap space heaters, even simple features like adjustable thermostats or, more rarely, the convenience of a remote control are appreciated.

Look at any best space heater review and you’ll frequently see noise level brought up as a factor in overall satisfaction. The fans in convection models, in particular, can be bothersome. And while maintenance is easy with most of these products, consumers often comment on durability, because once a part breaks, generally the entire heater must be replaced.

Convection Space Heaters

These models force the surrounding air across a heating element in order to warm it. The heat builds slowly and lasts a long time. Some models oscillate to circulate heated air around the room, while others have high-powered blowers to warm a space more quickly on cold days. Although some models house metal heating coils, a great many rely on a ceramic heating element, which is why these types of portable space heaters are often referred to as ceramic space heaters.

Although generally effective and cheap, convection heaters are recommended only for enclosed, small rooms. They use a good deal of energy and can potentially run up the electric bill if you're not careful. 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

A radiant heater spreads heat like a campfire, warming nearby objects and people rather than moving air. Radiant heat units 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.

Infrared space heaters emit infrared radiation that is then absorbed by the objects that the light rays touch. This sort of directed heating cuts down on wasted energy spent heating unoccupied portions of a room.

Micathermic Space Heaters

Alternatively, an electric mica panel heater (or a micathermic heater) is another attractive and efficient option, particularly for warming a larger room size. They work almost like a combination of a convection and a radiant heater, and, thanks to the mica at their core, emit electromagnetic waves that transfer heat out to the surrounding area.

Since they don’t include fans, micathermic heaters are completely silent. They also heat rooms faster than other space heaters, and their thin, flat profiles make them increasingly popular choices for consumers who wish to wall mount them in the interest of saving space or reducing safety/tipping risks in homes with children or pets. Better models sell for around $75 and up. (Although we don’t review it here, the DeLonghi HMP1500EX1 makes it onto the top lists of many industry enthusiasts and claims its share of positive endorsements from users.)

Heating Performance

When it comes to choosing the right space heater, room size matters. Inexpensive electric heaters are intended for targeted warmth in smaller, closed-off 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 and, in reviews of these space heaters, many users express pleasant surprise at their heat output given their compact size. But others say they didn’t take room size into consideration and ended up with a heater that was either too powerful or not strong enough.

Temperature Control

Electric space heaters in general are not terribly energy efficient. Most of our top picks have two knobs: one for 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. Many 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 an adjustable thermostat save a bit more energy, shutting off automatically. Some models also feature an anti-freeze function that automatically turns the unit on 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 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 moved easily. Features such as a handle and a long power cord also add to the convenience of a portable heater. (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. If noise is truly an issue, consider models like infrared space heaters and micathermic heaters that are lauded for their silent operation.

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. 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. Most of the models we recommend come with warranties of at least three years.

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 overheat protection, 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.