Weekly Hack: Portable heater tips (to get more warmth!)

Published: January 24, 2020

portable heater By Yevhen Prozhyrko/Shutterstock

Baby, it’s cold in here! If you want to boost the heat in one room, a portable space heater is a good solution. But choose the right one, and use it correctly, for optimal warmth. Follow these tips.

1) Pick the right-sized heater for the space. What’s the square footage of the room that you’re trying to heat? Match it to the wattage of the heater (usually listed on the box). Ten watts of energy will heat (roughly) one square foot; so, a 1,500-watt heater is big enough to keep a 150 sq. ft. room toasty.

2) Keep heat loss in mind. A room that’s full of drafts, has high ceilings, or has a lot of windows, is going to be harder to heat than one that’s airtight and well-insulated. Does the former sound like your cottage living room? You may want to buy a heater with a slightly higher wattage to compensate.

Here’s a simple trick to detect drafts in your cottage.

3) Should you go convection or radiant? Most plug-in, electric heaters fall into one of these two categories. Convection heaters warm the air in the room; radiant units, on the other hand, warm the stuff inside the room. Like…your body.

4) For a room in which you plan to spend a lot of time, go convection. These heaters pull cold air from the floor, heat it (often by passing it over a heating coil), and expel it up. Eventually, the warm air replaces all the chilly air in the room. Convection units heat the room evenly, since warm air rises and falls evenly. They’re also silent; even the models equipped with fans—the better to disperse the heat—aren’t too obtrusive.

5) For a space that you only need to heat for a few hours at a time, go radiant. Radiant heaters send warm air into the room. Stand motionless directly in front of a radiant heater and you can get smokin’ hot. Move out of its path…not so much. Still, radiant heaters put out a lot of heat immediately. Sitting on the couch to binge watch? A radiant heater is your friend! (Psst, what about infrared? Like radiant units, these warm the contents of the room, not the air, but they use infrared radiation—a little like sunlight.)

6) Buy a unit with energy-efficient features: multiple heat settings instead of one; a programmable thermostat; a shut-off timer.

7) Safety first! Position your heater somewhere away from foot traffic, and where it won’t easily be knocked over. Don’t put it beside any curtains. And don’t hang your laundry on it to dry. That’s a fire hazard. And it’s wasteful: your mitts and longjohns will block the precious, precious heat output.

Follow Natural Resources Canada’s advice on how to make your home more energy-efficient.

Check out these CL-approved picks for heating small spaces.

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