Portable heater reviews: FAQs

Portable heater next to a sofa

Portable heaters range in price from less than £20 for a small basic model, to more than £300

How much do I need to spend to get a decent fan heater?

Fan heaters vary in price from about £10 for a small basic one, all the way up to £300+ for more powerful and advanced models. Though the price range is wide, most heaters you'll see in the shops that are designed for home use tend to fall at the lower end of this range, and you'll find lots of choice in the £20-£90 price bracket in particular.

As well as looking a bit smarter than cheaper heaters, many of the more expensive models come with extra features such as an LCD screen that displays the current temperature, a remote control and/or a timer so you can set it to automatically switch on or off. Other useful extra features include frost protection, which means the heater can be set to automatically heat when the temperature drops below 5 degrees.

The good news is that our extensive lab tests of fan heaters have shown that you don't have to spend a lot to get a decent model that heats quickly and efficiently. Our 2014 test of fan heaters uncovered an excellent model for less than £40 that beat heaters more than double the price to make our Best Buy fan heaters list.

How much do fan heaters cost to run?

Running costs for portable heaters can be very low. It depends how much of the time they are operating at maximum power. A 3kW heater operating at maximum power for one hour will use about 3kW of electricity, costing you 43.5p to run. 

Generally, the higher the power (watts), the more expensive the heater costs to run. But if you choose a high powered heater that warms your room up quickly and then switches off it will use less electricity that a heater that takes longer to warm your room.

A heater with an effective thermostatic control will also save you money because it will turn on and off only as required to keep your room at your chosen temperature.

Are there any dangers to using a fan heater?

Unsurprisingly, our tests show that heaters get hot! Fortunately, nearly all have some kind of carry handle for moving them about. Many also have a safety cut out feature – if the heater gets dangerously hot, it will switch itself off.

Never place anything on, or cover up, a portable heater as it massively increases the risk of a fire. Some heaters also have a ‘tilt protection’ feature – if the heater is knocked over, it will automatically switch itself off.

Used properly (always follow the instructions), modern portable heaters are safe.

The Dyson AM05 Hot and Cool heater in a lounge

Not all portable heaters are dull grey boxes, as the Dyson Hot and Cool shows

What’s so portable about portable heaters?

Most are lightweight so can easily be moved from room to room. Even the heavier ones often have a carry or tow handle and castors (wheels) that allow you to easily move them about.

All the portable heaters we've reviewed and rated are mains operated, but most have a cord that is over 1.5m – so you have more flexibility about where in a room you place the heater.

Are they all dull grey boxes?

Portable heaters aren’t the trendiest looking household appliances, but all credit to designers, some of the latest generation have a hint of style about them.

I have central heating, why would I want a portable heater?

Portable heaters allow you to heat just the space you need to heat, not the whole house, so they can work out cheaper than putting the central heating on.

If your house has central heating that is not fitted with individual room control, it can also be more economical to set the main central heating thermostat to low and use a portable heater in the living room, for example.

This means that your living room is nice and warm as you snuggle up in front of the television, while hallways and bedrooms are maintained at a comfortable temperature.

Of course, portable heaters are also great if you don’t have central heating at all.

Where should I position a portable heater?

Fan heaters need an inflow of air in order to create hot air. Sometimes, they have inflow vents for this on top or bottom, but if the vent is on the back, like on most models, avoid placing the heater against a back wall for best results.

Oil-filled heaters radiate heat from both sides. It is often a good idea to position an oil-filled heater in the middle of a room, then when the room is warm enough, move it out of the way again by moving it closer to a wall.

Convectors can be used anywhere in the room.

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