If you find yourself struggling to keep warm in the dead of winter, a space heater could be the quick solution you need to improve your comfort as you weather the season. Space heaters come in all shapes and sizes, and there are several different ways to turn a little electricity into warm air that will make your room toasty and cozy.

One of the biggest problems people have when shopping for the best space heater for their homes is understanding the differences in how they work. In particular, there’s a debate raging online between ceramic heaters and oil-filled radiators. Which one gets hotter? Which is more efficient?

In the battle of ceramic vs. oil-filled heaters, the ultimate winner will be the one that works best for your unique situation. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. To figure out how to choose, it helps to understand how different space heaters produce warmth, as well as the pros and cons of each. Other factors will include things like the size of your room, how often you plan to use the space heater and your expectations of speed and efficiency.

Your Cheat Sheet for Choosing Oil-Filled vs. Ceramic Heaters

Buy an Oil-Filled Radiator If:

  • You need long-term space heating for a medium to large room.
  • You need warmth in the bedroom or other spots where silence is golden.
  • You have allergies.

Buy a Ceramic Heater With a Fan If:

  • You want to take the edge off the chill in a small space.
  • You want instant heat.
  • You are concerned about safety for small children.
In all cases, look for oil-filled radiators or ceramic space heaters that are UL-certified and come with safety features like anti-tip protection and automatic shut-off. Measure your room so you know what square footage you need to heat to help you choose the right size heater: In general, a 1500 watt heater will warm a small room between 150 and 250 square feet with ease. Finally, make sure you can place your space heater where it will be plugged directly into a wall outlet — improper extension cord use can cause a space heater to overheat and create a fire risk.

Understanding How Different Types of Electric Heaters Work

Oil-Filled Heaters Are Radiant Heaters

Radiant heat is the heat that comes from a hot surface. An oil-filled heater is a great example of radiant heat in action. The “fins” of these types of space heaters are filled with oil, which is then heated via electric heating elements. The oil never burns off and never needs to be replaced; instead, it is merely warmed up. The oil retains heat very well and keeps the radiator warm for hours at a time, using less energy to do so than it would to keep air as hot for the same period.
Ceramic vs. Oil-Filled Heaters: Which Is Right for You?

Ceramic Space Heaters Are (Usually) Convection Heaters

is heat that comes from the air. Convection heat is produced similarly to radiant heat, in that an element is fired up with electricity, but the convection comes with the addition of a fan that blows across the heating element to spread hot air throughout the room. For this reason, convection heats are often called fan heaters, since the airflow is the major piece of the heating process.
Interestingly, a ceramic heater can be either radiant or convection, depending on its design. Ceramic heaters get their name from the construction of the heating element, which is made of durable ceramic that conducts heat very well. A radiant ceramic heater works by using electricity to warm a ceramic plate, which then radiates heat into the room. A convection ceramic heater, on the other hand, adds a fan into the mix. This blows air across the ceramic parts to quickly heat the air and spread it around the room.
Ceramic vs. Oil-Filled Heaters: Which Is Right for You?

Making the Choice: Ceramic vs. Oil-Filled Heaters

Oil Heaters: The Pros vs Cons

Convection Ceramic Heaters: The Pros vs Cons

Whether you need to heat your bedroom at night so you can create energy savings by turning down your central air or you want to add a little extra warmth to a cold corner, choosing the right space heater will help you weather the winter with ease.

Browse Portable Space Heaters


  • Thanks!
    Clear and to the point. Answered exactly my concerns.

    Edmond on

  • Thanks for the defined help. I really like the pros and cons. Made it much easier to make a decision. Hope to find more info on other shopping decisions.


    Kathy on

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