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Electric, Propane, Natural Gas or Oil-filled?

Space heaters are not only powered by electricity. They also come in propane, natural gas or oil models. Which one is right for you? Use the descriptions of each type below to decide:


The convection style space heater is the most common choice, and the least expensive, at least initially. Over time though, heating by electricity is still the most expensive way to warm a room.

Electric heaters also can cause the equivalent of a sunburn just with brief contact, so if possible, keep the kids, pets, paper and other objects away from these heaters. They are still safer than fuel-powered models though, and they generally work by having a fan blow air over heated coils. This produces a hum, but it’s a hum that most people learn to ignore.

The newer ceramic models are not expensive and much cooler to the touch. Radiant electric heaters have no fans and make no noise, but they are best for heating people, not spaces. They are a good choice for garages, with some stylish models now used in rooms where people don’t move around much, such as offices and bedrooms.


These are not too expensive to operate, but they do have an initial higher price. Most of the large models should only be used on porches or other well-vented outdoor areas because they pose a risk of carbon monoxide in the air. They also get very hot and can ignite fabrics. Newer, smaller models are suitable for indoor use.

Natural Gas

These are quite similar to propane heaters, in that many models come with the capacity to use either propane or gas. You will, of course, need a source of natural gas to hook one of these up. More of these heaters are being built for indoor use now, but they are most commonly used in RVs, boats, workshops and garages.


These silent heaters with no fans use synthetic oil that is sealed inside, heated by electricity. They will have an odor when first turned on, but it will dissipate. A heating element heats the oil until a certain selected temperature is reached, then the oil generates heat into the room. They often look like old-fashioned radiators and many come with wheels so that they can be moved around in the house. They are a good choice for living rooms or bedrooms.


As with many other appliances, including standard heaters, you must ask if you want to pay a higher price for a machine that operates at better efficiency. If that is true and you don’t mind having a propane bottle hooked to your heater, then propane is a good choice. If you don’t want to mess around with gas or oil, then go electric.