Looking for the best heater for when the temperature drops? T3 understand: even with the central heating on, you might be finding certain parts of your home are too cold for anyone other than polar bears, and that means it's time to acquire the best portable heater money can buy.
The best electric heaters are quiet, relatively energy-efficient and in some cases, even look like décor, instead of industrial equipment from the arctic temperatures of winters past. With so many options available on the market today (some of the entries in our guide to the best fans double as heaters, and there are a number of entries among the best Dyson fans too), it can be hard to narrow down what you need.
That's where this guide comes in! In this list, find the best heater for your home, garage and shed, and keep warm all year round.
Best heaters ranking 2023
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Dyson's fans offer quiet and 'non-buffeting' air circulation thanks to their lack of blades. They oscillate very elegantly, in this case up to an extremely useful 350˚ of wraparound warmth. This particular model has three sterling features – it’s a fan heater, it’s a cooling fan and it has arguably the most comprehensive air purification system that money can buy.
Let’s take a look at the heating first because, well, that’s why you’re here. Via the reliable Dyson app, you can set a favoured temperature, even when you're out of the house, and it will maintain that heat with minimum fuss. There's also a neat little magnetic remote that provides most of the same functionality, albeit at closer range.
Granted, the heat output doesn’t feel as hot as a ceramic fan but it feels much more natural. Its oscillation feature and 10-speed fan will distribute the warm air over a much wider arc. The thermostat-controlled temperature range goes up in one degree increments from around 21˚C to a cosy 37˚C. The beauty of this system is that all the same functions also apply to the cooling feature, so come summer time, simply tap the blue button and it will deliver a nice cool breeze instead.
Of course, this fan doesn’t just keep you warm or cool you down, it purifies the air too. In fact it seems to clear the air of pretty much everything, including formaldehyde – a nasty gas that’s emitted by most wooden flooring, cigarettes and a variety of household products. The Dyson Purifier Hot+Cool Formaldehyde uses a HEPA air filtration system and a bank of sensors to measure air quality, adjusting its air intake speed response accordingly. The filter will need changing about once a year or so, but thankfully the app and the unit’s LCD screen will tell you when it's time.
Granted, over £600 is a lot for a blow heater but then this model is so much more than just a heater. It’s a do-it-all, year-round air treatment solution that just happens to look amazingly stylish, too. If you have the funds to spare, you might not find a more technologically adept fan heater anywhere else on the market. Browse our Dyson discount codes to save on your order.
The main downside of fan heaters is that they stop heating the air as soon as you switch them off, so you often find yourself in the cycle of “too cold!” “that’s better!” “too hot!”. And of course whenever they’re on they’re burning through your electricity bill.
An oil-filled radiator isn’t as instant – they all take a while to warm up – but the oil and metal surround stays hot for a long time, continuing to warm the room long after the heating element switches off. That makes them particularly well suited to everyday use in a wide range of places. Also, the inclusion of a timer is particularly handy in places where central heating isn’t available.
This particular six-fin model produces 800 watts of radiating heat and comes replete with a thermostat and overheat protection. It’s cheap as chips to buy but not the best looker, it must said. In fact, if you want something that looks a lot more elegant, check out the Vonhaus 2500W Digital Oil Filled Radiator which has closed fins and a lot more onboard tech.
The Anna Little is like Stadler’s other Anna heater, but cheaper and, yes, littler. Don’t let its tiny dimensions fool you, though: it still chucks out a very creditable 1,200W from its tiny fan, making it ideal for smaller spaces.
Stadler heaters are made to high standards and tend to deliver very quiet performance, and this is no exception. It’s worth noting that it’s very much a no-frills product, though: if you want a heater that’ll oscillate, chill you in the summer or switch itself on in the morning, this is not that heater.
It’s worth pointing out another omission: unlike many small heaters, the Anna Little doesn’t have a carrying handle. It’s a heater that’s designed to be placed in one place most of the time, so if you need one that you can move around easily, you might be better off with something less elegant but more flexible.
The Russell Hobbs 1.5kW Retro PTC Heater is perfect if you're looking to heat a fairly localised area. It can deliver warmth to around 15 square meters of space, which makes it ideal if you're working from home a lot more these days.
There's retro styling, which might not be to everyone's taste, but the unit is pretty dinky anyway so it's hardly an issue. You get the benefit of two heat settings, 750W or 1500W, or a fan-only option, plus a variable thermostat that helps to maintain a steady temperature.
Crucially for such a small portable heater there's overheat and tip over protection, with the unit switching off automatically if it gets knocked over. The cool touch design also means you won't toast your fingers if you need to move the heater at any point. As a small option that'll take the edge off a cold snap this makes a great option.
Paul is an adaptive heater, which means that like the Dysons, it adjusts its output to maintain whatever temperature you choose, in much the same way the heating and cooling system in your car does. It’s accurate to plus or minus one degree and has eight heat settings that you can control remotely or from the integrated control panel.
One of the main benefits of the Paul heater is that it’s very, very quiet even at the higher airflow settings, wafting the air around rather than blowing it in your face. It works as a fan in the summer too, circulating air around even large rooms.
Although it’s more of a premium model, it’s cheap compared to a Dyson, and well engineered. It's also smaller than it looks, pumping out up to 2,000W of heat from a relatively restrained, 18cm footprint. You can get no-name knock-offs that are much cheaper, but they’re also less efficient and a lot more noisy.
This is a 3kW wide dispersion heater, designed to warm up a large space quickly. Like any industrial fan heater, it blows very hot air very vigorously, and that means it can be quite noisy compared to domestic models. We’re not talking jumbo jet noise levels, but it’s definitely better suited to the garage, shed or workshop than a bedroom; unless want to know what it’s like to sleep in a tropical hurricane.
The Benross features two heat settings – 1,500W and 3,000W – and according to the blurb, ‘based on the October energy price cap of 34p per kWh, it will cost you around £1.02 per hour when run at the maximum power of 3,000W’. A durable metal casing, titling function, an integrated carry handle and an IPX4 waterproof rating rounds off an efficient blow heater that’s suitable for a wide range of chilly settings.
How to buy the best portable heater
Not all heaters are hugely effective. Some do little more than threaten Jack Frost, while others prize power over peace and quiet. Some sip electricity, while others may bankrupt you. What we have here is the crème de la crème of 'chaud', as the French say.
There are several things to consider when you want a heater. The first is how you want to use it. Do you want instant heat in short bursts? A ceramic fan heater is for you. Prefer something more like a radiator? Oil-filled is the way to go.
There are big differences between the way heaters work. Some use spinning blades to circulate air – which is effective if a bit noisy – while others let the heat radiate. And some even use very clever airflow design to pump hot air around with less noise.