Best heater 2018: heat your home, garage and shed with the best electric, fan and oil heaters

It's a little brisk. Stick the heating on, eh?

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Holy heck, is it cold in here or what? Even with the central heating on, you're probably finding certain parts of your home are currently too cold for anyone other than polar bears. It's time to buy a heater.

In the past this would have meant a three-bar fire or paraffin burner, and almost certain death. Now however, the best electric heaters are quiet, relatively energy-efficient and in some cases, even look like décor, instead of industrial equipment from Soviet Russia.

How to buy the best 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 fan heater is for you. Prefer something more like a radiator? Oil-filled is the way to go. And if you fancy only being heated if you stand in a perfect position directly in front of the heater, halogen is your friend. We’re focusing on heating entire rooms here, so there's no halogen. 

There are big differences between the way heaters work. Some use spinning blades to circulate air, which is effective if a bit noisy; others let the heat radiate. And some use very clever airflow design to pump hot air around with less noise.

The best heaters, in order

1. Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link Fan Heater and Air Purifier

Best heater for modern homes, with app and Alexa control and multiple modes

Specifications
Power: 2,100W
Timer: Yes, and a mobile app
Safety cutoff: Yes
Size: 63x22x22.2 cm
Reasons to buy
+Heats, cools and purifies+Quiet and non-buffeting
Reasons to avoid
-Not Dyson's sexiest device

Dyson's fans offer quiet and 'non-buffeting' air circulation thanks to their lack of blades, and oscillate very elegantly. This top-of-the-range model does a load more besides. 

Most importantly for the purposes of this buying guide, it heats. Via the reliable iOS and Android app you can set a favoured temperature, even when you're out of the house, and Dyson's lengthily-named air mover will maintain that heat with minimum fuss. There's also a neat little remote that provides most of the same functionality, albeit only at closer range.

The fan also cools in summer and removes impurities and allergens from the air too, with the filter needing a change about once a year or so, depending on how often you use it. The app will tell you when it's time. This is useful for people with allergies as the HEPA filter can trap carbon and pet dander. 

It’s energy efficient too, automatically shutting itself off when no longer needed and back on when temperature needs change. It’s the only fan heater to have Quiet Mark accreditation, so it won’t get in the way of a good night’s sleep. The lack of blades means it’s also much easier to clean than a traditional fan.

Like most Dyson products, the idea is that you leave the (deep breath) Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link Fan Heater and Air Purifier out as part of your decor, rather than hiding it in the loft when not required. However, we'd say you can only just leave it out 24/7/365, because it is rather a squat thing that is nearer to functional than it is to sexy.

2. Dyson Hot + Cool Fan Heater

Specifications
Power: 2,000W
Timer: Yes
Safety: cutoff: Yes
Size: 59.5x15x11 cm
Reasons to buy
+No buffeting+Heats and cools+Cheaper and more attractive than the purifier (above)
Reasons to avoid
-Still not as 'cool' (ho ho) as Dyson's non-heating fans

The Dyson Hot + Cool Fan Heater (or AM09, if you prefer a more technical name) is essentially the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link Fan Heater and Air Purifier without the Link (app) and Air Purifier bits. 

It’s significantly improved over its predecessor, the AM05, with 75% quieter operation. That’s largely the result of redesigned airflow channels which have reduced turbulence within the unit. As it’s the same fan you’ll find in the Purifier model, that means the same silent operation and Quiet Mark accreditation. It can be used in a very focused way to heat a specific bit of the room, such as your computer desk, or it can be set to a more diffuse blow-out, for wider area heating. 

Even without it's big bro's bells and whistles, you're still getting a lot of design for your money here. While there are plenty of me-too products mimicking Dyson’s designs for a lot less money, they’re not a patch on the real thing.

3. Stadler Form Anna Little Fan Heater

Best heater for small rooms

Specifications
Power: 1,200W
Timer: No
Safety cutoff: No
Reasons to buy
+Really small+Quiet and powerful
Reasons to avoid
-No fancy features-A carry handle would be nice

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 the Little heater that can.

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.

4. Stadler Form Paul Adaptive Heat Fan Heater

Best floor-standing heater

Specifications
Power: 2,000W
Timer: No
Safety cutoff: No
Reasons to buy
+Clever design+Heats like a Dyson, for less
Reasons to avoid
-No timer-Drab looks

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.

It’s a more premium model, but 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. 

5. VonHaus Oil Filled Radiator

Best for regular use

Specifications
Power: 2,500W
Timer: Yes
Safety cutoff: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Simple and dependable+Long-lasting heat
Reasons to avoid
-Takes time to warm up-Timers can be noisy-Looks awful

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 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, and the inclusion of a timer is particularly handy in places where central heating isn’t available. You might want to trial one if you’re planning to put it in a small bedroom, however: some people find the timers overly noisy, and like other radiators there’s a bit of noise as they warm up and cool down.

6. Honeywell HZ-510E1 Heavy Duty Fan Heater

Best heater for the shed

Specifications
Power: 1,800W
Timer: No
Safety cutoff: Yes
Reasons to buy
+Great for garages+Wide dispersal fan+Resembles KitchenAid toaster
Reasons to avoid
-A little noisy

This is a wide dispersion heater, designed to warm up a fairly large space quickly: in this case it’s for rooms of up to 22 square metres. It blows very hot air very vigorously, and that means it can be quite noisy compared to some, especially over time. We’re not talking jumbo jet noise levels here, but it’s probably better suited to the shed, garage or workshop than a bedroom. 

Even at full tilt, the casing doesn’t get too hot, but it’s best to stay away from the front of it when it’s been on for a while. There’s a useful temperature warning marker that changes colour so you know when it’s okay to touch. 

This particular model doesn’t have a frost protection feature like some others in the range, but its two thermostat settings and adjustable aim make it suitable for a wide range of chilly settings.