Strictly speaking, most ceramic space heaters are forced air heaters as they use a fan to drive air over their heating element. However, there's another class of space heater that combines a powerful fan with a non-ceramic heating element to warm larger spaces. These devices can also serve double duty as a powerful fan in the warmer months.
For home or office use, forced air space heaters from Vornado get the most feedback. The Vornado TVH500 (Est. $175) is the highest-rated space heater of any type in one large independent review. It earns top ratings for warming a person seated nearby, and good ratings for warming a "standard" room. Safety and low noise are other high points.
Good Housekeeping gives the TVH500 a B+ rating -- quite good, but in the second tier of space heaters it tests in its now older round up. Testers agree that it warms up quickly, but complain that heat distribution is a bit uneven. This model features a tip-over sensor -- a big plus in the safety department -- but Good Housekeeping found that while the space heater's squat design makes it pretty stable, the tip-over switch didn't always operate reliably.
User reviews are very mixed. At Amazon.com, various versions of the Vornado TVH500 (see below) garner roughly 140 user reviews, with scores ranging from 3.4 stars to 3.8 stars. As seems to be the bane of most space heaters, quality is variable, with some heaters lasting years, others weeks or days. Some are not happy with the dependability of the heat, noting that at times, the TVH500 can put out a cool breeze rather than a warm one, or that only those sitting directly in front of the heater get adequate warmth.
Some note that the TVH500 is pricy, but it is also feature packed. The non-glowing heating element and tight grill keep little fingers away from harm. In addition to the tip-over switch, there an auto shutoff feature that will turn the heater off to prevent overheating if it senses that airflow is obstructed. There's a remote control and an LCD display to make use easier, as well as a timer to turn the space heater on and off at preset intervals. A spiffier version in glossy black or white with chrome trim is available for the same price, but you give up the remote in exchange for the nicer aesthetics. Both versions come with a five-year warranty, longer than typical for space heaters, but reports on Vornado's customer service seem less than stellar at Amazon.com
If $150 is too much for you to spend on a forced air space heater, the Vornado AVH2 (Est. $100) might be a good second choice in this category. You lose the timer, digital display and remote of the TVH500, but retain its performance and safety features. That's enough to earn it Best Buy status in one independent review, though it's judged to be one step behind when it comes to heating a room and keeping noise to a minimum.
Other experts weigh in as well. The Vornado AVH2 earns a B from Good Housekeeping, again one level behind the TVH500. It heats quickly, the surface stays cool to the touch and it's judged to be "fairly quiet." However, like the TVH500, the AVH2 doesn't distribute heat evenly throughout a room and the tip-over switch is found to be unreliable. The Sweethome.com looks at the AVH2, but finds little to recommend it over the Lasko 754200 ceramic heater it names best overall. The Lasko is judged to be a better performer and more efficient to run, plus it's notably cheaper.
As far as users go, feedback could be stronger. It rates 3.6 stars at Amazon.com following more than 250 reviews. As seems to be the norm for most space heaters, durability surfaces as a major concern. Users at HomeDepot.com are a bit happier, however. There, it rates 4.1 stars based on more than 60 reviews. Around 78 percent of owners recommend it.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Reviewed Space Heaters: If you need a little extra warmth for a cold winter's day or night, one of these top-performing space heaters will fill the bill.
Space Heater Safety: Don't become a statistic. Follow these tips and guidelines for safe, effective use of your electric space heater.
Best Ceramic Space Heaters: Ceramic space heaters are popular for indoor use. These are the top choices, along with some good alternatives that are worth considering.
Best Oil-filled Radiator Space Heaters: Oil-filled radiators heat up slowly, but stay warm longer. That makes them a great option for some uses, and a not-so-hot one for others. We discuss the particulars and name the top performers.
Best Infrared Space Heaters: The benefits and drawbacks of infrared space heaters generates some heated debate. We look at these and other radiant heaters and tell you which ones are worth considering.
Buying Guide: Want to stay warm without burning a hole in your wallet? We run down the things to consider to find the right space heater for you home and your needs.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user reviews we used to find the best space heaters. They are ranked in order of their expertise and helpfulness.