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 this update, we saw the best feedback overall for the Vornado AVH2 (Est. $90). This is a basic model, and lacks some higher-end features -- such as the digital display and remote found in the step up Vornado TVH600 (Est. $200) -- but it also sells for substantially less than many forced air space heaters in this class.
In testing, the Vornado AVH2 does pretty well. Test results were not posted at the ConsumerReports.org web site when we last checked, but this space heater is named as a top pick in this free article. "Fairly quiet running, fast heating, and a five-year warranty are among chief strengths of this electric heater," says Ed Perratore.
Good Housekeeping has a few nits to pick, but not too many and the Vornado AVH2 earns a grade of B. It heats quickly, testers there agree, the surface stays cool to the touch and it's judged to be "fairly quiet." However, like many forced-air space heater, the AVH2 doesn't distribute heat evenly throughout a room and the tip-over switch is found to be unreliable.
As far as users go, feedback is about as good as these types of space heaters typically earn. It rates 4.0 stars at Amazon.com following nearly than 730 reviews, though a handful of these are for the Vornado AVH2 Plus (Est. $100), which is identical save for the addition of a 12 hour timer. As seems to be the norm for most space heaters, durability surfaces as a major concern. One plus is that this assembled-in-the-U.S. space heater is covered by a longer than average five year limited warranty. User ratings elsewhere are a little more limited, but still generally positive. For example, based on feedback from more than 140 owners, the AVH2 rates 4.1-stars at HomeDepot.com, with 81 percent saying that they would recommend this space heater to a friend.
The Vornado VH10 (Est. $65) is similar, but cheaper still. The key difference is a less sophisticated thermostat system (the AVH2 uses Vornado's Auto Climate Control system, which alters heat levels and fan speeds to do a better job of maintaining a steady room temperature than the simple on/off operation of the VH10). Be that as it may, the VH10 is well regarded in one large comparative test, and earns Best Buy status there. User reviews aren't as extensive as for the AVH2, but what's there is largely positive, including a 4.3 star rating at Amazon.com based on the feedback from 50 owners.
Most forced air space heaters use a traditional fan to circulate air. Dyson space heaters hide the blades inside the base -- just like the company's standard "bladeless" fans -- and take advantage of the physics of air flow to move air at higher speeds than most fans are capable of replicating.
All reviews of Dyson space heaters, such as the Dyson AM09 Fan Heater (Est. $440) largely agree on three points: The technology works, the appliance has a nifty look, and the price is tough to justify. Though CNET rarely reviews space heaters, the site's Ry Crist had this to say about the AM09: "The Dyson AM09 Hot+Cool performed very well in our tests, and offers a distinctive, functional, feature-rich design." It's also the highest rated space heater in one large review. Performance when heating a person or a room are all judged to be excellent. However, TheSweethome.com doesn't think as highly of it, saying that while the AM09 does a terrific job of directing heat to a specific spot, it's slower to heat up a room in general.
Functionality on the Dyson AM09 is excellent. The fan does a great job blowing both hot and cold air -- TheSweethome.com notes that the fan was better than with any space heater it tested -- and you can select whether to focus the air on one spot or opt for more diverse whole-room coverage. A remote is included, but don't lose it as it's needed to access some functions, such as a timer.
In terms of style, the AM09 certainly looks different than any other space heater that lacks the Dyson name. The bladeless ring sits upon a pedestal base giving the appliance a "futuristic" vibe, most reviewers say. Color combinations include blue/iron, white/silver and black/nickel.
Value is the rub; it's more than four times pricier than the Vornado AVH2, for example. "Though very solid, the AM09 doesn't outperform much cheaper competitors by a wide enough margin to justify the price difference," CNET says. TheSweethome.com goes a step further and calls the price "insane" in light of its relative performance.
But value is in the eye of the buyer, and judging by user reviews, most seem satisfied with their purchase. It earns a 4.4-star rating at BestBuy.com, for example, based on roughly 260 user reviews. At Amazon.com, it earns a 4.1 star rating based on more than 165 reviews. Many say it's expensive, to be sure, but worth it for an effective product that's also a conversation piece. That's in line with what CNET's Crist says: "Like the rest of Dyson's air multiplier lineup, the AM09 is a pretty obvious design play. If you're buying it because you think it's hundreds of dollars better at heating and cooling than the competition, you're doing it wrong."