Though some also have fans to spread out their heat, infrared space heaters are generally most effective in heating up a person or a small area rather than a whole room. The most basic type consists of a quartz or electric ribbon element and a rear reflector. This type of radiant space heater is fairly "old school;" it's rarely reviewed, and when it is, feedback is mixed at best.
We do see better feedback for larger infrared heaters, which include more heating elements and a fan system inside a somewhat bulky enclosure. The Honeywell HZ-980 (Est. $180) gets the best professional feedback in this category, earning a Recommended rating from one independent reviewer. As is the case with all infrared heaters, and despite the presence of a fan in this model, it's judged better at spot heating than in heating a whole room, though it's still considered very good in handling the latter. User reviews are limited, about a dozen each at Amazon.com and HomeDepot.com. A significant minority get heaters that are dead right out of the box, and that's troubling, but those who receive working heaters rate it highly. Just under 80 percent of BestBuy.com users saying that they would recommend it to a friend, which is about typical user feedback for most space heaters.
Kaz, which makes this space heater under license from Honeywell, doesn't bother too much with aesthetics. Where many larger infrared space heaters in this class are housed in wood cabinets that more closely resemble a piece of furniture rather than a supplemental heating source, the HZ-980 comes in a basic black plastic cabinet. It is, however, relatively feature-rich. There are touch screen controls, LED readouts and an included remote control, and reviews indicate that the heater is easy to use. The maker claims that the HZ-980 saves 35 percent on energy bills compared to a standard 1,500 watt space heater. While those claims are not independently verified, there is an energy use indicator that displays current usage. There's also a timer to automatically shut off the heater after between one and eight hours.
The Honeywell HZ-980 is well equipped on the safety front as well. There's both overheat protection and a four-way tip-over detector. Most of the case is cool to the touch when running, but testing reports that the heat exhaust opening can get warm to the touch.
If you want an infrared heater with something nicer than a black plastic cabinet, the Dr. Heater DR-968 (Est. $140) could be worth considering. We did not see any feedback from professional reviewers we consider reliable, but there is extensive user feedback available, and this infrared heater rates fairly decently. At Amazon.com, more than 850 owners have left reviews and the DR-968 earns a 4-star rating -- putting it toward the top end of all space heaters with lots of feedback. There's less feedback at Air-n-water.com, but the infrared space heater earns a score of 4.7 stars after just over 50 reviews.
While most users seem happy, we did see the usual complaints of heaters that either arrived damaged or that stopped working all too soon. The DR-968 is covered by a three-year warranty, but some encounter difficulties in having it honored. Others are disappointed about the heat output, something that some users -- even those that rate this heater highly -- say is the result of inflated marketing claims in that regard by the manufacturer. However, those negative comments are more than offset by those from users that are very pleased with the DR-968, claiming sufficient heating for their purposes and good customer support in addressing issues.
The DR-968 is also relatively feature rich. It is housed in an attractive light-wood enclosure, with a black grill and control panel on the front. We saw no complaints regarding ease-of-use, and the heater has push-button controls, an LED readout and a remote control. It lacks a timer, however. Safety provisions include both a tip-over sensor and an overheat cut-off.
If you only want a space heater to warm your feet as you work at your desk on a chilly morning, a basic infrared space heater like Optimus H-4110 (Est. $25) might fill the bill. It's not received formal testing, but there's plenty of feedback at Amazon.com, where roughly 375 owners have posted their opinions. Results are mixed; while many -- especially those that understood the limited heating that the H-4110 provides -- are pleased, a significant number report durability issues and are disappointed in the heat provided. Unlike most heaters in this report, the H-4110 is rated at only 300 watts, so while it's fine as a desk-side heater, it's inadequate for anything more demanding.
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 Forced Air Space Heaters: These combine a powerful fan and a heater in one package. They are great choices for warming up large spaces quickly, but the best models can get costly.
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.