Experts note that when it comes to heating up a space in a hurry, oil-filled radiator space heaters lag behind other types, notably ceramic space heaters. That's one big reason why, as a group, they get lower grades than other types of space heaters in one large independent test. However, oil-filled radiator space heaters have a couple of advantages.
One of those advantages is that oil-filled radiators retain their heat long after power is removed, just like conventional hot-water radiators. That property makes them ideal for certain situations, such as at bed time. It's not considered safe to go to sleep with a space heater still on. But an oil-filled radiator can be used to warm up a bedroom before bed time, and will continue to radiate heat for some time after power is turned off and you've hit the sack.
Oil-filled radiators also lack a fan, something that sets them apart from other convection space heaters and that is a black mark in the books of some experts. But that cloud has a silver lining: Oil-filled radiators are quieter than other space heaters, and by a wide margin.
DeLonghi oil-filled radiators are recommended more often than any other brand, and models in the Safeheat series earn the best reviews overall. DeLonghi Safeheat oil-filled electric radiators have "thermal tunnels" designed to direct most of the heat out the top of the unit, rather than the sides. Many owners like this feature because the sides stay cool, though some dislike it because there is no heat near floor level.
Tops for this year is the DeLonghi EW7507EB (Est. $70) . It's the runner up to the DeLonghi TRD0715T at TheSweetHome.com, but that oil-filled radiator is now discontinued and hard to find at retail. The two radiators actually performed identically in that site's testing, notes reviewer Seamus Bellamy.
The DeLonghi EW7507EB is relatively feature rich, including digital controls, a remote control and a 24-hour programmable timer. However, there's no back up battery, so you'll need to reprogram the heater every time it's unplugged. That's a major inconvenience in Bellamy's eyes, and why he gives the nod to the, alas, no longer offered DeLonghi TRD0715T. That oil-filled radiator was all analog, including an analog timer. However, he adds, "Despite these minor irritants, if you can't get your hands on a De'Longhi TRD0715T Safeheat, the nearly identical price and performance make the EW7507EB a good choice as a plan B."
To many users, the DeLonghi EW7507EB is actually a pretty good plan A as well. No space heater leaves everyone perfectly happy, but the EW7507EB scores well. We saw the most feedback at Amazon.com, where the EW7507EB earns 4.1 stars following more than 475 reviews. At Lowes.com, satisfaction is similar -- 4.2 stars following more than 180 reviews.
However, we did find some complaints. Some find the display hard to read, and others note a loud clicking noise. A few say that the heater doesn't produce as much heat as expected, and a handful say it doesn't work at all. One plus is that comments about oil or other odors -- common with most oil-filled radiators -- seem far fewer in number with the DeLonghi EW7507EB. Regardless, more owners seem happy than sad; for example, 82 percent of owners reviewing this oil-filled electric space heater at Lowes.com give it their recommendation.
DeLonghi isn't the only maker of oil-filled radiator space heaters, but models from other manufacturers simply don't get as much feedback or enough praise to break through to Best Reviewed status, though some might be worth taking a look at, especially if cost is a concern.
One example is the Utilitech HO-0201 (Est. $40), which garners decent ratings, albeit not based on a ton of feedback. One plus: While experts recommend looking for a space heater with a tip-over switch for safety, few otherwise-well-regarded oil-filled radiators have that feature, the HO-0201 is one that does. This is a basic space heater, with a thermostat and three heat settings (600, 900 and 1,500 watts). In addition to the tip-over sensor, there's a thermal cut off to prevent overheating.
Most owners are pleased, with 74 percent at Lowes.com -- where the Utilitech brand is exclusively sold -- saying that they would recommend the HO-0201 to a friend. Of those that are less than happy, most say that the radiator doesn't heat as well or as fast as hoped. A very similar radiator is available elsewhere as the Pelonis HO-0201 (Est. $50); feedback is even more limited, though satisfaction seems to be similar.
Not all radiator-type space heaters are oil filled. Some are micathermic flat-panel heaters, which use flat sheets of the mineral mica as their warming element. These radiator-style space heaters can either stand upright or be mounted on a wall.
These space heaters are not nearly as popular as oil-filled radiators, let alone ceramic space heaters, and generally get only middling feedback from experts and users. In compiling its latest update, TheSweetHome.com found that most manufacturers have abandoned the technology altogether and spotted only a single model still in production. "Long story short: As they don't offer an advantage over other heating technologies and are increasingly difficult to find, we don't really recommend micathermic hardware to anyone," Bellamy says.
Be that as it may, at least one micathermic flat-panel heater remains readily available at retail, and earns good enough feedback to be a consideration for someone that would prefer its flat, wall-hugging form. It's the DeLonghi HMP1500 (Est. $80) mica panel heater, which earns a solid 4.2 star rating at Amazon.com based on more than 1,000 reviews. Not everyone is happy, of course, and the typical complaints of poor heat and questionable durability are raised by those customers rating it lower. Some also grouse about a low-pitched buzz or whine when the heater is working.