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Heater Basics : Consumer Buyer's Guide
Whether you need to supplement your existing heating system, heat specific rooms in a house, or even provide heating for an outdoor room or patio, portable heaters offer a wide range of applications to suit your needs. Their convenient design allows them to be easily installed, and moved from room to room as needed. Most heaters also offer portability features such as rolling caster wheels or cool-touch handles for added convenience.

In order to determine the effectiveness of a particular heater, it is helpful to understand how heaters are rated. The heat output of fuel powered heaters is measured in terms of BTU's, while the heat output of electric heaters is measured in terms of wattage. A BTU is a British Thermal Unit, and one BTU is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 lb. of water 1 degree Fahrenheit. If you multiply a heater's wattage by 3.41 you will obtain the amount of BTU's you can expect from the heater. For example, a heater putting out a maximum of 1,500 watts would produce the equivalent of 5,115 BTU's.

Heating Models - Electric vs. Combustion

Electric Heating:
Electric heaters are installed or plugged into a wall outlet for power and have a wattage and BTU rating. These heaters can supply a black heat, where the heating elements have heating wire wound around the porcelain insulators, or instant heat, where the heating element utilizes a ribbon element for heating. There are many different methods electric heaters use to heat. One of these is the ceramic heater, which is able to heat quickly and is less dangerous than an open flame. It is also very cost effective and energy efficient. Similarly, reflective heaters are also quite energy efficient. They replicate the sun's healthy rays (no UV) to heat an area, and are also non-flammable. Radiant heating works much the same way except that this method heats surfaces rather than air, and the surfaces then radiate heat outwards to warm the air.

Another method of electric heating is micathermic heating, which combines the technologies of convection and reflective heating. Micathermic heaters heat up almost instantly and distribute heat more evenly than traditional heaters. They are also very energy efficient, but can be costly. Oil filled radiators, which use oil to heat up metal coils and radiate heat into the room. And finally, the ceiling fan heater combines a standard ceiling fan with a convection heater to provide a very energy efficient heating method.

Combustion Heating:
Unlike electric heaters, combustion type heaters burn a fuel source such as wood, propane or natural gas, to provide a heat source. Combustion heaters are either vented or unvented. Unvented combustion units, such as a fire pit or patio heater, are not recommended for use inside your home because of their adverse effects on air quality. Vented combustion heating, such as a gas heating unit or built-in fireplace, are designed to expel exhaust air outside through a chimney or gas flue. Pay special attention when installing vented heaters to avoid leakage of hazardous exhaust into your home.

Combustion heaters are extremely powerful and energy efficient. The primary types of combustion heaters offered are propane patio heaters and portable fireplace/fire pit heaters.

Heater Designs

Since portable heaters are designed for multiple applications, they have been manufactured in many different suitable designs depending on the situation they are placed. For outdoor heating on a windy day for example, a full-size electric patio heater on a weather-resistant stainless steel stand might do the trick. For simply keeping your feet warm all day as you work at an office desk, a portable foot warmer mat would better suit the application. The following is a breakdown of the various heater designs to match your own needs.

Convection Heaters
Convection heaters are very popular in Europe and are relatively new to the United States. These heaters gently and comfortably warm and maintain your desired room temperature. Convection heaters have heating coils running through them and warm up very quickly. Cool floor-level room air is drawn into the unit, heated through natural convection and then emitted out of the top of the unit. Certain models have small fans that boost the circulation of warm air throughout the room. Convection heating is a very efficient method of heating. The built-in thermostat saves energy by turning on and off the heater to maintain your desired temperature. The heat generated by convection heaters is non-directional which makes them more appropriate than directional heaters for whole-room heating and for heating more than one person in a room.

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Radiant Heaters
Radiant heaters are used to heat objects via radiant heat transfer, usually infrared. They replicate the sun's healthy rays (no UV) to heat an area by using a reflector panel. Radiant heaters focus instant heat on a designated spot rather than the surrounding air. In this way, heat is spread from one solid object to others in the room. People and objects get warmed but not the air. In an enclosed environment, the air would eventually warm up. For open areas that require heating certain objects, such as people, ceilings, walls or even floors, radiant heaters are the ideal solution. This type of heater is usually rated at around 1500 watts.

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Micathermic Heaters
Micathermic heaters combine both radiant and convection heating (described above) in one unit to heat both the air and solid objects surrounding the heater at once. Micathermic heaters heat up almost instantly and distribute heat more evenly than traditional heaters. As natural as sunlight, micathermic heaters provide immediate, consistent, and comfortable warmth with silent operation.

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Ceramic Heaters
Ceramic heaters are fan heaters that utilize a special ceramic heating element. The heat is directed outward by a fan that blows the hot air into the room. Ceramic heaters provide fast and effective heat. Ceramic heaters also provide directional space heating. The fan helps distribute the heat throughout the room, while models with the oscillation function distribute directional heat over an even larger area. The operating temperature of the ceramic heating element is below the ignition temperature of materials like tissue paper, which makes ceramic heaters extremely safe. The ceramic heating element self-regulates the heat output in case the air inlet is blocked. In addition, ceramic heaters are very energy-efficient. Ceramic heating elements retain more heat than some other types of heating elements and the heater cycles on and off as necessary to maintain the thermostat temperature setting, thereby saving energy.

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Oil Filled Radiators
Oil filled radiators use silent convection to heat the room. These heaters have vertical metal fins shaped similar to an old fashioned radiator. The heating element is submerged in oil that is permanently sealed in the fins. As a result, the units are odorless and never need to be refilled. The heating element heats the oil, causing the radiator and the air surrounding it to become warm. The hot oil contained in the metal radiator housing retains more heat than some other types of heating elements, and the built-in thermostat turns the unit on and off, thereby saving energy while maintaining your desired temperature. These heaters have no moving components or exposed heating elements. The radiator has two heating elements that provide three levels of heat. An adjustable thermostat is used for temperature control. Oil filled radiators are ideal for generating non-directional heat to effectively heat larger areas than smaller space heaters.

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Baseboard Heaters
Portable baseboard heaters take up unused space on the floor and have low-profile designs to be extremely space efficient. Baseboard heaters use electric resistance to heat a room. This means that the electric cables inside the baseboard heater warms air that flows through it. For this reason, providing room for good airflow around your baseboard heater is important to increase its effectiveness. Baseboard heaters are especially useful for zone heating - providing warmth to one room at a time. Quiet and compact, these heaters provide efficient heating with zero disturbance.

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Personal Foot Warmers and Mats
Personal feet warmers, leg warmers, and mats use very little energy and provide a comfortable amount of heat to warm one person. The heat is radiated outwards to a person's feet or legs and is then transferred up to the rest of the body, providing maximum comfort. The compact design of these heaters allow them to be placed anywhere an outlet is available. Personal foot warmers and mat heaters are safe and insulated, keeping your feet and legs warm while seated at your desk, workstation or the kitchen table.

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Ceiling Fan Heaters
The revolutionary design of a ceiling fan heater never allows warm air molecules to rise, stagnate against the ceiling and cool off. The ceiling fan heater constantly keeps them in motion adding just enough heated energy to maintain your desired temperature. Because of its high levels of efficiency and resultant low cost of operation, it is the ideal energy saving product for evenly heating your home, office, condo or mobile home. Additionally, the ceiling fan heater has the unique ability to both heat a given area or act like a standard ceiling fan to help cool a room. This is done without additional components or the need to convert anything. You simply use the provided remote control to easily switch between the FAN mode and HEAT mode with a simple click of a button. And like other standard ceiling fans, you can easily control and adjust the fan speed to your liking. Ceiling fan heaters use the same three standard wires used to install a standard ceiling fan or a light fixture - a hot wire, a neutral wire, and a ground wire. The support should be a UL approved ceiling fan support.

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Fire Pits & Fireplace Heaters
Outdoor fireplace heaters provide a safe and stylish bowl or pit in which to burn wood to create a campfire to generate heat. They are often used on patios and decks as heaters and to improve ambiance. Our portable fire place heaters come in many different decorative designs including patterned tile, copper, steel, and black wrought iron stands to compliment modern decor. Safety spark arrestors and stands included with the fire place heaters ensure better safety features than traditional fireplaces. What makes these fire place heaters great is that they require absolutely no permanent installation.

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Patio Heaters
Patio heaters are designed for use on patios and the outdoors, so you can enjoy the outdoors longer in colder seasons. Patio heaters include features like weather resistance and durable stainless steel construction to ensure long life against the elements. Full-size patio heaters provide a large diameter of heat (even up to 20 feet) and have the highest power ratings of most portable heaters. Patio heaters are also available in a smaller table-top size for picnics, camping trips, and similar outdoor applications where their compact table-top size is more practical and makes them easier to carry with you.

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