A portable heater can be an energy-efficient way of creating a cosy bubble around you (and the dog) without cranking up the central heating throughout the entire house.
Before we get into the pros and cons of various heaters, we want to add a little safety announcement. Portable heaters can be a fire hazard when used incorrectly. Place your heater well clear of flammable items and pieces of furniture and always make sure it’s switched off before you leave the room. Don’t use your heater to dry clothing. In fact, make sure it’s never covered at all.
The other thing to bear in mind is that, while portable heaters can be energy-efficient for quick blasts or spot heating, if you run them all day long, they'll cost you a huge amount in electricity. If you run a portable fan heater for 24 hours continuously on a standard electricity tariff, it could cost you £7 per day.
And before you unearth the rickety, wheezy old heater from the back of the cupboard and dust it down, be aware that older devices may pose more of a fire risk. In fact, if it's covered in dust, that can be a fire hazard in itself. When in doubt, don't plug it in. Dispose of your old heater safely and read on to find out how best to replace it.
If you'd like to see our top-rated portable heaters, check out our round-up of the best heaters we've tested.
The main plus of a fan heater is that it will warm up a space very quickly. So, if your problem is coming home to a freezing sitting room or going up to a glacial bedroom, this may be the solution for you. Fan heaters are typically inexpensive, with models available for £10 upwards. Other advantages include their compact size and portability.
On the minus side, they’re noisy and as soon as you turn your fan heater off, the room will quickly get cold. Because of this rapid heating and cooling effect, they’re not the best choice for keeping a room at a stable temperature. Fan heaters are also not suitable for damp or humid environments, so can’t be used to warm up a chilly bathroom.
In summary, a fan heater is an inexpensive choice to make a cold space bearable very quickly but isn't a long-term heating solution.
For £37.99, you can buy the Pro Breeze mini ceramic fan heater from Amazon UK. It's a 2000W appliance with two power settings and an oscillation mode.
Ceramic heaters produce heat by sending electricity through ceramic plates. Typically, a ceramic heater will cost a bit more than a fan heater. You can get one for approximately £40 upwards.
They have similar pros and cons to a fan heater: they heat up a space quickly, but the room will lose heat rapidly as soon as they’re switched off. The chief advantage over a fan heater is that they are usually much quieter.
You can get a compact De’Longhi HFX30C181.IW Capsule Ceramic Heater for £45 from the De'Longhi website. It’s very attractive – much more so than most options at this price point. We reviewed it and liked it, with the caveat that we wish it were a little quieter.
An oil-filled radiator is a good choice for heating an entire room and keeping it at a stable temperature. It would work well for warming up a dining room or little-used spare room for an evening’s use.
An oil-filled radiator won’t provide the instant Caribbean hot-air blast of a fan heater but it’s a better medium-term solution. It will also heat up an entire room more effectively than a ceramic or fan heater.
Oil-filled radiators will again be a little more expensive than a fan or ceramic heater but you can buy a decent one for under £100.
The Von Haus Oil Filled Radiator is available from Amazon UK for £59.99. It's a 2500W appliance and comes in black or white.
Halogen heaters are effective at spot heating, for example warming a person in a room, rather than heating up the air that surrounds them. You’re most likely to meet with one in a pub beer garden, where it’ll lightly cook one side of your face while leaving the rest of you completely unaffected.
As indoor heaters, halogens are falling out of fashion. They aren’t usually the most attractive devices, with a glowing panel that tends to attract the eye only to burn an annoying afterimage onto its retina.
Be warned, one thing comes up again and again with this type of heater: they must be used carefully to avoid the risk of fire. Don’t use an old or second-hand halogen heater. Don’t use one with an extension cord or a multi-socket plug. If there’s any damage to it at all, dispose of it immediately.
The Proelectrix EH10197SPRON Halogen heater is £22.99 on Amazon UK. It's a 1200W appliance with three heat settings and an oscillation option.
Hot and cool fans
Hot and cool fans are very much the high-end, high-tech portable heating solution. This is an area currently dominated by Dyson products and the prices are, as you might expect, steep. You can expect to pay between £300 and £550 for one.
The advantage of this kind of product is that, as they both heat and cool a room, they can be used year-round and obviate the need for a separate fan. They are also very quiet and considerably more aesthetically pleasing than many portable heaters.
Most models have an air purifying function as well, which makes them a good investment for allergy suffers and, of course, for anyone needing an excuse to justify the price of purchase.
You can currently buy the Dyson Pure Hot + Cool from John Lewis online for £549. When we reviewed it we scored it 4.5 stars out of 5 and said it's “worth the investment”. It's pictured at the top of the page.
There are a number of portable smart heating options at various price points. The key advantage of a connected heater is that you can warm up a room in advance, so you don’t have to sit in freezing misery while the temperature catches up.
The key disadvantage is that functionality can be unnecessarily complicated. Safety is also an issue: never start a heater remotely unless you are sure that it is upright and at a safe distance from all other objects.
The electriQ smart, oil filled radiator has three power settings and is Alexa and Google Home compatible. It's available from Appliances Direct for £79.98.
Looking for more recommendations? Check out our guide to the best portable heaters, which has links to all of our best-reviewed and rated products.