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What are Radiant Oil Heaters?

Donna Johnson
Donna Johnson

Many people rely on portable space heaters to add warmth to certain areas without turning up the thermostat for the entire house. Using portable space heaters where needed can help keep heating bills lower in the winter, whether the home’s primary heating system uses electricity, natural gas or propane. Radiant oil heaters are space heaters that use electricity to heat oil, which then emits heat without using a forced-air system such as a blower.

Most radiant oil heaters are freestanding units that resemble old-fashioned wall radiators. They typically have multiple heat settings, usually up to 1,500 watts maximum, so that the unit can be adjusted to give the appropriate amount of heat without using too much electricity. Since the heaters typically weigh around 20 pounds (9.07 kg), most also come with wheels to make them easier for anyone to move them from room to room.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

The oil contained within radiant oil heaters does not act as a fuel, and therefore never needs to be replaced. Radiant oil heaters are powered by electricity, which heats the oil. After the oil reaches the desired temperature, which is determined by the chosen heat setting, the heater stops pulling electricity from the outlet. The oil then radiates its heat throughout the room. Once the oil cools below the desired temperature, the heater will use electricity to heat it back up. Some oil-filled radiant heater units can warm an area of up to 150 square feet (13.93 sq m), which is equal to a room that is 15 feet (4.57 m) wide by 10 feet (3.04 m) long.

Radiant heating systems not only cut down on overall energy use, but they are typically safer than other forms of heating. Since the oil is permanently sealed within the heater, it cannot leak out unless the unit is badly damaged. Radiant oil heaters also do not give off harmful fumes like kerosene heaters can. Oil-filled radiant heaters do not typically get as hot to the touch as traditional electric space heaters do, but they can still present a burn or fire hazard if they are touched or allowed to come into contact with flammable objects such as curtains.

Allergy sufferers may find that radiant oil heaters are the best choice for their homes. Since these heaters give off radiant heat, they do not have built-in fans that can spread dust and other allergens throughout the room. The absence of a fan also means that these heaters function almost completely silently.

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