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What Makes A Heater Work? Heaters 101 Crash Course

Heaters make life much more comfortable for people who have to deal with all four seasons.

A fire in the cave may have helped our ancestors get through the snowy season’s thousands of years ago. In the next few hundred years, we would use fireplaces and wood stoves to heat our homes and cook food.

We have so much to choose from now. Take a closer look at some of the heating systems you can choose from:

  • Baseboard heaters are great for small rooms and hallways. They can be powered by electricity or hot water pushed through pipes.
  • Space heaters are portable ways to heat your home. Most of them need electricity, but some have their power source (typically propane).
  • Infrared heaters are some of the safest because infrared radiation is good for the environment and saves energy.
  • Central heating: A furnace isn’t cheap and needs to be set up and maintained by a professional, but it works well and is convenient if you need to heat your whole house.

So how do you choose the right system to keep your home full of cozy, warm air all winter? Here’s what you need to know on how does a portable heater work.

how does a portable heater work

What makes a heater work?

There are many different kinds of heaters on the market today. Most heaters work on some of the same principles, but small differences exist between each brand and model. Most small heaters are powered by electricity instead of gas, oil, or other fossil fuels. The electrical resistor is the main part all electric heaters have in common.

When you turn on a heater, the electric current that flows through the unit heats the nichrome wire parts, also called the heating coils. As the current moves through the resistor, the electricity becomes heat. So resistance heating units are another name for electric heaters.

The next step in heating depends on whether the heater has an electric fan. If the heater has a fan, it will help pull in cold air. The air goes over the heating elements and is pushed into the room. This is similar to how hair dryers work. This type of heating is called convection heating because the heat moves through the air. Convection heaters are a good way to quickly heat a room because they move hot air around it.

Which heaters are the most popular?

People who want to save money and energy on heating their homes use several different heaters. Here are five favorites:

Wall-mounted heaters

Baseboard heaters are a great way to heat rooms, living rooms, and hallways. Electricity resistance warms the air that moves through these types of heaters. They don’t make much noise and don’t take up much space. The units are safe and affordable and have several safety features to keep them from getting too hot.

On the downside, they are not terribly energy efficient, nor are they effective at heating larger areas due to their limited surface area and position along the outside walls of the room.

What are the advantages of portable heaters over a heating system that heats the whole house?

If you choose to use a portable heater instead of a pricey central heating system, you can get a few things out of it.

They’re Cost Effective

Portable heaters will save you money in three main ways:

  • You will only use as much energy as necessary to heat the rooms being used. If most of your family is at school or work during the day, you can just turn off or lower the space heaters. Use a portable heater to warm up places where people work, cook, or watch TV, and take the heat with you as you move around the house.
  • Portable heaters don’t need to be set up in any way. Some units can be mounted on the wall, but all can be moved and put away easily when the weather improves. This saves you money because it costs less to set up.
  • It’s easy to take care of a portable heater yourself. Just keep the unit clean and follow the instructions in the user manual. As with a heat pump or steam radiator system, there is no need for expensive service calls or regular maintenance by a professional.

They are good for the environment.

With a portable heater, you can only heat the areas you need to keep warm, which means you use less energy overall. Turning electricity into heat wastes almost no energy, so you get the most out of the energy you pay for. They also reduce the need for oil and natural gas, which cause much pollution, especially if you choose green electricity providers. People who care about the environment tend to choose infrared heaters more than other kinds.

They have many uses.

Portable heaters are a great way to heat places like a shed, garage, or unfinished basement where central heating isn’t an option. Also, they work well in homes still being built or fixed up.

Sometimes, you may need to keep one room in your house warmer than the others. Maybe an older family member has trouble with the cold, or someone in the family has the flu. A portable heater will also make a newborn baby or an older pet more comfortable without bothering family members who like to sleep in a cool room.


Frequently Asked Questions About Electric and Portable Heaters

Can my heater be used outside?

Absolutely! A portable heater can be used for outdoor BBQs, fall picnics, and overnight backyard camping trips for the neighborhood kids. A battery operated heater can be a great option when going camping.

If you are going on a trip and don’t know where you will stay at the end, be sure to bring a portable heater with you. Do you fish on ice? A nice gift would be a small, portable heater.

Portable heaters are also great for warming up an office or lunch room where you can’t change the air conditioning temperature. You can keep yourself warm at your desk by putting a small spot heater there. No one, not even the boss, can find fault with it because it uses so little energy and is so quiet.

Should I not use my heater anywhere?

Even though all portable heaters have built-in safety features to keep them from getting too hot, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Even if you’ve used portable heaters before, you should still read the instructions when you buy a new one. Keep it close if you have trouble using the device and must figure out what’s wrong.
  • Keep your heater away from things and surfaces that can catch fire. This includes ensuring the power cord doesn’t go under a rug or carpet made of something that can catch fire. It is also important to know how much voltage your heater needs and plug it into the right outlet.
  • Keep your heater away from water, and don’t put it where it could leak or get splashed on. Don’t touch your heater when your hands are wet. If you store the unit during the warmer months, put it somewhere safe, dry, and out of reach of small children.
  • Don’t put your portable heater in a small area. Through the heater’s intake valve, air must always be able to flow in. If it gets clogged, the heater will use more energy to pull air into the unit because it will have to work harder. This makes your electricity bills go up and makes your heater last less long and work less well.
  • Don’t leave a heater on its own. Turn off the power if you don’t plan to stay in the room or area where it is. Never put a heater where pets or kids could topple it; always ensure it is on a stable, level surface.

How can I use my heater to save money?

If you want to save money on your utility bills, try these tips to make sure your heater is working at its best:

Make sure you have a heater that is strong enough to meet your needs but not too strong for the room where it is. Using the wattage and thermal units, you can accurately determine the heat you need and buy a heater with the right amount. Read here more about how many watts a portable heater consumes.

Turn off the unit when you don’t need it. Don’t forget that some portable heaters need a few minutes to warm up. Check the manufacturer’s instructions to see if this is the case.

Most portable heaters are easy to keep in good condition. Professional service is unnecessary unless the unit is not working or getting too hot. But don’t try to fix the inside parts of the heater on your own because that could void the warranty. With a little TLC and regular cleaning, your heater will keep you warm for many winters.


Things to think about when installing a space heater

Each space heater will come with an owner’s manual and its own set of specific safety instructions. Still, you should keep some general safety tips in mind no matter which unit you buy.

Look for safety features like automatic shut-off timers, airflow sensors, and switches that turn off the machine if it falls over. These elements help to minimize the risk of burns and fires.

Heaters should never be near flammable materials or loose fabrics like blankets or curtains.

Units should always be put on a flat, level surface that is out of reach of kids and animals.

You should only buy a heater as big or strong as the room needs. A heater that is too strong can use more electricity and put the safety of everyone in the room at risk.

One Last Thing

Space heaters can be a great way to provide extra warmth and comfort in cold weather. If you use them right, space heaters that are good for the environment can even help you save money on your monthly electricity bills.

No matter how cold it is outside, you can stay warm and happy if you remember that space heaters are not meant to be your main heat source and that you follow general safety rules.

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