Heating a room with high ceilings with only space heaters can be challenging. Not only does a lot of heat rise to the ceiling and is effectively wasted, but additionally, most space heaters are not very strong.
In this article, we’re going to explore how to properly heat rooms with high ceilings with just space heaters.
There are two fundamental approaches: Either get a very strong heater or get a heater that effectively distributes heat into your room and away from the ceiling.
Of course, just one of those approaches is energy-efficient. And one type of heater excels!
After checking out the physics of heating rooms with high ceilings, I am going to recommend you two heaters that are perfect for your situation.
Quick answer: The best space heaters for rooms with high ceilings are wall-mounted infrared heaters that radiate heat downward into the room (away from the ceiling). These heaters keep heat in the floor area and minimize the heat rising to the ceiling.
If that’s already enough of an explanation for you, feel free to skip to the recommendation section!
For anyone interested, let’s check the physics of heating rooms with high ceilings.
The Two Approaches to Heating Rooms with High Ceilings
Everybody knows that hot air always rises while cold air always settles. Ironically, this is exactly the opposite of what we need when heating a room with high ceilings.
Unfortunately, we can’t change the physics of convection (the movement of hot air).
So, based on this fundamental truth, there are two approaches to heating a (large) room with high ceilings:
1. Full Room Heating with High Power
The first approach to heating rooms with high ceilings is to use a strong space heater that outputs a lot of heat.
In this case, you simply accept that a lot of heat rises to the ceiling. The only way to counter this effect is through pure force:
The more heat your heater outputs, the warmer your room gets overall.
Admittedly, this approach probably ensures the most comfort. Your room is evenly heated.
But a lot of heat lingers around the ceiling and waits to dissipate through the imperfectly insulated ceiling or through walls. So, all heat that rises to the ceiling is effectively wasted.
Additionally, heating the entire room is the most expensive approach to heating. Not only do you pay the electricity cost of your space heater running on full power, but you also pay for heat that you don’t even use…
Hot air lingering around the ceiling is always a waste of money and energy inefficient.
2. Optimizing Heat Distribution with the Right Heater Type
The second approach to heating a room with a high ceiling using a space heater is to control heat distribution.
If there is a way to direct the heat and keep it in a part of your room, you can run your space heater at lower power but still feel the same warmth.
In rooms with high ceilings, you always want the heat to stay around the floor area (from floor to 8 feet above the ground). That’s the space in which you can feel the heat. Much higher than that and the heat is wasted.
Unfortunately, heat always rises. So, you can’t physically keep all of the heat down.
But luckily, there are still ways to control where the heat goes.
Different heaters distribute heat differently. For example, ceramic heaters, oil-filled radiators, and most other electric space heaters distribute most of their heat using convection, the natural movement of hot air.
Since hot air always rises, these types of heaters are a poor choice for high-ceiling rooms.
On the other hand, infrared heaters use radiation to distribute heat.
Similar to a flashlight, they “shine” in just one direction, so you can decide where the heat goes.
Of course, the heat rays are not as focused as the light rays in a flashlight. The opening angle of infrared heater radiation is around 90°, so it can oftentimes (depending on its placement) cover an entire wall from corner to corner.
A space heater that can focus heat toward a specific space in a room is ideal in a room with a high ceiling.
How infrared heaters work & why they excel in rooms with high ceilings
Infrared heaters are perfect for rooms with high ceilings. An infrared heater emits infrared radiation.
The infrared rays travel through the air without heating it or interacting with it in any way.
When infrared rays hit an object, the object absorbs them and converts the radiation to heat.
It’s the exact same way the sun heats the Earth: Sunrays travel long distances through empty space, pass through the atmosphere and then hit you. And you feel warm.
This effect is very noticeable on a mild day in spring, where the sun’s rays are warm, but the air is still cold.
Eventually, since infrared heaters heat up all the objects and people in your room, the air also heats up. Infrared heaters turn all the objects in your room into tiny heat radiators.
The best thing about infrared heaters is, as we’ve already seen, that you can decide where the heat goes.
And on top of that, infrared heaters heat within a matter of seconds.
Instead of waiting for your entire room with a high ceiling to heat up (which can take ages in large rooms), infrared heaters heat instantly.
Proper infrared heater types & placements in rooms with high ceilings
In a room with a high ceiling, you generally have three options to place your infrared heater.
- Regular infrared heater radiating along or at floor level: Most portable space heaters stand on the floor. Accordingly, they heat the floor area, usually with a slight upward tilt to heat up & into the room.
Usually, that’s a good thing. But in rooms with high ceilings, other infrared heater placements are better.
- Electric infrared patio heater mounted to the ceiling: You can get an electric infrared patio heater (I will recommend one later) that hangs from the ceiling like a lamp.
This form of infrared heater is ideal in a room with a high ceiling since it heats the entire room evenly and radiates the heat downward. However, the installation effort can be high, depending on how high your ceiling is.
- Wall-mounted infrared heaters: Wall-mounted infrared heaters hit the perfect balance point of easy-to-install & radiating heat downwards and into the room. They don’t hit a room as evenly as an infrared patio heater hanging from the ceiling. And certainly, they are not as easy to install as a portable infrared heater standing on the floor. But, I’d say, a wall-mounted infrared heater is the best type of infrared heater for rooms with high ceilings.
Recommended Space Heater for Rooms with High Ceilings
Here are my favorite infrared heaters for the different mounting options we just checked (wall-mounted, hanging from the ceiling, free-standing).
Wall-mounted infrared heater
My first recommendation is this wall-mounted Dr Infrared DR-238 heater (click to view it on amazon).
I really trust Dr Infrared as a brand. The best thing: They don’t just cycle through products, trying to sell the next best heater over and over.
The Dr Infrared DR-238 is a years-old model that is time-tested and that works reliably.
It currently has well over 4,000 positive reviews on amazon.
It’s the #1 wall-mounted infrared heater. My recommendation for most people!
Hanging infrared heater
This is interesting… I could not find a single hanging infrared heater that is as good as the wall-mounted Dr Infrared recommended in the previous section.
There are plenty of ceiling-mounted infrared heaters. The only one that’s acceptable is this hanging infrared heater (click to see it on amazon).
Their downside is: They usually don’t come with a remote (which makes controlling them very annoying).
And on top of that, people complain that hanging patio heaters only heat the top of the head. Apparently, you shouldn’t heat directly from above, but rather at a slight angle, so that heat is distributed better in your room.
Let’s pass on hanging patio heaters. They are good in principle, but not in practice.
Regular infrared heater
If you don’t have the skills or tools to mount a wall-mounted infrared heater, I recommend getting this free-standing Dr Infrared infrared heater (click to read my review).
Actually, this infrared heater is my all-time favorite infrared heater in general. I love its wooden case. And it can output a lot of heat.
For rooms with high ceilings, wall-mounted infrared heaters are generally still better.
But this one will do the job as well!
The most important learning from this post is:
Get an infrared heater.
Whether you get a wall-mounted, ceiling-mounted, or free-standing infrared heater is only slight optimization.
The fundamental principle for effectively heating a room with a high ceiling is to let as little heat as possible rise upwards.
All infrared heaters accomplish that by radiating the heat exactly where you need it.