what-is-the-safest-space-heater

What is the Safest Space Heater?

What is the safest space heater? Space heater fires are in the news regularly. And still, space heaters don’t decline in popularity. The opposite is the case: More and more people see the advantages of space heaters and choose to buy one.

But with all the space heater accidents in the back of your mind, you wonder how much you can trust such a space heater.

In this article, we will declare the safest space heater model available. This article will be updated whenever a better model becomes available. 

Quick answer: Oil-filled radiators are the safest space heaters. Currently, the safest space heater model available is the DeLonghi oil-filled radiator. DeLonghi oil-filled radiators have good build quality as well as many safety features such as a built-in thermostat, overheat protection, and tip-over protection.

But before you go ahead and buy just any DeLonghi oil-filled radiator, let’s have a look at the exact model we crown as our favorite!

What is the safest space heater?

The winner of our safest space heater award is the DeLonghi TRD40615T oil-filled radiator (click here to view it on amazon).

It stands out from all the other space heaters for 3 reasons:

First off, it is an oil-filled radiator-type heater. Oil-filled radiators are generally a lot safer than any other heater type, such as infrared, propane, or ceramic heaters.

The heater is made of high-quality materials. Generally, DeLonghi is known to produce superior quality products. 

The DeLonghi TRD40615T provides all the safety features you can think of. It is 24h programmable, has a built-in thermostat. It comes with tip-over protection and, of course, overheat protection. All these safety features combined result in a very safe heater.

But that is not the only advantage this oil-filled radiator has. In comparison, most of these safety features can also be found in Pelonis or other brands’ heaters.

What makes the DeLonghi especially safe is its design. Regular oil-filled heaters have this classic recognizable chimney design. The heater body consists of several chimney towers, which usually have sharp edges.

The DeLonghi TRD40615T has a clever design where these sharp edges are not exposed to the outside surface. Instead, its surface is made of almost perfectly flat chimneys.

This additionally ensures that nobody can hurt himself on the heaters’ surface. For example, you can’t hit your knee or a kid can’t dangerously damage its head on the heater.

The surface design is intrinsically safe as no sharp corners are exposed.

This makes the DeLonghi TRD40615T the safest space heater available.

Why you might not need the safest space heater

The DeLonghi oil-filled radiator I presented earlier is the safest space heater out there. But actually, you don’t really need the safest space heater if you don’t have kids or pets.

Why? Even basic oil-filled radiators such as this Pelonis oil-filled radiator (click here to view my favorite oil-filled radiator) have all the required safety features.

They come with overheat protection, tip-over protection, and a built-in thermostat. The only thing that separates the expensive DeLonghi heater from the affordable Pelonis model is the safe surface design.

The classic chimney design of most oil-filled radiators is not a safety issue for adults. Only children or pets can hurt themselves on the sharp corners.

That’s what makes the DeLonghi oil-filled radiator the safest space heater.

If you don’t have pets or kids at home, you don’t really need it and you can go for the affordable Pelonis heater.

“All common oil-filled radiators provide great safety features. Without kids or pets at home, just buy an affordable oil-filled radiator with overheat protection, tip-over protection, and a built-in thermostat.”

What is the safest type of space heater?

Now that you know the absolute safest space heater available, you can already stop reading and go ahead and buy the winning heater.

However, you might also want to know what type of space heaters are generally safer than others.

In the following sections, we’ll explore, what makes an oil-filled radiator the generally safest type of space heater. And also, what makes infrared heaters, propane heaters, and ceramic heaters generally a little more dangerous.

Also, you’ll see why you might not need to buy the safest heater available and how you can save some money.

What makes an oil-filled radiator the safest space heater?

Oil-filled radiators are the safest space heaters. And it’s pretty simple to explain why.

As compared to other space heater types, oil-filled radiators are the least likely to cause a fire.

To cause a fire, a heater must be able to ignite something. This means there must be some part of it that gets very hot. This is the case for infrared heaters, for example, where the heating elements are exposed and glow red hot. Whenever an easily ignitable object gets too close to the exposed heating element, it is prone to catching flames.

Oil-filled radiators distribute heat safely

An oil-filled radiator is extremely unlikely to cause a fire. The reason is that the heating element of an oil-filled radiator is embedded in the big metal heating body. It is impossible to access the heating element without breaking the whole heater up.

Inside the oil-filled radiator, the heating element is fully embedded in oil. The oil absorbs the heat from the electric heating element and transports it to the big metal surface, which consists of many chimneys which increase the surface area.

Because an oil-filled radiator distributes the heat across the whole metal surface, there is no single hot point that can ignite stuff. Rather, an oil-filled radiator has a big hot surface. The surface gets hot enough to be uncomfortable to hold your hand against for too long, but it is not hot enough to burn anything.

The distribution of heat ensures minimal risk of fire and optimal heat exchange with the air in your room.

Oil-filled heaters produce the same amount of heat as other heaters

Here’s a common misunderstanding: Many people think that since the heat is distributed across a big surface, oil-filled radiators can’t produce as much heat as other heaters. That is plain and simple wrong.

Oil-filled radiators produce the same amount of heat as any other heater type. The heat is just distributed better. As long as your heater draws 1500W of power, you get 1500W of heat.

There is no difference in the amount of heat produced between different heaters.

The oil makes oil-filled radiators safe

Oil-filled radiators use oil to distribute the heat from the internal heating element to the metal heating surface.

But why aren’t these heaters filled with water? The answer to this question is also safety.

The metal heating body is fully enclosed. Imagine you fill it with water. You turn the heater on and the heating element starts getting hot.

Since it reaches high temperatures quickly, the water tries to evaporate. However, since the metal heating body is fully enclosed, there is no space for water evaporation. This means the pressure inside the steel body would quickly increase until the heater explodes.

We don’t use water as a heat transport fluid because it has a low evaporation temperature and it would turn the space heater into a bomb.

Contrasting that, oil has a high evaporation temperature. That’s why oil inside an oil-filled radiator does not expand much and doesn’t cause pressure to build up.

The oil protects the heater from exploding.

Oil-filled radiators distribute heat without moving parts

Many different electric space heaters rely on built-in fans to distribute heat.

While these built-in fans might be helpful in many cases, they can be a safety issue in the wrong environments.

If you have kids or pets at home, exposed moving parts such as built-in fans can be unsafe. Kids could cut their fingers. Cats could hurt their paws. Or birds could hurt their wings and rip out some feathers.

Moving parts are only safe as long as you have nobody to misuse them. In some Dyson space heater safety instructions, I found a note that you shouldn’t spray air freshener into the built-in fan.

Somewhere in the world, someone at least once sprayed air freshener into a space heater fan and caused a fire. Otherwise, this note wouldn’t be in Dyson’s safety manual.

Some people might misunderstand a space heater for a fan, because of the design.

This can cause accidents.

By getting a space heater without a built-in fan, such as an oil-filled radiator, you ensure maximum safety and you avoid unnecessary accidents.

I know that some of these examples sound ridiculous. But they have happened somewhere in the world already. And you don’t want them to happen at your home.

How safe are oil-filled radiators?

Now that we know why oil-filled radiators are the safest type of space heater, let’s find out how safe they really are.

Oil-filled radiators are safe to run 24/7. Since they don’t have a single point source of heat, but rather a big hot surface. Also, oil-filled radiators don’t have any built-in moving parts.

Because of the uniformly distributed heat and the lack of moving parts, there is nothing that wears down an oil-filled radiator while it’s heating.

Also, since there is no wear down, it is highly unlikely for an oil-filled radiator to have any accidents while it’s running. Most accidents are human errors.

An oil-filled radiator is only as safe as the person using it.

You should, for example, never leave your home while an oil-filled radiator is running.

Also, you should ensure that there are no easily ignitable objects near the space heater. Even though oil-filled radiators don’t have high surface temperatures, you should ensure that you don’t produce avoidable risks.

Handle your oil-filled radiator responsibly and you can be sure you’ll have a safe companion for the next years.

Just recently, at my place, we discarded our 30-year-old electric oil-filled radiator. It never caused us any troubles and ran reliably to the very end.

Why other space heaters are not as safe

Other space heater types are not as safe as oil-filled radiators. Of course, there are exceptions. Some infrared heaters, such as the Dr. Infrared Heater (click here to view it on amazon) are very well designed and built to meet the highest safety standards.

And some oil-filled radiators might not be as reliable as the DeLonghi model I recommended in a previous section.

But generally, you can say that oil-filled radiators are safer than other heater types.

Let’s see why.

Why infrared heaters are not the safest space heaters

Infrared heaters, for example, can’t be the safest type of space heaters. Don’t get me wrong: Infrared heaters are awesome and have incredible heating efficiency. I have an infrared heater myself.

But when it comes to safety, they don’t compare to oil-filled radiators.

Infrared heaters produce heat using infrared radiation. The infrared radiation does not heat the air itself, but the objects it shines on. Infrared heaters heat up objects. This means that infrared heaters have the capability to heat objects at a greater distance as long as they are in the line of sight.

When you have an ignitable or explosive at home and your infrared heater radiates at it, it can potentially cause an accident.

This, of course, happens only rarely. What makes infrared heaters really unsafe as compared to oil-filled radiators is the heat source.

The heating element of an oil-filled radiator is almost always exposed and only protected by a metal grid. The metal grid itself gets very hot when the heater is running.

So, children or pets are likely to burn themselves on infrared heaters. There are some images of cat furs starting to smoke from infrared heaters.

Why regular electric space heaters are not the safest space heaters

The “regular” electric space heaters you can buy for cheap at Walmart or Home Depot are not the safest type of space heaters.

Here, the quality determines the safety of the product. Oftentimes these electric space heaters are advertised as being made of fireproof materials. However, reality shows something different.

When I see a picture of a burning space heater online, it’s almost always the cheap kind of electric space heater.

Either the case of the space heater is molten, or the power cord, or the wall outlet.

Oftentimes, these heaters don’t have reliable electric power control. Variations in resistances and capacities in the electronics of the space heater then cause the heater to draw too much power from the wall outlet.

Then the weakest part of the space heater melts.

With an oil-filled radiator, such a scenario can’t happen. First and foremost, oil-filled radiators produce the heat from within an oil-filled heating body. It’s impossible to melt the metal using just the power from the wall outlet.

The wall outlet itself also is better protected since oil-filled radiators mostly have a built-in thermostat that controls the amount of power to be drawn from the outlet. However, to be fair, that’s not the case for all oil-filled radiators. Especially old oil-filled radiators can have the same issue.

Why propane heaters are not the safest space heaters

A similar case can be made for propane heaters. Propane heaters are different from regular electric space heaters in their source of power. Propane heaters use propane gas as a fuel to produce heat. There are also other kinds of gas or fuel-based heaters.

The main difference in safety as compared to an oil-filled radiator or an electric space heater is the lack of a built-in thermostat.

A thermostat is an electric control unit that controls the amount of heat the space heater produces in order to reach the target temperature. Propane heaters don’t have such a built-in thermostat, because thermostats are electronic devices.

The only way to regulate the heat output of a propane heater is to limit the gas inflow using a knob.

Still, propane heaters are safe. They oftentimes also have tip-over protection. 

Another downside of propane heaters is their high surface temperature. Propane heaters can easily ignite stuff. Essentially, propane heaters produce small flames. These small flames can cause a fire if you misuse the propane heater.

However, because of the lack of advanced safety features and the high surface temperatures, propane heaters are not the safest heaters.

Conclusion

Oil-filled radiators are the safest type of space heaters. They have an inherently safe design, where the heat is distributed from a fully protected heating element to a large surface area that exchanges the heat with the air.

Additionally, oil-filled radiators oftentimes have built-in thermostats and all the other necessary and useful safety features such as tip-over and overheat protection.

About the Author

Daniel Hirsch

Daniel is an electrical engineer, blogger, and author. He studied electrical engineering and information technology and decided to blog about heaters after working in the temperature sensing industry.