Finding the perfect space heater that is most suited to your needs or the requirements of your loved ones can prove to be downright tricky, especially with the miscellany of models and designs in heating devices propped on the shelves of stores worldwide.
But when the choices are boiled down to only two options, the reigning champions of space heating is often claimed by either a ceramic-based space heater or an oil-filled space heater.
Although these two space heaters compete for the critically acclaimed spot in heating efficiency and ease of portability, there are several key differences between these devices that you must take heed of before selecting which one of them to bring home with you.
What is the Major Difference Between Ceramic-Based and Oil-Filled Space Heaters?
For starters, the very makeup and nature of these two space heaters diverge in terms of thermal output, although their sole purpose remains the same: to provide warmth to a selected indoor or outdoor area.
Ceramic-based space heaters consist of a heating element that comprises a positive temperature coefficient (PTC) piece of ceramic. When an electrical current is streamed through the ceramic plates, this will cause the heating element to heat up and the aluminum baffles located within the space heater to absorb the resultant heat.
A small fan will then propel the hot air into the surrounding environment in convective waves, thus producing the warmth you so sorely crave during a blustery winter evening.
This means that most ceramic-based space heaters are convective in nature.
Oil-filled space heaters, in contrast, are classified as radiant heaters. This is because oil-filled space heaters operate very differently as compared to ceramic-based space heaters to produce heat.
True to its name, oil-filled space heaters are filled with oil, which will then be heated using an electrical current passing through the heating element.
The oil that circulates within an oil-filled space heater will not be required to be refueled or replaced since it does not burn off, and it is heated up each time the space heater is put to use.
Heat is often radiated off the surface of oil-filled space heaters, which makes them ‘radiant’ and therefore enables them to emit heat to surrounding objects or even people.
However, unlike ceramic-based space heaters which usually feature a tough layer of protective plastic housing to reduce the chances of burns, the surface of oil-filled space heaters is usually blistering hot to the touch and caution needs to be employed whilst using them.
It is important to note that although this sets both space heaters apart from each other, there are several types of ceramic-based space heaters that also doubles up as radiant heaters, or feature a combination of both convective and radiant elements.
Pros and Cons of Using a Ceramic-Based Space Heater?
Each space heater type has its share of advantages and disadvantages. Both ceramic-based and oil-filled space heaters are no different in this perspective. Listed below is a rough outline of benefits associated with the usage of a ceramic-based space heater, and its relevant drawbacks:
1. Provides Instant Heat
The beauty about selecting a ceramic-based space heater is that it provides instantaneous heat to you or anyone seated nearby. Due to the induction of a fan in the interior of the device, hot air is circulated almost immediately when the heater kicks in after being turned on.
All you have to do is wait several seconds and you will be immediately enveloped by a warm and comforting breeze. This is the perfect solution when you are trapped in a situation which requires an instant heat source.
2. Cool to the Touch
One of the most dangerous aspects of a space heating unit is the amount of heat that is present on its exterior, which can turn your device into both a safety risk and a fire hazard if your space heater is not installed, used or maintained correctly.
With ceramic-based space heaters, this risk is greatly minimized because the exterior plastic casing cools down quickly once the device has been switched off.
Although ceramic-based space heaters have a tendency to heat up rather quickly, their ability to cool down after a handful of minutes allows them to be touched or even handled without the risk of incurring a burn or a trip to the emergency room.
This makes them the ideal choice for families that have several small children or multiple pets – both of which have a tendency of brushing a tiny hand or paw against the heater out of sheer curiosity.
This quick-to-cool feature also makes them the preferred choice over infrared or radiant heaters such as oil-filled heaters, which are notorious for staying hot or warm for long periods of time, even after usage.
3. Highly Efficient Heat Output
Ceramic-based space heaters are highly efficient in producing the necessary amount of heat needed to warm up a specific area. Since the ceramic plates are semi-conductive by nature, it is able to produce copious amounts of heat at a steady rate, barring there is no fault within the space heater itself.
These space heaters also come equipped with a fan that is excellent at circulating heated air to the surrounding environment. Via the principle of convection, hot air rises to the surface of your ceiling and is moved throughout a given area at a reliable pace.
Alongside a consistent unidirectional flow of air, certain ceramic-based space heaters also include an ‘oscillation’ feature, whereby the heat is distributed at a more even radius in a single room.
4. Heat Redirection Feature
The fan nestled within your ceramic-based space heater is not only efficient in distributing heat, but it also allows you to aim your airflow at a specific trajectory.
This means you have the option of redirecting the heat from your space heater towards a particular person or even object, which is extremely beneficial in combating cold ‘dead’ spots in your home, or even nullifying a particularly cold draft slipping through the cracks of your window.
Online consumer reports have showcased that ceramic-based space heaters with fan units attached to them should be favored over devices that do not have any fans since this can greatly help in the production and redistribution heat.
The best part about fan-based units is that there is usually a small knob or switch that allows you point the fan either up or down, thus granting you the option of modulating your space heater’s own airflow.
5. Ease of Portability
Smooth portability and the ease of being moved around is probably one of the main deciding factors in selecting a space heater. With ceramic-based space heaters, most of these devices feature a compact and lightweight design that allows them to be carried from one location to another with minimal effort.
This makes them ideal for outdoor usages such as camping or ice fishing since they are incredibly small and portable as compared to an oil-filled space heater.
6. Safe to Use
Ceramic-based space heaters come with several key built-in safety features.
The PTC ceramic itself comes equipped with an auto sensor whereby when the ceramic plates exceed the core temperature outlined by the device’s stipulated manufacturing guidelines, it will trigger a series of processes that causes the space heater to shut off automatically.
This significantly lowers the risk of your space heater from overheating, exploding or bursting into flames.
By reducing the chances of your space heater from turning into an unwanted fire hazard in your own house, you are essentially protecting yourself and your family from the possibility of losing their property – or worse, their lives.
7. Effective in Heating Up Small Areas
The small size of a ceramic-based space heater renders them incredibly effective in heating up a small, specific area in your home.
Unlike oil-filled radiators, which are large and take up a lot of physical space, a ceramic-based space heater provides instant heat within a small circumference, which makes them ideal for heating up your personal office cubicle or even tabletop while you crack those knuckles and set to work.
This also makes them optimal for providing warmth in a particularly cold room for a short period of time.
So ideally, you should expect to see a small bump in your heating bills instead of an ugly jagged peak, which is associated with radiant heater usage.
8. Relatively Inexpensive
The original cost of purchasing a brand new ceramic-based space heater is relatively cheap and affordable as compared to an oil-filled space heater.
If you browse through the stores or even the web, you will notice that a ceramic-based space heater ranges from only $30 to $60 each, with individual heaters tagged at different prices based on their size, model, brand and design.
This makes them a relatively inexpensive option for keeping your toes warm and curled in your fuzzy slippers in the comfort of your own home.
The Cons Of Ceramic-Based Space Heater
If you are a fan of peace and quiet, then you might want to reconsider purchasing a ceramic-based space heater.
Unlike its oil-filled counterpart which remains silent during operation, ceramic-based space heaters have been noted for their noise – especially when the unit comes equipped with a fan.
In some cases, the amount of noise has been equaled to that of a working radiator, but time and development have given rise to newer space heater models that are a tad quieter than their noisier predecessors.
However, if you are truly bothered by the off-putting noise emitted by this space heater while it is in use, then this device might not be suitable for you.
2. Accumulates Dust
Another constant issue that plagues ceramic-based space heaters is the accumulation of dust and dirt both on the exterior and interior of the unit over time.
The fan attached to the space heater is a prime collector of dust after it has been put to use repeatedly.
Likewise, loose dust particles and stains might even adhere to the plastic exterior casing of the ceramic-based space heater after a while.
Therefore, it is important that you manually clean out your space heater at least twice a year to prevent it from overheating.
This will also require manual disassembly of your space heater each time you wish to clean it, and will consume a lot of time and effort on your part.
It can be quite troublesome, especially if you come face to face against a device that is particularly filthy and in dire need of a thorough clean up.
3. Heating Automatically Switches Off
Unlike a radiant or infrared space heater, ceramic-based space heaters tend to stop producing or dispersing any heat the moment they are switched off.
Since lingering heat often vanishes in the throes of a chilly area, this makes ceramic-based space heaters the less favorable option for keeping a bedroom warm overnight.
Since these space heaters warm up quicker, they cool down quicker as well and are least likely to retain any heat for future use.
What are the Pros and Cons of Using an Oil-Filled Space Heater?
Just like a ceramic-based space heater, an oil-filled space heater also carries its own share of advantages and disadvantages, as depicted below:
1. Relatively Quiet Operation
Unlike ceramic-based space heaters, which are often noted for the amount of noise they make while in use due to their fans, oil-filled space heaters remain relatively silent when they are switched on.
This is because oil-filled space heaters utilize oil circulating within their radiating fins and do not rely on any special pumps or motor fans to produce or radiate heat to their surroundings.
This makes them virtual noiseless, and the perfect choice for areas that require perfect silence such as your bedroom or even living room.
2. Powerful Heat Generator
One of the core advantages of owning an oil-filled space heater is their power.
The standard oil-filled space heater usually runs on 1500 Watts (W) of power, with some devices even hiking up to 3000W.
This makes them a strong powerhouse for generating and radiating large amounts of heat, which in turn makes them the ideal solution for warming up larger enclosed areas such as your entire living room in a modern open-space-designed home.
3. Highly Efficient Heat Output
Another noteworthy plus point of oil-filled space heaters are their impeccable energy efficiency when it comes to heating.
The oil running through the fins of the heater has a tendency to remain warm, even after the device has been switched off for a brief period of time.
This allows your space heater to cycle off for a moment, before kicking back into gear to envelop your room in luxurious warmth.
The ability of an oil-filled space heater to cycle on and off also makes it highly economical since less electricity is consumed to run the device.
This means that you will be forking out fewer green notes from your wallet to keep yourself and your family warm and comfortable when the temperature plummets outside your window.
4. Provides Longer-Lasting Heat
Oil-filled space heaters are able to emit heat for a longer period of time.
This is simply because the oil circulating through the fins of the heater remains trapped within the device itself, and when heated, is able to retain its warmth.
This is extremely advantageous when you desire maximum heat for a longer duration in a specific area of your homes, such as your bedroom, bathroom or even living room.
Instead of cocooning yourself under three layers of blankets and two itchy sweaters, all you have to do is switch on your oil-filled space heater and enjoy the blessed warmth it has to offer.
Since this type of space heater takes longer to cool down as compared to a ceramic-based space heater, your home will be enveloped in some heavenly heat for a much longer time.
The consistency in heat output also enables oil-filled space heaters to be the optimal choice for any large living areas that require continuous heating throughout both day and night.
So, if you do treasure your heat and do not want your extremities to turn an unpleasant shade of blue, then this space heater might just be the right choice for you.
5. Capable of Heating Larger Areas
Oil-filled space heaters come in far larger sizes when putting into comparison against their ceramic-based counterparts.
Their unique design of folded ‘fins’ also provides a far larger surface area to emit larger amounts of heat per square inch as compared to most other space heaters.
This makes them the prime candidate for supplying warmth to larger rooms or areas such as the basement or garage.
If you are prone to suffering from any allergies triggered by the inhalation of dust and dander, then the oil-filled space heater might be the device most suited for your own personal use.
Unlike ceramic-based space heaters, which accumulate a layer of dust over time and would require rigorous manual cleaning on a biyearly basis, an oil-filled space heater often comes as a closed unit and therefore will usually not harbor any dust in the interior components which could offset your allergies.
They also do not come equipped with fans, which are notorious for gathering dust along with the blades and blowing around loose dust and dander particles around your room.
Not only will you be able to breathe easier, but you could also save yourself a possible asthma attack or even a respiratory illness that would earn you a very costly stay at the hospital.
6. Has Built-In Safety Features
Oil-filled space heaters often come equipped with a thermostat and automatic sensors that automatically shut off your device if it overheats.
These space heaters also often come with other built-in safety features such as a kill switch that automatically switches off your device should it tip and fall over by accident.
This is incredibly crucial since space heaters, in general, are the leading cause of house fires in North America every year.
With these safety features set into place, you will be able to greatly lessen the risk of your oil-filled space heater from turning into a fire hazard, or worse – setting your house on fire while you are either unaware or away.
The Cons Of Oil-Filled Space Heater
There are flip sides to owning any space heater, and the oil-filled space heater is, unfortunately, no exception to this rule.
Although these space heaters are much more powerful in terms of radiating heat as compared to most other heating devices, they also come at a steep price.
Oil-filled space heaters tend to range between $50 to $110 per unit, which is easily double the cost of a standard ceramic-based space heater.
Also, it is important to note that if you choose to invest in an oil-filled space heater with all the necessary built-in safety features such as an anti-tip-over function and auto-shut-off sensors, you will need to accrue more finances to procure such a model.
The cost of hiring a professional heater serviceman to repair your unit, should it sustain any damage, can also be very expensive down the road.
2. Longer Start-up Required
A ceramic-based space heater might take only mere seconds to kick into gear, but an oil-filled space heater can take anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes before it is able to properly warm up an enclosed area in your humble abode.
This can be a real let down, especially if you are freezing and looking for an instant heating solution.
The longer start-up period is the norm across all models and designs for this type of space heater, so if want heat now, prepare to be disappointed!
3. Safety Risk
One of the main drawbacks to using any oil-filled space heater is that it presents a high safety risk towards small children and pets.
These space heaters have extremely high surface temperatures, which can burn any flesh it comes into contact with, especially when the heater has been kept switched on for a long period of time.
This is why they are unsuitable for any families that have infants, toddlers or many pets.
In the event that you insist on using an oil-filled space heater over a ceramic-based space heater, either you or another adult must be present at all times to monitor the heater whilst it is being utilized.
You must also wait for at least an hour or more after the oil-filled space heater is switched off to give it sufficient time to cool down completely before attempting to touch it or move it around.
4. Less Portable
Oil-filled space heaters are generally large, clunky and extremely heavy. This reduces the ease of portability, and you will have to literally lug them over from one room to another when you wish to transport them.
Although some devices come with wheels to increase portability and maneuverability, this is not the staple of most oil-filled space heater designs.
Therefore, if you do not wish to strain your back or muscles hefting a space heater all around the house, then this might not be the device for you.
Now that you have weighed both the ups and downs of each type of space heater, the final decision rests in your hands. If you are willing to spend the extra cash, need a warm bedroom throughout the night and do not have any small children, then an oil-filled space heater would be your best bet.
But if you are on a tight budget and only need to heat up a small area in your home or office, and don’t mind having a chilly room the moment the heater is turned off, then a ceramic-based space heater is ideal for you.
Ultimately, whatever you decide to choose is dependent on your own personal restrictions or your own willingness to select a space heater best suited to your needs and the needs of your loved ones.
Always keep your space heater clean and serviced on a biannual basis, and remember, keep a fire extinguisher on hand just in case things go awry. Good luck!