Stay snug and warm this winter: New trends in portable heaters

Keep nice and toasty with a hi-tech portable heater

Image credit: Flickr.com/people/adriagarcia/ (Creative Commons)

Image credit: Flickr.com/people/adriagarcia/ (Creative Commons)

As the cooler months approach, many of us start to assess our heating needs around the home and office. While there are many types of heating solutions available, portable heaters remain a popular choice for small areas such as bedrooms, bathrooms, or spaces where your primary heating source may not be satisfactory. If you are renting your home then a portable heater may suit your needs too.

Most people would be familiar with the standard types of portable heaters on the market, such as oil-filled column heaters, convection, fan and radiant heaters. The two main types of heat delivered by portable heaters are radiant and convection. Radiant heaters emit heat from a hot surface – think of the glowing red bars on a radiator – which heats the people and objects in the room, but not specifically the air itself. Convection heaters fill the room with warm air, and work best when used in a closed or insulated space.

New heating technologies are also available too, and are set provide faster and more efficient heat delivery than ever before. Let’s take a look.

Micathermic Technology

A few small appliance manufacturers have recently started using micathermic technology in their portable heater ranges. Mica is a conductive material that can absorb and retain heat. The heating element itself is surrounded on either side by a thin mica layer, which acts as an insulator to the element itself, as well as reflecting the heat — so it provides both radiant and reflective heat.

Manufacturers claim that heaters using this technology offer faster warm-up times (especially when compared to traditional oil-filled column heaters). Micathermic heaters are quite lightweight, making them very portable. They also produce a ’clean heat’ that doesn’t burn dust in the air, thereby eliminating odours. Micathermic heaters can be wall mounted or put onto castors for portability.

Carbon Fibre Technology

A number of portable heaters feature a new carbon technology to provide instant warmth when the heater is switched on. The heating element is made up of long, high tension proprietary grade carbon fibre strings as an infrared heating material. The carbon fibre heating elements send out infrared waves into the room, quickly heating the room and its occupants. As the radiant heat is absorbed by the occupants, rather than the heating all the air, you feel warmer faster. The carbon fibre element is extremely efficient as it transfers approximately 98 percent of the electricity used into heat by light particle conduction. Not only does this compare favourably against the 40 to 60 per cent efficiency of other heater types, but the efficiency also means the heater element will have a longer life span than traditional heating elements.

Other Features

The energy efficiency of a heating appliance should also be considered when selecting a device. It is not a government requirement for portable heating products to have an energy star rating, primarily as there is no standard testing available. Nonetheless the room layout, ceiling height, position of windows, floor covering and roof and wall insulation will all contribute to the time it takes for an appliance to heat the room.

A heating appliance with a temperature controlled thermostat is a good choice if you want to maintain the room temperature at a desired level. If you need the heater to switch on and off at set times, then a timer is a useful feature to consider. From a safety point of view a tilt switch will turn the heater off if it is tipped over, whereas a thermal cut-out switch prevents the heater from over heating, for example if the thermostat fails. If you plan to use the heater in a wet area – such as a kitchen or bathroom – look for Standards Australia IP24 compliance.

Consider the wattage and electricity consumption of the appliance you chose. A 1000 watt radiator will use the same amount of electricity as any other 1000 watt heating device (for example a fan heater, oil-filled column heater, or any other electric heater using the same wattage). Additional features on the device, such as thermostats and heat settings, can reduce the running costs of a portable heating device too.

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Amanda Conroy

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