How to Decipher the Language of Heaters

When it comes to choosing a heater this winter, whether that be an electric fireplace, a baseboard heater, a space heater for the garage or just a simple a foot heater for your office desk, there’s a language that comes with heaters, and if you haven’t yet learned it and you’re ready to buy, you could very well end up with a heater powerful enough to cover the entire office building and the one next door too.  Okay, maybe not really, but you can be totally over or under-heated.  So, consider this the go-to answer for the cryptic acronyms the “heater-men” have been using for years.  With some simple knowledge, you’ll be able to purchase the right heater this fall for the right room at the right price.  Win-win.


The Questions You Might Ask Yourself:


What is a watt? – A watt is a metric unit of power with the equivalent of one joule of energy per second.  Most heaters running off of 120 volt will be rated up to 1500 watts, max.  Those running off of 240 volts can be rated up to 5000.


What’s the difference between 120 volt and 240 volt? – So glad you asked!  120 volt and 240 volt each have different plugs, thus they cannot be plugged into the same wall plug.  Most home power outlets are 120V.  Larger buildings like garages and industrial buildings will typically have 240V outlets to accommodate for larger, more powerful appliances.


What does BTU stand for? – This is an acronym for British Thermal Unit and measures thermal heat energy.  How much is this going to heat?  When used to describe the power of your heater, it’s defining the heat needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit.  If you need to convert between watts and BTUs, the ratio looks like this:


1 watt = 3.41 BTU/hour (approx)

1000 BTU/hour =  293 watts (approx)


What Kind of Heater Do I Need?


This is where the fun starts!  At this point you know the basic terms, you can do some simple measuring and plug in the metrics into any standard online calculator that will tell you how many BTUs or Watts you need based on your room size, ceiling height, heating demands, etc.  Once you’ve got all that down, then you can pick the heater for your room!  You can have a comforting fireplace, a recessed-outta-my-way heater, or a glowing infrared perfect for getting up close to and getting really warm.  So, here are some basic heater names for your rooms that you might want to think about:


The Main Home Heater Types:

Bedroom Heaters:  If you’re just building, you might want to consider electric wall heaters.  They are often preferred because they can be recessed into the wall and save you room.  Electric heaters are less expensive than propane and are also very safe.  A baseboard heater is a great option if you want your heater low and out of the way.  They use convection (circulation but without a fan) and can really boos the temperature in your room (or office too!).  If you’re looking for quiet, you should look for a radiator electric heater.  These use heated oil and use almost no energy, so they’re not only extremely silent, they’re extremely energy efficient and cost very little to run.


Living Room Heaters:  Probably the most popular, and certainly the coziest of the living room heater options is an electric fireplace.  These are typically electric, and are much, much safer than burning real wood in your home!  If you want an electric heater but not a fireplace, than a standard portable electric heater will do the trick.  The biggest perk is instant heat.  If you want a heater in a fixed location that more direct heat aimed toward people, than look for an infrared heater.


Go Get Your Winter Gear Now!

There you have it!  You’ve got the terms and the names to talk heater talk with the best of them.  Remember, start looking now and consider getting your heaters and your winter gear (de-ice, sand, propane, etc.) before winter hits when manufacturers have upped their prices to meet the demand they know that’s coming in.  Who knows, you might save yourself a trip out to the heater store in the first blizzard if you get prepped early…


Jocelyn is a freelancer who loves to write green/eco-friendly pieces and is currently promoting the use of portable oil heaters to replace the use of central heating systems this winter to save energy and cut costs all around.