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What are Safe Options for Portable Heaters?

I had someone ask this week about portable heaters. I had written that I have a "ceramic heater" with a metal housing and she didn't know what a ceramic heater was, or what to look for. So I'm going to give you a little review here of different types of portable heaters that come with metal housings, including pictures, so you know what your options are.

First, though, I want to say that with any portable heater with a meal housing, there will be an initial odor from the paint that is not fully cured. These paints are heat cured during manufacture, but there can be residual outgassing as the paint it dry to the touch, but not fully cured. Once the paint is fully outgassed, you can use these heaters with no problem.

About outgassing heaters...From reading your comments, I see that some of you are not outgassing them long enough. It requires a lot more than a few hours. I gave mine to a friend to use all winter. Others have just run the heater outdoors or in the garage. How long you need to outgas the heater depends on the model and even within specific models there are differences. Just heat it until it doesn't smell any more. But we're talking about 100 hours or more of heat before the smell goes away.

You can buy some of these heaters used, like on eBay or try your local Craig's List. A used heater will already be gassed out and you'll save money too.

I don't think you will find a heater on your local store shelves that does not smell initially. But if you bake it out, the smell will eventually burn off and you will have a good serviceable heater. There are some heaters you can buy online that are unpainted.

Ceramic heater

I have two ceramic heaters with metal housings that I purchased more than ten years ago. But I have not been able to find them recently in stores.

A reader wrote in that the Pelonis Disc Ceramic Heater Model # PF1212-B6A1 is in a metal housing. She called the company to confirm it was all metal.

I've noticed now that the ceramic heaters in metal casings are called "utility heaters." Here are some that say "all metal construction" in their description.

There are a lot more. The way I found these was I did a Google search on "utility heater" and it gave me Goggle search results for utility heater. I just started clicking and reading descriptions. Sometimes I had to read descriptions from several different vendors to find out they had metal housings. If any of you would like to continue to check through this list and find more, please post what you find as a comment.

These utility heaters are the least expensive heating option, around $40. They are not beautiful, but they will heat your room.

Radiator heater

These are oil-filled heaters that look like old radiators. The oil is completely sealed in and should not leak. I have one and it works very well to heat up one room. And it's totally silent. Has no fan. These are made by many different brands.

Baseboard heater

Baseboard heaters are filled with water or other substances. One reader wrote that she moved into an apartment with 50-year-old baseboard hot water/oil heaters that also contained glycol, which was leaking. She and her cat got very sick. So that's something to watch out for.

Another reader wrote that she installed Cadet Soft Heat baseboard heaters throughout her house and there is no odor.

Radiant heaters

A reader recommended radiant heaters from Radiant Electric Heat. They have stainless steel models "which produces no chemicals, dust particles, odors or fumes." They have portable models and models that attach to the wall. Company is experienced working with people with MCS.

Infrared Heaters

The heat produced by infrared heaters and the heat produced by sun are very much alike. The heat we feel on our planet is infrared heat produced by the sun. In contrast to most heaters, Infrared heaters do not heat the air in the area and do not cause circulation of the warm air--instead they heat objects directly. The rays produced by an infrared heater penetrate the skin and warm your body beneath the skin.

I don't have any experience with these, but a reader recommended them. They are the heat source for far-infrared saunas.

In looking at these online, I think the trick would be to find one that doesn't have a plastic or particleboard cabinet, or one with toxic finishes on a wood cabinet. But the technology seems workable.


This answer was provided by our friend, Debra Lynn Dadd. Hailed as "The Queen of Green" by the New York Times, Debra Lynn Dadd has been a pioneering consumer advocate since 1982, specializing in products and lifestyle choices that are safer for human health and the environment. She is the author of Home Safe Home.

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