01/20/2012 08:54 am ET Updated Oct 11, 2012

Space Heater: What It's Worth (PHOTOS)

In What It's Worth, we investigate why an everyday household item is worth buying...and what to look for when shopping for that very item. This week, we're taking a closer look at space heaters.

As you may recall from our previous week's What It's Worth article about electric blankets that we've made it our top priority to stay warm and indoors at home (as much as possible) this January. But in truth, we've been having trouble keeping pace with the alternating hot and cold days during the past week.

Not that we're complaining about the fair temperature, but the unstable weather definitely has us constantly adjusting our radiators and cranking up the heat, which is not very energy efficient. So for an alternative, we're looking into space heaters.

For many city dwellers who live in tiny apartments without central heating or for homeowners who live in houses with many rooms, a space heater can be a handy device to have around. Many space heaters in the marketplace come in compact sizes and are easy to carry from room to room -- they're like moveable fire. And it's good to know what you're in the market for beforehand in terms of how the heat is emitted (convection relies on air circulating in a room, infrared emissions heat up people and objects directly, ceramic plates have embedded wires that heat up from electricity). We prefer ceramic heating, although this does make the room very dry.

However, most space heaters are meant to spread heat in small areas and shouldn't be used in lieu of larger radiators to heat up an entire room. This could be hazardous as this can cause smaller, more compact space heaters to burn out quickly...from our own personal experience (a small space heater once shot out flames from the vents due to overuse in a big space). That said, always remember to position a space heater with a lot of room around it so that the vents are not blocked and the hot air can circulate.

On the flip side, a space heater can be a great way to cut costs also since you won't leave it on for hours on end. We advise not to keep a space heater on overnight as dries up the air and is also a fire hazard. And if you have an electric blanket or a plush comforter, you won't need the space heater to keep you warm when you're in bed at night. Remember: Safety first. Always.

Flip through the slideshow to see some of the space heaters that we think are worth a look: