Your Complete Guide to Bathroom Heaters
A bathroom heater can be a good additional heat source. It doesn’t take a cold winter to make a bathroom chilly and uncomfortable when taking a shower or getting ready for work in the morning. There is just something uninviting about the bathroom in the early hours of the day.
The combination of cold tiles and other ceramics can be overcome by providing a bit of warmth to the bathroom. You don’t need to heat up the entire house using the central heating system. Even if you can compartmentalize the heat distribution by individual rooms, you will still be using too much power for just a few minutes.
A good bathroom heater can do the job faster and it will cost you a lot less. Whether it is a spot device or one that can warm up the entire bathroom, it will use less power. Thermostats can be mounted on the wall or on the heater, and some can even be operated remotely.
What to look for in a bathroom heater
The first and most important feature you should check when shopping for a bathroom heater is the power output. Most models can go up to 1200-1500 watts, and those are the ones that warm up the fastest. They can handle large bathrooms or even dining rooms.
Of course, for small-sized rooms, you can also settle for something less powerful. If you are interested in a portable bathroom heater, then a model which can put up 250 watts is more than enough. Since you can place it wherever you need it, it doesn’t have to have the highest output when you can simply draw it closer to you.
Safety features are also extremely important. Devices that will shut down automatically before overheating are the ones to consider. In the case of bathroom wall heaters, this is especially important so as to avoid fire hazards.
When you’re looking at portable bathroom heaters, you should check and see if they have a shutdown option in case they tip over and you need to pick them up. Because it’s never recommended to touch the heaters while they are on, it’s better they turn themselves off after tipping over.
Families with young children or curious and playful pets seem to be leaning toward buying a bathroom wall heater. The reason is quite simple. Any electrical device mounted on a wall or a ceiling will be harder to tamper with, and they often offer a more even heat distribution to the room.Here are some models that offer a good combination of power, comfort, and safety options. Each has its own benefits and features that make them suitable for different households. Regardless of how specific or multi-purpose you need your bathroom heater to be, we are sure that at least one of the devices listed below can be a good choice.
Types of bathroom heaters - Comparison Tables
Portable Electric bathroom heaters
Portable bathroom heaters are the most suitable choice for those who are renting and don't want to invest money in a heater they can't take with them. They are also cheap and effective for small bathrooms. They provide great heat for bathrooms that are around 250 square feet or smaller. These type of heaters are very cheap and safe. Also, they usually come with an automatic overheat safety features. Some of them warn against using the heater in the bathroom: the problem is the damp environment can cause the heating element to corrode over time. At least the Lasko CD08200 is specifically designed for the bathroom so should avoid this problem, but in our experience this corrosion is pretty limited, and shouldn't be such a big concern.
Manual control with quiet ceramic heating element. Adjustable thermostat with 900W - 1500W settings. Automatic overheat safety precaution. Carrying handle on the back for portability.
Compact design effectively heats bathrooms up to 225 square feet. Automatic overheat protection, and automatic 1 hour shutoff (this is a great feature for some of us). Manual controls. Up to 1500W heating power.
Ceramic space heater with adjustable thermostat. Tip-over safety switch and auto shut-off overheat protection. Carrying handle. It says not for use in wet environments, so your milage may vary for bathroom use.
Same as the AmazonBasics unit above, except it comes with an oscillating option to help heat your bathroom more evenly.
Holmes Digital Bathroom Heater Fan with Pre-Heat Timer and Max Heat Output
Digital clock and pre-heat timer so you can get the bathroom warm before you go in. Wall-mountable (but better as standalone). Designed for bathroom use, but we found a lot of quality problems with these units.
DeLonghi HVF3555TB Bathroom Safe Fan Heater
Designed for bathroom use with safety plug (GFI plug= ground fault interrupt). Foot pedal to activate the oscillating action. Programmable timer so you can have it turn on automatically. Anti-pipe freeze setting to prevent frozen pipes.
The newest entry on our list, and it's really good! Rated to stand up to wet environments makes it ideal for bathroom use. Oscillating action for optimal heat distribution. 6 foot cord with GFCI plug. Programmable with a nice LED display on top of unit.
Brightown Quiet Ceramic Space Heater with Adjustable Thermostat
Brightown is better known for their mini personal desktop heaters (check them out here). This is a decent choice for a small space heater though. More robust carrying handle than some other options. Not rated for wet environments though.
Portable Infrared Bathroom Heaters
Infrared bathroom heaters work a little differently than the fan driven electric heaters. They still use electricity to generate heat, but actually heat up radiant quartz elements in the heater (those are the glowing parts you see in the pictures) and that heat radiates to warm your bathroom. This means you get the direct infrared light and heat in your bathroom that you get from the sun outside.
These are also generally safe and secure. They can also be a great option for those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
Compared to electric fan heaters, the quartz elements warm up quickly and have a very wide angle of heat distribution. The device is also very lightweight which makes it perfect to move around from room to room whenever an additional heat source is needed.
It is not a permanent solution like a bathroom wall heater or ceiling appliances, but it can be the better choice if you need extra heat in more than one place. Because there is no fan, the quartz heater is also very quiet. It can be used to warm up the dining room if you’re entertaining guests, without them even knowing it’s on.
There are just two heat settings but both come with adjustable intensity levels. The heat distribution was designed so that larger areas can be warmed up which means that even on the low setting (600 watts) you shouldn’t stand right in front of it.
Full compliment of safety features: tip-over protection, overheat protection, cool touch plastic housing, and auto shut-off. Definitely the most solid unit we tested, but a little pricey.
Unbrand Infrared Electric Quartz Heater
A bit larger than the other radiant quartz units, so better for larger bathrooms.
Optimus Infrared Quartz Radiant Heater
Real problems with heating power and reliability from the Optimus unit (as with most of the Optimus branded heaters).
Solid choice. This unit is on the larger side, so not ideal if you are really space constrained in your bathroom.
Pretty standard unit. Has all the usual safety features and is pretty reliable.
Bathroom Ceiling Heater Light and Fan
A bathroom ceiling heater light and fan combo is perhaps the best solution if you want to save space in your bathroom. These install into the ceiling and provide gentle heat that is evenly dispersed throughout the bathroom. Since it is a single ceiling mounted unit with heater, light and fan, it saves space and time and money in installation.
We included a column (CFM) for the cubic feet per minute of the fan in the unit. This measures the volume of air the fan moves, so the bigger the number the bigger space this can effectively heat. For bathroom heaters, this number usually ranges from 70cfm to 110cfm.
We've included a few models that are just the bathroom ceiling heater fan in case you already have lights installed and don't want to mess with them!
No integrated lighting element in the Panasonic model. Excellent heater and fan for larger bathrooms. Really high quality... it should run for years without requiring maintenance.
Solid choice for medium-sized bathrooms. Brushless motor and galvanized steel construction are designed to resist corrosion from the water in bathrooms.
Same as the above, except with a more powerful fan unit and heater. Also contains a built-in nightlight for convenience. Again, the only downside is the price.
Quietiest heater that we've seen. (It rates 0. 9 sones, most of the others are between 1.5 and 2.0 sones.) The only disappointment here is that for some reason it doesn't seem to exhaust steam as well as it should.
Same as the above, except with 4 Bulbs and a slightly larger 90 cfm fan unit.
Bathroom wall heaters
Bathroom wall heaters are heaters that can be installed on the wall of the bathroom. Wall heaters for bathrooms are also known as panel heaters.
These save space and provide more options/power than the portable electric bathroom heaters. They are also more accessible and easier to install than the ceiling bathroom heaters and don't usually come with an extra lighting unit.
Our top choice. The Stiebel Eltron CK comes in 1500W and 2000W versions. Very quiet and with a reliable side mounted thermostat. Also has a frost protection setting to keep pipes from freezing in the winter.
Factory wired for 1000W at 120V, but can convert to 500W at 120V or 1000W at 240V. Built-in adjustable thermostat on the front of the unit provides heat control. Solid construction and good value.
Cadet Com-Pak Electric Wall Heater with Thermostat
Okay choice for smaller bathrooms. Good price. Some reliability issues with the thermostat control. Also has the advantage of heating up quickly.
Lots of size and power options here. From 1000W to 1500W at 120V and from 1500W to 2000W at 240V. Also vertical and horizontal mount options. It's solid and reliable, but could heat a bit faster and more evenly.
A radiant and convection heating option on a wall mounted heater. The only one on this list that isn't a fan driven heat. Since it has no moving parts it's dead silent and is less likely to break down. Really only for smaller bathrooms though... just don't have the power for larger bathrooms.
Stelpro Bathroom Wall Heater Pulsair
Not very reliable in our experience.
Install Tips and Location Guidelines
Before you buy your new bathroom heater it is important to consider where you in your bathroom you are going to install the heater. Of course, it needs to be somewhere that you actually have the wall or ceiling space for the installation, but you also want to pick a location such that the hot air isn't going to be obstructed. This will not only detract from your enjoyment of the heater, but could pose a safety hazard.
If your heater comes with a separately installed thermostat, you want to be sure to install the heater and thermostat far enough apart that the heat is still getting evenly distributed throughout your bathroom.
Another consideration for the installation is that if your heater comes equipped with an extractor fan, you should be sure to have space for the fan also. In any case, you should definitely ensure that you have proper ventilation in your bathroom to accommodate the heater.
Finally, you should make sure you have the right electrical wiring so that you can actually connect your heater to your home's electricity.
Cost Comparison of the Types of Bathroom Heaters
There are a couple of components to the total cost of each bathroom heater. There is the obvious upfront cost to purchase the heater, but there also might be hidden installation costs. Do you need to hire an electrician? How much work do you need to do in your bathroom to make space for the heater? Finally, there are the ongoing operating costs of each heater. These will depend on the type of heater you select and its efficiency rating. Well, and it will depend on how hot you like it in your bathroom!
Ceiling and wall heaters are very quick at heating up a room, but are not terribly efficient if you are going to be running them for long stretches of time. If you are planning to warm your bathroom most of the time, you should probably consider a hydronic or radiant heating system. Portable heaters are relatively cheap since they don't typically have to run an exhaust system, and are much lower powered than installed ceiling and wall heaters. Of course, the downside is that they aren't nearly as good at heating up the room.
Four Important Safety Tips for Using Your Heater
1. Don't obstruct the air flow from your heater. In addition to making sure you install or place it somewhere without doors or walls right in front of it, you should also definitely not using it as a makeshift drying rack for your towels or clothes!
2. If you have the option, I would recommend opting for a ceiling heater. This reduces the chances that it inadvertently gets obstructed (such as a towel falling on a portable heater), and also reduces the chance of accidentally injuring yourself by making contact with an overheated element. Burns are no fun! If you do go for the ceiling heater, make sure you install it somewhere that is not going to be too wet such as directly above the shower. The ceiling heaters on our list are bathroom safe, but you still don't really want a lot of water getting directly on them. This will make your heater last longer also!
3. If you get a portable heater, make sure that the plug has a ground fault interrupter plugs in your bathroom. These will cause the heater to shut off automatically in case of a problem.
4. In the "better safe than sorry" category: make sure you have a fire extinguisher in your home capable of dealing with electrical fires. There are plenty of small, inexpensive units out there that can be kept under the sink and might be a life saver.
Depending on what you need, there are plenty of avenues to follow when shopping for a heater. It may seem like much thought needs to be put into buying a bathroom heater, but it is simpler than you think. Regardless of whether you are looking for a fixed device or a portable option, there are just three things you need to carefully consider.
You need to check the power of the bathroom heater and make sure it can handle warming up your room quickly and efficiently. You have to make sure that safety features are available to stop the device from overheating itself or the power cables. And, of course, families have to consider the placement so that young ones and pets don’t accidentally tamper with the heater.
As far as everything else is concerned, nothing can beat the comfort level that comes with using an additional heat source in times of need. These devices warm the room faster and on command, making them convenient to use and cost effective.