Best portable heater 2021: Electric fan and convection heaters

We’re sorry to break it to you but colder, darker days are on the horizon. But don’t panic, because we’ve come to the rescue with some brilliant portable heaters guaranteed to take the edge off the long days of winter.

Like any other device, those keen to splash huge amounts of cash can easily knock a sizeable dent into their bank balance by throwing large sums at heaters that do everything barring a quick clean of the kitchen sink. But is it necessary? In our opinion, no.

Features we’d suggest looking out for when shopping for a portable heater include digital displays, timer functions and remote control functionality, all of which make it easier to crank up the heat without having to emerge from your blanket, bed or slanket.

How we tested

For once we were grateful for a brief respite from the summer heat. An unexpected cold snap provided the perfect opportunity to put our heaters to the test – a process which certainly took the edge off the sudden drop in temperature.

We took our testing incredibly seriously, cranking temperatures up to the max and truly putting the devices through their paces, whether it was by lugging them to different rooms to examine their ability to warm spaces of different sizes or timing how long they took to achieve maximum heat.

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In short, it was hot, sweaty stuff. Although, on the plus side, we’re pretty certain our calorie burn was similar to that achieved by an hour in a Swedish sauna.

The best heaters for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Dunelm convector heater with turbo, timer and LCD: £40,
  • Best for instant heat – Draper Tools PTC electric space heater: £55,
  • Best value – MeacoHeat 1.8kW heater: £39.99,
  • Best for ease of use – Dimplex MaxAir MAXAIR25B ceramic fan heater with remote control: £229,
  • Best design – Duux threesixty smart fan & heater: £99.99,
  • Best for small spaces – Beldray climate cube: £36.85,
  • Best compact design – Kleeneze handy plug in heater: £13.99,
  • Best for rustic styling – Chimnea style flame effect heater: £75,
  • Best for bedrooms – Russell Hobbs retro 1.8kW horizontal/vertical grey fan heater: £24.99,
  • Best for gadget geeks – Dyson purifier jot + cool formaldehyde: £599.99,

Dunelm convector heater with turbo, timer and LCD

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

Maximum output: 2000w

We’re firm believers that you don’t need to break the bank to invest in a decent heater and this one is a case in point. To start with, it packs an impressive 2000w and comes packed with features which aren’t that common on heaters with a sub-£50 price point. There’s an ultra-bright digital display and the three heat settings can be tweaked using a remote control or the controls on the heater itself. And there’s more: a timer function, turbo feature and well-placed carry handles, which make moving it a breeze. That’s what we call a heating hat trick.

Draper Tools PTC electric space heater

Best: For instant heat

Rating: 10/10

Maximum output: 2800w

This compact heater reminded us of the wind machines used in films to give Hollywood superstars that sexy windblown look, although that’s where the similarities end. Its cheery red exterior (picture Dr Martens’ famous cherry-red boots and you’ll know the colour we’re talking about) offers a welcome alternative to the usual greys and blacks used for heaters, and the brilliant dial-style controls make it easy to fully customise the heat output. One of the dials can be used to crank up the temperature by tiny increments, while the other allowed us to choose between half power or full power, and to use the heater with the fan or without. It’s incredibly easy to operate and we loved the smoothness with which the fan could be tilted back and forth. Our one gripe? The cable, which comes in at a measly 1.3m.

MeacoHeat 1.8kW heater

Best: Value

Rating: 9/10

Maximum output: 1800w

Keen to downsize your electricity bills? Meaco’s wallet-friendly heater, which costs under £40, has a nifty motion sensor which means it will automatically turn on and off when you enter the room, minimising the risk of burning your hard-earned cash on unwanted hot air. It’s another heater which offers plenty of opportunities for customisation, whether it’s with the option to set the timer for one, two or four hours, and to switch between low and high modes. The motion sensor wasn’t the most sensitive one we’ve come across, but for £40, we suspect you’ll struggle to find a heater which boasts this many bells and whistles.

Dimplex MaxAir MAXAIR25B ceramic fan heater with remote control 2500W

Best: For ease of use

Rating: 8/10

Maximum output: 2500w

With its shiny black chassis and 2500 watts of power, this is the supercar of the heating world. There are three heat settings to choose from and its oscillating motion ensures that all areas are covered, irrespective of how it’s positioned. There’s also a timer, which is ridiculously easy to set and reminded us that nothing beats the thrill of stepping into a pre-heated house on a cold, damp day. The tiny remote control (which weighs around the same amount as a pencil) makes it easy to control from afar, and its tall, slimline design was also a hit, providing brilliant coverage – as much as we love warm feet, we loved the top-to-toe heat blast this heater provided.

Duux threesixty smart fan & heater grey

Best: Design

Rating: 8/10

Maximum output: 1800w

Say hello to a heater that looks nothing like a heater. Which, to be clear, is a good thing. This sleek piece of kit, designed for rooms of up to 30m², has a monochrome matte exterior which ensures it won’t clash with your carpets or cushions, and it heats up incredibly quickly. Duux claims it heats up three times as fast as your average heater and it took just a couple of minutes to warm our entire living room. We loved the design of the air outlet, which ensures an even distribution of heat and eliminates the risk of annoying heat-hogging dogs, cats and kids turning into trip hazards – we enjoyed constant, even heat irrespective of where we were sat. The heater, which has two fan speeds, three heat settings and a temperature range of between 22-30°C, can be tweaked using the control panel on the device or an app. Although this one is currently out of stock, you can sign up to be notified when it becomes available again.

Beldray climate cube

Best: For small spaces

Rating: 8/10

Maximum output: 500w

This compact heater is great for smaller homes – it heats up relatively quickly and can be easily stashed away when not in use. We loved the look and feel of the controls, which require the lightest of touches and but lie flat and low to minimise the risk of accidental knocks. We could quickly scroll between the two fans speeds and choose between temperatures of 25C and 35C, and once the cold winds of winter have passed, it can be used as a fan and air cooler, too (you’ll need to fill a small tank at the rear in order to use the latter feature).

Kleeneze handy plug in heater

Best: Compact design

Rating: 9/10

Maximum output: 500w

Yes, this really is a heater, and despite our assumptions that something of this size wouldn’t be able to produce anything better than a thin waft of lukewarm air, it’s now a permanent fixture in our office, where we use it for a quick blast of heat on chilly days. Its size (it’s slightly larger than a PlayStation controller) means it’s incredibly portable – cold caravans and hotel rooms will be a thing of the past if you’ve got this bit of kit in your suitcase. Amazingly, it’s packed with features which many larger heaters don’t have, including a timer and LED display. Its monochrome design is also incredibly ergonomic – its high-gloss finish remains cool to the touch and simple, clearly-marked controls make it easy to crank up the temperature, which has a range of between 15C and 30C.

Dunelm chimnea style flame effect heater

Best: For rustic styling

Rating: 8/10

Maximum output: 1800w

Love the cosiness of a fire but worried about accidentally singeing yourself, the kids or the dog? This might just be the solution. Designed to resemble a chiminea, Dunelm’s flame-effect heater is small and lightweight but will quickly heat up small to medium-sized rooms of up to 20-30m2. The incredibly realistic faux flames were our favourite effect but we also loved the controls, which have a wood-effect finish that coordinates with the heater’s three sturdy legs. Although we’d have liked to see more specifics relating to temperature (the dial simply lists low and high heat) we loved the simplicity and speed with which we could crank up both the temperature and the fan power, plus the option to use the heater with or without the artificial flame.

Russell Hobbs retro 1.8kW horizontal/vertical grey fan heater

Best: For bedrooms

Rating: 9/10

Maximum output: 1800w

Russell Hobbs’ newest heater is on-trend, surprisingly powerful and costs under £25. With coverage of up to 20m², it’s perfect for bedrooms and can be used vertically or horizontally – a great feature for teens’ bedrooms, where space is often at a premium. The controls – which are easily accessible, irrespective of the heater’s position – make it easy to switch between the two power settings and turn up the heat, while the built-in handle ramps up the portability.

Dyson purifier hot + cool formaldehyde purifying fan heater

Best: For gadget geeks

Rating: 8/10

Maximum output: 40w

First, let’s address the elephant in the room: the name, because let’s face it – formaldehyde doesn’t generally come top when it comes to words we look for in the name of our heater. For this reason, we were pleased to know the name refers to the heater’s ability to kill this particular chemical, although we suspect there’s not a huge amount of it in the average household. Formaldehyde fearmongering aside, this heater, which launched in early 2021, is a great, compact appliance that will quickly warm medium-to-large rooms (it oscillates up to 350 degrees) and is brilliantly easy to use, thanks to its app, voice control and remote control functionality.  The upside of the eye-watering price tag is that it cools and purifies too, and top notch Hepa filters make it especially suitable for anyone prone to allergies.

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