Oil Filled Heater vs. Ceramic Heater: What’s the Difference?

As you prepare for winter, you may want to consider saving on energy by using space heaters. This could be a good investment if your children have gone off to college and you don’t have to heat the entire house to keep everyone warm. So which space heater should you choose: an oil-filled one or a ceramic one?

An oil-filled heater works best in larger rooms such as master bedrooms. A ceramic heater is best for smaller rooms if you want quick and instant heat. In order to know which heater you should choose, it is best to determine your motivation for wanting a space heater in the first place.

oil filled heater

Most people probably go to the store and grab a small, portable heater quickly without giving much thought to it. However, the more informed you are about what each does, the more valuable your purchase will be. So here are some essential things to think about when buying an oil-filled heater or a ceramic one.


How Ceramic Heaters Work

One of the first things to understand about ceramic heaters is that they are not made entirely of ceramic, although they are called ceramic heaters. These heaters are primarily made of plastic and have a fan inside them that helps move the air around the room. The ceramic elements of the heater are mainly contained in the heating portion of the heater.

ceramic heater

Within these ceramic parts of the heater is a positive temperature coefficient (PTC) which is self-regulating. As a result, these types of heaters tend to run at a lower heat than other types of heaters, making them somewhat safer. Ceramic heaters tend to get to about 270 degrees Celsius (518 Fahrenheit). Since these heaters are self-regulating, they will reach a certain heat level and start to cool down. As a result, they don’t generate heat consistently and are less likely to overheat than other traditional heaters.

There are typically two types of ceramic heaters: convective and radiant. Convective heaters draw in air and heats it up immediately. As the air near it becomes less dense, it rises and spreads throughout the room. Then, cooler air moves into its place, and this process repeats itself over and over until the room is warm. These types of heaters typically have a fan which helps to make this process much faster. Radiant heaters don’t project heat upward and outward. Instead, it heats objects near it. So, the objects in the room are what heat up and help to make the room warmer.

How Oil-Filled Heaters Work

When an oil-filled heater is mentioned, the first thing that may come to mind is that his heater operates on burning oil to heat the home. However, this is not the case. These heaters have oil within them, but the oil never burns away. Thus, the oil never has to be replaced. Instead, the oil inside the heater heats up and the heat is dispersed throughout the room via thermal convection, internal resistor, diathermic oil.

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Thermal convection warms the air in a similar way as the convective ceramic heater. It circulates the cold air in, heats it, and pushes it out and upward. It repeats itself over and over until the room is warm. With an internal resistor oil heater, the electrons move through the narrow resistive wire inside the unit. This causes friction and heat and warms the oil, which warms the room’s air. Diathermic oil absorbs a lot of energy, and this energy heats the oil. After reaching a specific temperature, the oil continues to heat the room, even if the heater shuts off.

What are the Pros and Cons of Each Heater?

So now that you have an idea of how each type of heater works, knowing some of the pros and cons of each will help you narrow down your choice and make the best decision for your heating needs. For example, while both will be able to heat your room sufficiently, one may do so faster than the other. Also, each uses different technology to heat the room.

Ceramic heaters are a great choice if you want to heat a small room quickly. These heaters are very portable and are much cheaper than oil-filled heaters. One great thing about this heater is that if you have to move it to another room, you don’t have to wait until it cools down to do so. In addition, this heater is typically cool to the touch.

Another cool feature about this type of heater is that it is self-regulating. Therefore, it won’t get scalding which is excellent if you have pets or small children. You won’t have to worry about your child or pet scorching themselves on this heater. Another great thing about this heater being self-regulating is that you won’t have to worry about it melting or being a fire hazard. When these heaters get too hot or tip over, they tend to shut off.

Although ceramic heaters have some great things about them, they have some shortcomings. One of the biggest complaints that most have about this type of heater is that the fan makes too much noise. This is not ideal when you are trying to get some rest. Another thing is that the fan also can attract lots of dust and dander to it. This excessive dust that it attracts can affect people with allergies.

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When it comes to oil-filled heaters, you won’t have to worry about allergies because this heater doesn’t operate using a fan. Another great thing about the fact that it doesn’t use a fan is that the noise level of this product is very low. The low noise level makes this an ideal heater to use in the bedroom.

The oil-filled heater is more energy-efficient than the ceramic heater. This is because once the oil in the heater reaches a certain point, it will shut off. While the heater is off, it will keep the room warm for up to thirty minutes. Once this heater senses that it is cooler, it will turn back on and warm the room. Since the heater isn’t running consistently like a ceramic one, it uses less electricity.

While there are many great things about the oil-filled heater, it does have its drawbacks. For instance, it is not safe to use these types of heaters around pets and children. This is because the heater can get scorching hot, which may burn them if they come in contact with it.

Another thing is that it takes quite a while for this heater to warm up the room. However, once it’s warm, it stays pretty warm, especially in larger rooms. Finally, if you need to move the oil-filled heater from one room to another, this is not as easy as it is with a ceramic heater. You will likely have to wait for the heater to cool down before attempting to move it. Also, it can be heavy. So, even after it cools, moving it may present some difficulty. One more drawback is that these heaters can be pretty pricey.

The tables below provide a much more concise view of the pros and cons of each type of heater.

Pros and Cons of a Ceramic Heater
Pros Cons
Heat the room up quickly Noisy due to the fan
Cool to the touch Fan attracts dust to it
Shuts off if tipped over or becomes too hot Doesn’t heat large spaces
Lightweight and portable Can dry out the air
Safer to use around children and pets
Pros and Cons of an Oil-Filled Heater
Pros Cons
No noise from the fan rotating Take a while to heat up
Doesn’t collect dust and allergens Heavy and not easily portable
Saves more on energy Expensive
Energy-efficient Dangerous around children or pets

Will You Actually Save Money?

One of the significant reasons people tend to get space heaters is that they perceive that they are cheaper to operate than the home heating system. In some cases, it is. For instance, if you plan to be in primarily one room in the house, it is a great idea to use a space heater. However, this will only save money if you plan to lower the temperature of your heating system, and the insulation in the room you are in is perfect. Otherwise, the heat from the space heater will not do much to keep you warm nor help you save.

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The type of heater you use also plays a role in whether you will save money. Since ceramic heaters operate non-stop, they will continuously be using electricity. However, oil-filled heaters, which are more energy-efficient, stop using electricity once they reach a specific heat range. The oil in the heater can keep the room warm for several minutes after the power shuts off. This ability for the oil-filled heater to sense the need for heat can reduce reliance on electricity, thus possibly saving on your energy bill.

Are These Heaters Safe?

Another vital factor to consider is the safety of space heaters. You have probably heard horror stories of how space heaters have caused fires in homes. One great thing about a ceramic heater mentioned before is that this type of heater is self-regulating. Therefore, if it overheats or tips over, you won’t have to worry about it causing a fire because it will cut off as long as your ceramic heater has this type of safety feature. Another important safety factor is that this product doesn’t get hot to the touch. So, you don’t have to worry about a ceramic heater burning your children, pets, or even you.

Hands down, the ceramic heater will be a much safer choice. However, neither is infallible. You still have to use good judgment when operating such heaters to prevent fires and other hazards. These items should never be close to combustibles. Also, it would be best if you always plugged these heaters into the wall instead of power strips. The strips may overheat and melt which can cause an electrical fire.

Another important thing is that while ceramic heaters may shut off if they get too hot, it’s still not a wise idea to put furniture or objects too close to them. Nor is it a good idea to place them on furniture such as desks or dressers. It is typically best to have three feet of clearance surrounding the heater to keep it from causing a fire.