43 college dorm essentials you’ll actually use – according to a recent graduate

When you buy through our links, Insider may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more.


  • Going back to college is always an exciting time, whether it’s your first year or you’re a senior.
  • If you’re heading off to college for the first time ever, you’re probably wondering what to pack.
  • Below I’ve listed some dorm room essentials most of us recent graduates agree are essential.

If you’re heading off to college for the first time this fall, congrats! It’s such an exciting time – picking out your classes, meeting your roommate, making new friends. Although exciting, moving away from home and into a new space with a new person can be nerve-wracking. A good packing list to get you prepared for move-in day won’t necessarily calm all of your first-day jitters, but it hopefully will make you feel a little more ready.

As someone who recently graduated from college, the chaos of dorm-room shopping is fresh in my mind. I also remember the items I used every day and the items I was convinced I needed, but sadly never made it out of their packaging. That’s why this list exists – to give you some guidance that will hopefully make your college shopping process a little less hectic.

From the more obvious basics, like a comforter, to the more obscure, like an Amazon prime membership, this list has all the essentials to get you ready for the big day.

Shop our picks for 43 great dorm room essentials below

An Amazon Prime Membership for convenient shopping and free shipping

amazonprime, $6.49 a month

Amazon Prime Student Membership, $6.49/month (6-month free trial for new members)

Amazon Prime is the ultimate in convenience, especially if you don’t have a car on campus or if you go to school in a more removed, rural area. I found myself on Amazon Prime often, constantly ordering last-minute school supplies, my favorite snacks from home, and even toiletries when I was too lazy to drive to the store. The convenient service takes the annoyance of shopping away so you can focus on more important things, like studying.

If you are a new member you can get a free trial of Prime for six months, otherwise you can just get a discounted student membership.

A wallet that sticks to the back of your phone

amazon adhesive wallet $5.99 5 pack

Adhesive Phone Card Holder, $3.99 at Target

My student ID was one of my most valuable possessions in college. That little plastic card gave me access to my meal plan, my dorm, laundry, and more. I didn’t usually carry a full wallet with me, but I always had my phone on me, so I used these little phone wallets to hold my important cards instead. I could fit three cards, or two cards and some cash, in one of these.

A bottle to keep your drinks hot and your bag dry

contigo $11.75

Contigo Autoseal Travel Mug, $20.49 at Target

When you need to bring a hot beverage to class, there is nothing worse than opening your backpack to find your travel mug has leaked onto your schoolwork. This travel mug is great for keeping your drinks hot, but it also has an autoseal that actually keeps your drinks from leaking and spilling. So, you can throw this in your backpack and still hand in your essay sans coffee stains.

A pair of shower shoes that you can also wear to class

haivaianas $18

Havaianas Top Flip Flops, $18 at Zappos

Shower shoes are a must if you’re using communal showers. These Havaianas are simple, comfortable, and you won’t be horribly embarrassed if you accidentally wear them out of the shower and into class.

A shower caddy that carries everything

shower caddy

Day/Night Shower Caddy, $7.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

This shower caddy is big enough to hold all of your shower supplies, but has a removable mini carrier so you don’t need to lug everything with you when you shower, you can just take what you need. 

A fan that is a lifesaver if you don’t have air conditioning

vornado $34.99

Vornado Small Air Circulator Fan, $30 at Bed Bath & Beyond

If you don’t have air conditioning in your dorm, you need a fan. This one is small, but mighty. You will actually feel the difference in the air when you turn this fan on, but it is still small enough to fit on your desk, making it a great choice for a college dorm room.

A command hook that can do some heavy lifting

large command hook, $4.55

Command Large Plastic Hook, $4.00 at Target

These little hooks are major space savers. They come with adhesive strips for easy application to the wall and come off the wall without damaging the surface. It says these hooks can hold up to 5 lbs, but I was still surprised that this little plastic hooks could actually bear the weight of my heavy winter parka. These are great to stick to the wall for additional storage for jackets, bags, and other items that might not fit in your closet.

A tapestry to liven up dull dorm room walls

society6 tapestry, $43.99

Society6 Tapestries, starting at $31.49

Dorm room walls can be dull, but you can easily cover them and add some intrigue to your room with a tapestry. Society6 has tapestries in a wide range of prints including photographs, paintings, and typography. You can find lots of unique designs to make your room feel a little more like your own.

A colorful speaker that is college-proof

UE boom, starting at $99 to $120.98

Ultimate Ears Boom 2, $80 at Best Buy

The UE Boom 2 speaker is made for college students. It wasn’t really, but this shockproof, waterproof speaker can survive all of the antics of a college party. In a dorm room, these speakers are pretty loud on their own, but if you are moving to a bigger space and want even louder sound, you can connect your UE Boom with up to 150 other UE speakers for the ultimate party sound system. The fun colors are also a plus.

A lamp that is also an outlet and desk organizer

equipyourspace $14.99

Organizer/USB Outlet Desk Lamp, $15.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

You don’t get much space in dorm rooms, so any multi-purpose items are great for capitalizing on what you actually do have. This lamp is functional enough on its own, but the added USB outlet and organizational space make it that much more practical. You can hold post-its, paperclips, and other small school supplies in the organization compartments and the USB outlet is great if your room has limited wall outlets.

A drying rack that can be folded up for easy space-saving

polder $19.90

Polder Compact Accordian Drying Rack, $19.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

When folded down, this drying rack is flat and can be stored easily under your bed. When opened up, it provides 14 feet of drying space without taking up much space in your room. If you have any clothing that is too delicate for the dryer, one of these racks will come in handy. The best part is, you won’t even notice it once you put it away.

A Moleskine journal that you can use for handy notes

moleskin $14.75

Moleskine Hard Cover Notebook, $25.99 at Quill

Moleskine journals are great for a multitude of uses. They are smaller than most typical subject notebooks, but still can be used for class. I like to use mine as a planner and for jotting down random notes and thoughts I have throughout the day. The hard cover notebooks are flexible, but still durable enough to survive a messy backpack. 

Decorative pillows to liven up your space

dormify starting at $15

Decorative pillows, starting at $7 at Dormify

To make your dorm feel homey, add some decorative pillows to your bed. Decorative pillows are a fun way to show off your style and make your space feel like its yours. Plus, these will also make your bed extra cozy. 

A set of plastic drawers for easy under-bed storage

Iris $29.99

Iris Loft Underbed Stacking Drawer, $29.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

Dorm rooms don’t typically offer a lot of space, so you have to get creative to make room for all of your belongings. These plastic stacking drawers are great for under-the-bed storage. These drawers are stackable to really maximize space and the front of the drawer is clear so you can easily see what is inside. These are perfect for storing clothing, towels, sheets, and more. 

A power strip for all of your devices

belkin $11.99

Belkin Power Strip Surge Protector, $21.49 at Staples

With a lot of tech, you will need a lot of outlets to charge everything. Many dorm rooms are not set up so outlets are in the most accessible locations, plus you have to share what is available with your roommate. A power strip is an easy, cheap solution to make sure all of your devices can be charged simultaneously. 

A hamper that also holds your laundry supplies

pop up hamper $7.99

Pop-Up Mesh Laundry Hamper, 7.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

Depending on your laundry situation, you might be lugging your hamper up flights of stairs or to another building on campus. This hamper will make that process a little easier, with side pockets for your laundry supplies, so you have everything laundry related in one place. Plus, when you’re not using it, this hamper can be folded down flat and stored easily elsewhere in your room. 

A kettle that makes heating water safer, and easier

black&decker $24.99

Black + Decker Electric Kettle, $25.00 at Bed Bath & Beyond

I didn’t use an electric kettle until senior year, but now it’s a staple in my kitchen. It heats up water rapidly and automatically turns the kettle off once the water is boiled, so you don’t have to worry about any fire hazards. As a college student who was always rushing out of my apartment in the mornings, I always had peace of mind knowing that I didn’t leave the stove on to make my tea or oatmeal, because I didn’t need to use the stove at all. If you’re in a dorm and don’t have a kitchen, this is just as useful of an appliance for quickly heating water for tea, oatmeal, or a personal favorite instant meal, easy mac.

A towel that won’t fall

towelwrap $19.95

Women’s TowelNRobe Bath Wrap, $17.99 at Walmart

Mens Cotton Terry Body Wrap, $40.00 at Kohl’s

A towel wrap is a great substitute for a regular towel. These are just as comfortable and drying as your average towel, but the added Velcro strap ensures that your towel will stay put on your trek from your room to the shower.

A microwave that will make your favorite dishes

hamiltonbeach $55

Hamilton Beach Stainless Steel Microwave Oven, $69.98 at Walmart

Popcorn, easy mac, ramen — there’s so much you can make with a microwave. If you want to go a little more gourmet, you can make your own microwave-friendly dishes like mug cakes and frittatas. With the range of what you can make, and the ease of use, a microwave is a worthwhile and necessary investment for your college years.

Nutrition bars to keep you energized on long days

gomacro $16.83

GoMacro Nutrition Bars, $3.59 at Target

On those days when it feels like you will never get out of class, you’re going to need some sustenance. Nutrition bars are a quick fix that you can throw in your backpack for long days when you don’t have time to sit down for a meal. I like these ones because they’re made of simple, natural ingredients which will keep you fueled without a dreaded sugar crash later on. 

A little wastebasket to keep your room clean

trashbin $5.99

Mesh Metal Wastebasket, $6.99 each at Bed Bath & Beyond

It’s easy to let trash pile up in your dorm room, but having a trash can will at least help contain that mess. A lot of dorms have giant trash and recycling bins scattered throughout, but don’t have anything in the actual rooms. These wastebaskets are small enough that they can be hidden in the corners of your room, but they’re big enough to actually hold a good amount of garbage to make sure your surfaces are visible, and hopefully, clean.

A comforter that feels like your favorite T-shirt

dormify comforter $129

Tie Dye Jersey Comforter and Sham Set, starting at $99 (Twin XL) at Dormify

A soft comforter is a must. This one, made from cotton jersey, has the same cozy, worn-in feel as your favorite T-shirt. Plus, you can throw the whole thing in the wash for easy cleaning.

Febreze to freshen up your space

febreze $2.99

Febreze Air Freshener, $2.99 at Target

Your dorm room is your home base in college and you likely will use it for many other activities besides sleeping, which can give your room a “scent,” if we’re being generous. Many colleges don’t allow candles in dorms, but you can still hide the smell of burnt microwave pizza and dirty laundry with a can of Febreze. This linen & sky scent is light, but strong enough to eliminate the stink of college activities, so you can actually enjoy hanging out in your dorm room, odor-free.

A multipurpose mug that looks cute too

anthropologie mug

Lucy Eldridge Mug, $12 at Nordstrom

Even if you don’t have a kitchen in your dorm room, bring a mug with you to school. You can use it as a vessel for tea, microwave meals, and if you really have no desire to make any sort of food, this will make an adorable pencil holder on your desk. I like this one for the fun animal prints and sayings.

A set of sheets that is cozy and cool at the same time

brooklinen $99

Brooklinen Classic Core Sheet Set, starting at $99 for a Twin XL

These cozy percale sheets only get better with time. With each wash, the breathable fabric softens— a good incentive to do your laundry. Each set comes with a fitted sheet, flat sheet, and two pillowcases.

A bottle that will keep your water cold all day long

hydroflask $29.95

Hydro Flask 18 oz. Standard Mouth Water Bottle, $29.95

This insulated water bottle can keep your beverages cold for 24 hours, so you can always stay hydrated with ice cold water.  I love the range of bright colors and the option to purchase different caps, like a sports cap great for taking to the gym.

A set of Rubbermaid food storage containers to stash your snacks

rubbermaid $5.89

Rubbermaid Premier Food Storage Container, $20.99 for a 12-piece at Bed Bath & Beyond

Whether you are living in a dorm or off-campus, these Rubbermaid containers are a necessity. You can use these to bring packed lunches to class, to keep your favorite snacks safe from bugs, or stock up on food in the dining hall to stretch that college budget. These containers are microwave, freezer, and dishwasher safe, so you can really use them for anything. 

A cheap, easy way to bring your memories with you to college

snapfish $0.20

Snapfish prints, starting at $0.09

Once you’re away, you may realize how much you miss your friends and family back home. Scrolling through pictures on Instagram and Facebook doesn’t always cut it, but printed pictures are a great way to keep the people you love around and make a great room decoration as well. Snapfish makes it easy to print your favorite pictures in a variety of sizes and finishes, and they start at only 9¢ per print.

A Keurig for a quick caffeine fix

keurig $92.02

Keurig K-Classic Coffee Maker, $129.99 at Bed Bath & Beyond

Early morning classes and late night study sessions make caffeine a college student’s best friend. When I was a freshman I could get unlimited free coffee at the campus dining halls, which was great. Once I graduated from an unlimited meal-plan though, I realized how much money I was wasting buying coffee that was honestly not even good. The Keurig was the answer; a speedy, single-serve coffee maker that is extremely easy to use and clean. The upfront cost may seem like a lot for a coffeemaker, but if you consider how much money you will save making your own brews in the morning, it definitely is a smart purchase.

A folder that can fit all of your subjects

five star $10.29

Five Star Expanding File Folder, $6.99 at Target

You most definitely will need folders or binders to keep track of all of your class handouts. While you can opt for individual folders for each subject, I found that one compact folder was the most convenient. With one folder, I was always prepared for class as I had all of my papers with me. Plus, this one is vertical so you can easily take papers in and out when you need them.

A sweatshirt that can take you from bed to class


The Classic French Terry Crew, $45 at Everlane

Long nights in the library, early morning classes when you wish you were still sleeping, these are the times that call for a comfortable sweatshirt and these are the times that make up a good chunk of the college experience. It may seem obvious, but pack a comfortable sweatshirt that you can lounge in, sleep in, and wear to class.

Clorox wipes for easy cleaning

Using Clorox to clean table outside

Clorox Wipes, $23.49 for a 3-pack at Amazon

Nobody is cleaning your room for you once you get to college, so you should have some basic cleaning supplies on hand. Clorox wipes are great for wiping away crumbs, dust, and any other grime that accumulates in your room. I have even used these to clean muddy, white sneakers, but I’m not sure that is the best method.

A charging cable that is extra-long and extra-convenient

amazon cable $9.99

Apple 6-Foot Long Charging Cable, $29.99 at Best Buy

This phone charger is extra-long, so you can use your phone while it charges in an outlet up to six feet away. This is super useful if there is no outlet near your bed, but also it’s just as good as a regular phone charger.

A little organizer for your desk

desk organizer

Bamboo Rotating Organizer, $25.38 at Walmart

You should definitely have some storage to keep your supplies organized, so you can actually use your desk. This desk organizer won’t take up too much space and is a tidy way to store the school supplies that you use often, like notepads, scissors, pens and pencils. The natural color will fit in with any decor and it rotates too, for easy, fast access to your school supplies from all angles.

Starry string lights for wall decorations


Starry String Lights, $15.20 at West Elm

The artificial lighting that you will find in most dorm rooms is pretty depressing. String lights are a cheap, easy way to brighten up a dim space. With 33 feet of lighting, there are ample ways to set up these lights in your dorm room. When turned on, these also make a cute, and useful, decoration.

A comfy pair of slippers for your dorm and beyond

muk lul

Women’s Muk Luk Clog Slippers, $20.99 at Target

When you realize how dirty dorm floors get, you’ll be happy you have a pair of comfortable slippers to wear around your hall. This pair has an indoor/outdoor sole, which is great in the case that you do want to wear them outside.

Door hooks for added storage space


Hook-Over Over the Door Hook, $1.99 at The Container Store

Another great space-saver, these hooks fit right over your door and are flat enough so your door can actually close. Use these to hold your towels, jackets, and bags. 

A Kindle for reading in your free time


Kindle Paperwhite, $94.99 at Target

If you have the free time to read for pleasure, a kindle is the way to go. With all the reading you have to do for class, you’ll have enough books taking up space on your desk and in your backpack. With a kindle you can get all of the titles you want on one compact device and at a fraction of the cost. This one has a Paperwhite surface, so you can read outside with no glare, and a built in light, so you can read before bed even if your roommate is sleeping.

Canvas pouches for all sorts of knick-knacks


Canvas Pouches, starting at $10.74 at Etsy

I use this little canvas pouches for everything. They can be used as pencil cases, makeup bags, or to organize any other knick-knacks you have lying around. With a multitude of designs and even personalized options, you could get a few to hold a different items. 

A mattress topper that’ll transform a stiff mattress


Linenspa 2-inch Gel Infused Memory Foam Mattress, starting at $58.99 (twin) at Wayfair

Your university probably isn’t welcoming all first-years to school with Leesa and Casper mattresses — and if they are, I want to know where you go to school. Luckily, you can transform those stiff-as-a-board mattresses for $40, or even less. A mattress topper is truly a blessing, turning any old bed into the comfortable sleep haven you deserve. I like the feel of plush memory foam toppers like this one, but there’s a plethora of materials to choose from so you can be sure you’ll find one that’s perfect for your sleep preferences and budget. 

A set of velvet hangers that keep your closet

velvet hangers

Real Simple Flocked Suit Hangers, $24.99 (50-pack) at Bed Bath & Beyond

I’ll never forget walking into my dorm room for the first room to find an armoire filled with about hangers of random shapes and sizes. You can deal with the crappy ones that may (or may not) come in your closet already, or you can just bring your own. These hangers are easy on your clothes, sturdy enough to hold up to 10 pounds, and have a slim design that maximizes closet space. Plus, using a set of uniform hangers will help keep your closet consistently neater

A reading light that won’t annoy your roommate when you’re up late studying or reading

led reading light

LED Reading Light Clip, $9.99 at Best Buy

Living with a roommate means you have to be mindful of someone else’s schedule, not just your own. You might like reading late into the night, but your roomie might want lights off at 10 p.m. to prepare for her early-morning lecture. Rest assured, you don’t have to give up your night-owl habits to respect your roommate’s preference. Pick up a small reading light instead — it takes up barely any space, is bright enough to see comfortably in the dark, and clips onto surfaces for easy use. 

An over-the-door organizer that can be used to hold just about anything

hanging over-the-door organizer

36-Pocket Over the Door Organizer, $20 at Dormify

In a small dorm, you have to get creative about storage. The back of your door is the perfect place to hang an organizer like this one. Use it to store snacks, shoes, cleaning supplies, or random knick-knacks. It provides tons of storage (36 pockets worth) in a space that would probably go unused otherwise. Plus, it’s easy to clean — all you have to do is wipe it down.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The best space heaters in 2020

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

  • If you have a home that heats unevenly, a space heater can keep you comfortable without wasting energy.
  • After testing eight space heaters, the Lasko Ceramic Portable Space Heater is our top pick thanks to its affordable price tag and ability to churn out heat quickly.
  • It’s also compact, lightweight, and perfect for heating up a small home office.

Temperature is incredibly subjective: I see this in my own home, where I am perpetually hot and my husband is always cold. It’s an objective fact, however, that my furnace does a bad job of heating certain recesses of my house. The basement feels like the inside of a half-open igloo and the kitchen, with its large window, heats up like a greenhouse. It makes controlling the thermostat difficult. 

Space heaters can help warm the chillier bits of your home, reduce friction if you’re constantly fighting over the thermostat with your housemates, and (building codes permitting) offer you some control over the temperature of your surroundings in places like offices or dorms where the heat is not adjustable. They’re also a good solution in between seasons where it’s not quite cold enough to turn on whole-house heat, and an obvious choice for garages, RVs, boats, and other places that may not have access to gas-powered heat. 

In addition to testing portable outdoor heaters and writing our guide to the best patio heaters, I’ve been testing and reviewing products for nearly half a decade, covering everything from fitness gadgets to kitchen appliances. For almost two months, I put eight space heaters through various tests to see how they would affect the ambient temperature in my home office. I evaluated their performance, ease of use, settings, noise level, and safety features. I also interviewed Matthew Griffith, fire prevention section chief with the Montreal Fire Department, and Dan Mock, brand manager of Mr. Sparky, an electrical services company, about space heater safety. At the end of the guide, you can find a breakdown of my testing methodology, along with information about what to look for in a space heater and tips on space heater safety

The best space heaters

Prices and links are accurate as of 12/10/20; we rewrote this guide with new recommendations after comprehensive testing, and added guidance on shopping for and using a space heater.

The best space heater overall

lasko space heater overall slide

The Lasko Ceramic Portable Space Heater is a practical, no-frills miniature heater with enough juice to turn your chilly home office into a cozy, warm nook of productivity. 

Pros: Compact, incredibly efficient, easy to use, housing stays cool to the touch, overheat detector 

Cons: No tip-over safety switch, no temperature display 

This unit is the first space heater I tested and the one that I keep coming back to for my own personal use. It’s one of the smallest heaters on this list at just about 10 inches tall, but pulls a powerful 1,500 watts of power to heat efficiently for its miniature size. There are three settings (low, high, and fan) and an adjustable temperature dial. The temperature dial uses dots instead of specific temperatures, so it took some time to figure out how to adjust the unit to my preferred temperature — I ended up watching a YouTube video to get the gist — but once I got it working, the heat cycling feature kept me comfortable for hours. It’s relatively quiet and I didn’t feel the need to shut it off during Zoom calls. 

That said, it’s definitely not a whole-room heater: the unit only increased the overall temperature in my office by about 3 degrees Fahrenheit in my testing. However, sitting close to the heater and feeling the warmth blowing directly at me, I felt much, much warmer. (It’s also worth noting that how well any space heater will heat depends on the size of your room and the ambient temperature.)

The heater has cool-touch housing, which didn’t heat up during use, but the front grille does get hot (though this is par for the course with most space heaters). It’ll also shut off automatically if it detects overheating. The manual didn’t specify at what temperature this function triggers, and I didn’t encounter it during my testing, but it’s a must-have safety feature for any space heater. There’s no tip-over safety switch, but if you’re only using it under supervision (as safety experts say you should with any space heater), I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker — especially since the unit is so stable. I really had to shove it off my desk for it to tip over. 

I can see myself using this frequently when I’m unwilling to turn on the furnace. It’s easy to store and tote around the house. I recommend this unit to anyone who works in a chilly office (home or otherwise). 

The best full-size space heater

Lasko full sized space heater slide

The Lasko Cyclonic Digital Ceramic Heater is a full-size space heater that takes up minimal space and delivers an effective dose of warmth. 

Pros: Lightweight, accurate internal thermostat, overheat protection

Cons: No fan-only option, no tip-over shutoff 

When my grandfather was looking for a space heater to warm up his bedroom, which doesn’t seem to heat as well as other areas of his apartment, this was the model I decided to recommend to him. At almost two feet tall, it’s a full-size floor model but it is surprisingly lightweight, so it’s easy to move around from room to room. The light-up control panel is legible from afar and allows you to choose your desired room temperature, select high or low heat settings, and set a timer. You can also adjust the angle of the airflow, which is helpful if you don’t want hot air blowing directly on you. 

By selecting the room temperature, the unit will automatically know to cycle off (and eventually back on) when it senses that it reaches the right temperature. This function was very accurate when I compared its temperature display to my reference thermometer. It’s a lot quieter than I expected for such a large machine, and it does a great job of heating up a room quickly without blowing uncomfortably hot air. On a chilly morning, the heater was able to warm the air by 6 degrees Fahrenheit in under an hour. 

Unfortunately, this unit doesn’t have a fan-only option, and while there’s a thermal overload detector to prevent overheating, there’s no tip-over shutoff. Unlike other space heater models I tried, this model purports to be safe to place against a wall because of the way the air enters and exits the machine. Safety experts usually recommend keeping the backside of a space heater clear, but I did confirm that no hot air was blowing out the back of the machine and it never overheated during use.

The best high-end space heater

Dyson space heater

The Dyson Pure Hot+Cool boasts an impressive design; features like air purifying, app compatibility, and some cooling capability make it an expansive home appliance that does much more than heat. 

Pros: Air-purifying feature, all parts stay cool to the touch, 360-degree oscillation, automatically shuts off after nine hours or if overheating is detected, beautiful design, app compatibility and controls, smart assistant compatibility, tip-over switch

Cons: Display is difficult to read, replacement filters are expensive

This Dyson unit is the macdaddy of space heaters. It’s a full-size heater with a unique oblong, donut-shaped design. Setup is super easy; just click in the filters and plug it in to get started. You can use the remote or an app (available on iOS or Android) to control and adjust the airflow speed, oscillation, temperature, airflow direction, and turn on the sleep timer or night mode — a feature that darkens the display and reduces the airflow speed to prevent night time disturbances. There’s also a “cooling” mode, which is really just a fan. In testing, the cooling mode barely made a dent in room temperature, though the breeze did make me feel more comfortable. 

The heating function on the Dyson works really well. The room starts warming almost immediately and the heat is effectively dispersed throughout the room. Within the first hour of testing, the temperature increased by 6 degrees Fahrenheit — a welcome bit of warmth on a particularly cold day. To run the heater, you select your desired room temperature in degrees. On auto, the heater will run at the ideal speed to quickly heat your room (and purify the air), but you can override that and select your own airflow settings.

The noise level depends on the selected airflow speed, which runs from settings one to 10. Setting 10 will require some volume adjustment on your TV while a one or two is barely noticeable and didn’t disturb me at all while I was working. The heater has an auto-shutoff that prevents it from overheating and it will automatically turn off if falls over or detects that the heating mode has been active for more than 9 hours. It’s also the only heater where no part of the exterior is hot to the touch, making it safe for use around kids. 

In my opinion, the air purifier is the main advantage of this device over other heaters. I quickly became obsessed with tracking my home’s air quality and love the detailed info I get from using the app. The machine reacts quickly and automatically to air contaminants I had never really thought about. For example, while I was preheating my oven for dinner, the unit automatically adjusted to its maximum air speed to help purify the “contaminated” air caused by my dirty hot oven. Other users report it ramping up air flow when you’re using household cleaning products, to help dissipate the chemicals.

Unfortunately, this feature means that, unlike the other heaters on this list, the Dyson requires regular maintenance. In addition to the initial cost, you’ll have to spend more on filter replacements, which don’t come cheap at almost $80 each. The rate at which you replace them depends on usage and air quality. For reference, I’ve been running the unit for a few weeks and the app says that the HEPA and carbon filters have 98% life remaining.  

Another drawback is that the Dyson’s onboard display is almost totally useless; it’s so small that it’s impossible to read from across a room. You really have to have your nose right up to the unit to peek at the tiny, round screen. However, you can access the same information in the app. 

The Dyson is also, by far, the most expensive space heater we tested. It comes loaded with tons of extra features that might justify the price tag if you’re concerned about air quality in your home or want a connected device that can be used with an app or virtual assistants like Amazon Alexa or Google Home. However, if you’re just interested in warming a chilly space, you’ll get similar heating power from the cheaper picks in this guide.

The best space heater that’s also a fan

Honeywell space heater

The HoneyWell Versa Two Position Heater is a space-saving heater with a powerful fan and thoughtful safety features not usually found in most space heaters. 

Pros: Powerful fan, cool-touch housing, overheat protection, unique safety features intended to prevent electrical fires 

Cons: Noisy, no heat cycling, no tip-over switch

The “two position” feature of this heater means you can place the unit upright or on its side, so you can use it in a variety of spaces and situations. I primarily used it in the upright position and was impressed by how this little rectangular heater warmed my office by 3 degrees very quickly. It uses a fan to push heat around, and the warmth spread evenly throughout my office instead of being concentrated in one area. Since the heat disperses so well, it didn’t leave me sweating while I was waiting for my office to warm, unlike some other models I tried.

In addition to being a good feature for dispersing heat, the fan can also be used to keep you cool. While the fan is powerful when used on its own, this feature does make a fair bit of noise, which I could hear from adjoining rooms. 

I also appreciated the thoughtful safety features of this space heater. While it doesn’t have a tip-over sensor, the unit stays cool to the touch and the wiring is thermally insulated to prevent the cord from overheating. It also has an overheat sensor and an ALCI plug like those found on many blow dryers, which reacts quickly to shorts like a surge protector does. Overall, it’s a great space heater for those who are safety conscious and those who want a product they can also use in warmer weather.

What else we tested

What else we tested space heater

All the heaters I tested worked as intended, quickly raising the temperature in my office by several degrees. A few just missed the mark for inclusion in our top picks. Here are some heaters that might be worth considering depending on your needs:

Honeywell Uberheat Ceramic Heater ($34.99): This is a sleek little heater with an attractive aesthetic that looks more like a designer speaker than a space heater. It takes up minimal desk space and has several key safety features like a highly sensitive tip-over switch and an overheat detector. It has one control knob to select both the setting (high or low) and the temperature, which was pretty easy to use after a quick peek at the instruction manual. However, the cycling function didn’t do a great job at maintaining a consistent temperature. More often than not, I felt uncomfortably hot. The unit would cycle on when the room temperature hadn’t dipped at all. This leads me to believe that the internal temperature sensor isn’t particularly accurate or the machine turns on and off at preset intervals. The front grille also gets very hot, so I had to be extra careful when handling the unit, though the rest of the housing does stay cool to the touch. Still, if you use the heater without the cycling function, it produces a fair bit of warmth and looks good doing it. It’s a great little heater for the design-conscious individual. 

Taotronics Space Heater ($64.99): The moderate size of this heater was surprising, especially since marketing photos on Amazon make it look much bigger than it actually is. In reality, it’s a little under a foot-and-a-half tall: too small for a floor heater, but too tall for a tabletop heater. When I used it on the floor, I felt like only my lower legs were warmed, and when I used it on my desk, it was impossible to adjust and check the heat settings while seated, since the controls are at the top of the unit. It’s likely why the unit comes with a remote, but if I’m using this in my home office, a remote is a silly extra thing to have on hand and only serves to clutter up my workspace. It heats fine, looks sleek, and swivels, but it’s an awkward size and shape for a space heater.

What we don’t recommend

What we don't recommend space heaters

Some models didn’t quite make the cut because of safety concerns, design flaws, or other limitations. Here are the heaters that we don’t recommend buying:

Trustech Ceramic Space Heater ($29.99): Straight out of the box, this unit intrigued me with its streamlined design, but as soon as I put it on my desk I changed my tune. The heater has an oscillation feature with a spinning disc on the bottom of the unit, but it makes the heater wobble and feel unsteady compared to other models I tested. While it does have a tip-over switch, I never quite felt comfortable using this heater because of how much it wobbles. It heats up just fine, but no better than other heaters I tried, and not enough to justify the design concerns.

Vornado Velocity 5 ($99.99): This square-shaped heater looked rugged and powerful with its large fan placed prominently on display, but it was surprisingly underpowered. It didn’t do a good job of dispersing heat, and I often felt chilly sitting right near it if it wasn’t pointed directly at me. The crisp display is one of the most legible of all the heaters I tested, but the built-in thermostat is very inaccurate. Anytime I checked my reference thermometer, the reading on the heater’s display was at least 3 to 4 degrees off the mark.

Testing methodology

Our methodology space heater

In addition to interviewing two safety experts about space heaters, I relied heavily on my own experience reviewing heating devices like patio heaters and portable outdoor heaters for this guide. I put all eight space heaters through the same set of standard tests and used a reference thermometer to collect temperature data. Here’s what I looked for with each test:

Ability to heat: This is the most important function of a space heater. I tested every heater in my 100 square foot office. I used a reference thermometer that was always positioned on the corner of my desk, smack dab in the middle of the room. I placed the heaters diagonally from the thermometer — compact units sat on my desk while full-sized ones were placed in the far corner of my office. I tried each heater’s various settings and took notes about the accuracy of internal thermostats. I was also looking for how well the heaters could hold the room at my desired temperature — usually around 70 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit — without surrounding me in a nauseating heat cloud. To the best of my ability, I made sure that I didn’t turn on my thermostat throughout testing except when there was a risk of pipes freezing or danger to my parrot’s health. Most of the time, testing began when the temperature in my office was hovering somewhere between 60 and 64 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Time to heat: I used an indoor thermometer and a timer to evaluate how long it took for the space heater to bring the room up to my ideal temperature. Some models operate by blasting heat higher than your target temperature to get the room hot faster, but I found these left me feeling hot and sweaty. Units that were too slow left me still feeling the shivers a few hours later. I was searching for the sweet spot in the middle. Units with an accurate cycling feature received bonus points for maintaining comfort levels in my office. 

Easy-to-use controls: It’s a space heater, not a spaceship. While safety experts recommend reading the manual cover-to-cover before using a space heater, I put myself in the average consumer’s shoes and tried to figure out the unit on my own before referencing any manuals. I looked for controls that were intuitive and easy to figure out.

Size: In a small office, there’s not a whole lot of extra room for a device like a space heater. Extra points went to units that were powerful, but still compact, lightweight, and easy to fit in a confined area. For those who have larger spaces to heat, we did include picks for full-size heaters.

Noise: Every space heater made some noise, which is to be expected, but some were a bit quieter than others. I docked points from units that I felt needed to be turned off for Zoom meetings or phone calls. 

Safety features: I verified whether safety features were functional (except for overheat functions, since that would have presented a safety hazard), including tipping the units over to test for automatic shut offs.

What to look for in a space heater

Space heaters convert electricity into heat and contain a fan that helps propel and disperse the heat throughout the room. Most space heaters all share a few standard functions, like a power button and high or low temperature settings. However, we’ve found a few key features to consider when shopping for a space heater:

Power: Most heaters in our guide have 1,500 watts of power, which is pretty standard for space heaters. More powerful heaters are usually marketed as “garage heaters” and either need to be hardwired into your electrical circuit or run on a special appliance circuit. Fortunately, a heater with 1,500 watts should be enough to heat a room of about 150 square feet. 

Heat cycling function: For comfort and energy efficiency, you’ll want a space heater with a heat cycling function — this allows you to select a desired temperature that the unit then attempts to maintain by cycling on and off when the temperature dips above or below the threshold. This is similar to how a built-in thermostat works in your home and prevents you from having to manually turn the unit on and off to maintain comfort levels. Not all cycling features work well, however; our picks above outline models with cycling features that are accurate and easy to use. 

Size: You can also choose between compact models and larger full-size units. A small space heater is great for desktop use in a home office, dorm room, or office building. It’ll usually heat just the area right around the heater comfortably, which is good enough if you’re just looking for a small bubble of personal comfort. A space heater with a bigger footprint has a larger fan, which helps blow air around the room and is ideal for heating large spaces like garages or full rooms. Opt for a full-size heater if you have a lot of space to heat.

Safety: We outline more safety features to look for in the section below, but overheat protection is a must.

Space heater safety

Space heater safety

Sure, space heaters are ultra-convenient, but the safety experts we spoke to said they can also be dangerous if not used properly. According to a 2018 report from the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters cause 43% of U.S. fires due to home heating — and 85% of related deaths. 

Both Matthew Griffith, fire prevention section chief with the Montreal Fire Department, and Dan Mock, brand manager of Mr. Sparky, an electrical services company, said the number one rule for using a space heater is to never leave it unattended. 

Beyond that, experts said that space heater safety starts with buying and unboxing the unit. Griffith said customers should look for a space heater that’s certified by the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL, or ULC in Canada) and has safety features like an auto-shutoff and tip-over switch. Mock also recommends reading the instruction manual cover-to-cover and inspecting the device before running it. “A lot of times things can get cracked or broken or the plug gets pulled loose or gets dirt in the heating element. You just want to make sure it’s nice and clean,” said Mock. The best way to dislodge trapped dust is to use a combination of canned air and a dry cloth. It’s also a good idea to keep the packaging so you can store the heater and keep it dust-free during the warmer months. 

Where you place the space heater matters, too. Griffith said not to put a space heater too close to walls or flammable materials, and keep the backside of the heater clear, as the unit can overheat if blocked.

Additionally, paying attention to what you’re plugging into electrical outlets can help prevent fires, said Mock. The average circuit breaker is rated at about 15 amps, but a powerful space heater can take up the entire power load of the circuit. “A circuit breaker is really only supposedly safe up to about 80% of its maximum capacity, which is about 12 amps,” he said. “So if you think about it, a 15 amp electric heater on a circuit is drawing everything it can out of one circuit breaker. So if you add a lamp, if you add anything else to that circuit, you’re overloading the circuit and you’re standing a good chance of causing an electrical fire.” While circuit breakers provide some protection from electrical fires, it’s important to be mindful of repeatedly overtaxing the circuit. Mock also warns against using extension cords with these types of appliances (as do most space heater instruction manuals) because they can heat up significantly, which increases your risk of starting a fire.

The bottom line

Keep an eye on your space heater. Think of it like a candle. You’d never leave the house or go to bed with one burning; treat your heater the same way.

Check out our other winter guides to keep warm

j.crew scarf
Read the original article on Business Insider