There are a few different types of heating systems for individual rooms. Central heating systems are permanent setups that work in multiple rooms, and are generally the most cost effective method. But if you need heat in just one room, consider these options.
Convection heaters heat an area by warming the air and circulating it through the room. This is done by passing air over a heating element. Some of the best modern convection heater use a ceramic heating element, which uses low energy and is generally the safest. Convection heaters typically run on electricity, although any fuel source can be used. A convection heating system usually includes a fan to better circulate the warm air. A less expensive type of convection heater is a heater fan, which puts a metal heating element in the center of a fan. This provides less heat than a ceramic heater, but also doubles as a standard fan. Convection heaters slowly bring up the temperature of a room, but the heat it generates is long lasting. This is a good option for long term use, and for well insulated rooms.
Radiant heaters do not heat up the air, but rather provide radiant heat directly to objects in a room. Electric versions of this heater include metal or quartz heating elements, some also make use of halogen bulbs with reflectors. These heating elements provide good heat directly in front of the heater, but are not good for long term heating or to heat an entire room. This type of heater is ideal for directional heat, short term use, or for areas that are not well insulated including outdoor use.
Both types of these heaters also have models that use other fuel sources, including kerosine, oil, propane, natural gas, and wood. This is a good option for portable heating needs, and in places with no electricity. Always be careful and read all instruction manuals when using a fuel source, some require additional ventilation and care when in use. Always be mindful of any open flame heater, never leave it unattended or near flammable materials.
When choosing a wood- or pellet-burning appliance, it's important to select one that's properly sized for the space to be heated. When an appliance is too big, residents tend to burn fires at a low smolder to avoid overheating, which wastes fuel and is one of the biggest causes of air pollution. An under-sized unit will not provide sufficient heat. A good rule-of-thumb is that a stove rated at 60,000 British Thermal Units (Btu) can heat a 2,000-square-foot home, while a stove rated at 42,000 Btu can heat a 1,300-square-foot space.
High-efficiency Fireplaces and Fireplace Inserts are designed more for show, traditional open masonry fireplaces should not be considered heating devices. Traditional fireplaces draw in as much as 300 cubic feet per minute of heated room air for combustion, then send it straight up the chimney. High-efficiency fireplace inserts have proven effective in increasing the heating efficiency of older fireplaces. Essentially, the inserts function like wood stoves, fitting into the masonry fireplace or on its hearth, and using the existing chimney. A well-fitted fireplace insert can function nearly as efficiently as a wood stove.
Flues leak heated and warm air out of your home. If you have a fireplace that you don't use, plug and seal the flue. If you use the fireplace, be sure to close the flue when the fireplace is not in use. You could also use an inflatable stopper, available commercially, to temporarily seal the chimney and avoid air leakage through the flue.
Pellet fuel appliances are more convenient to operate than ordinary wood stoves or fireplaces, and some have much higher combustion and heating efficiencies. As a consequence of this, they produce very little air pollution. In fact, pellet stoves are the cleanest solid fuel, residential heating appliance. Pellet stoves that are certified by the EPA are likely to be in the 70% to 83% efficiency range. Pellet stoves have heating capacities that range between 8,000 and 90,000 Btu per hour. They are suitable for homes as well as apartments or condominiums.
Pellet fuel appliances are available as freestanding stoves or fireplace inserts. Freestanding units resemble conventional wood heaters in that they generally heat a single room well, but not adjacent rooms unless they have a fan to force the warm air into those other spaces. Pellet-fireplace inserts fit into existing fireplaces. Several companies now make pellet-fired furnaces and boilers for replacement of, or a supplement to, gas- or oil-fired furnaces and boilers in residential space heating systems.