10 Common Ways To Heat Small Apartments (Without Central Heating)

In Apartments by Christopher Schopf

Some small apartments do not have central heating.  However, just because the apartment is small, it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be heated.

So what do you when you have a small apartment without central heating?

Here are the 10 best ways to heat small apartments without central heating.

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Portable Solutions

I’ll start with the portable solutions for heating a small apartment without heat ducts.

This is for people who don’t own their apartment or who just want something temporary to use until they can go with something more permanent.

1) Electric Panel Heaters

Electric panel heaters are low-watt heaters that that can be used to heat small spaces.  They come with a few advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Electric Panel Heaters

  • Inexpensive to buy.
  • Easy to operate.
  • Inexpensive to run.
  • Do not take up much space.
  • Heats up quickly.

An electric panel heater can be had for less than $100.00.

You can buy one from most home goods stores and you do not need any special skills to install it.  In fact, all you really have to do is plug it in.

Most of these heaters come in low wattages so they don’t cost much to operate.  They also heat up quickly and take up hardly any space.  These qualities make them great for small spaces that do not get very cold.

Disadvantages of Electric Wall Heaters

  • Cannot heat up a large space.
  • Does not distribute heat very well.
  • Needs to be close to an electrical outlet.

For those of you with a small apartment in a cold environment, you may find that a wall heater isn’t powerful enough to heat up the entire apartment.  Also, because they don’t have ducts or large fans to distribute the heat, you may find that some areas of the apartment end up colder than others.

You’ll also need to be close to an electrical outlet as the cords on these heaters generally aren’t very long.

Luckily, you don’t have to restrict yourself to just one of these heaters.  As long as your electrical system can handle it, you can add as many wall heaters to your apartment as necessary.

2) Electric Fan Heaters

Mr. Heater gas heater

These heaters are more powerful than wall heaters and they have fans to blow the hot air around the room.  The main advantage of this type of heater over an electric wall heater is that an electric fan heater is usually more powerful.  Even a small electric fan heater can operate at over 1,500 watts.

This gives it the ability to heat up larger rooms in colder temperatures than wall heaters can.

An electric fan heater might be able to heat up a room that is 300 square feet in size. 

Get two of these heaters and you’ll easily be able to heat up a small one bedroom apartment.

Not only this, but electric fan heaters do not cost much to buy and can even be purchased as fireplace models.  Electric fireplaces are nice to look at and can even be operated through the use of remote control.

The downside to these heaters is that they can be more expensive to run and you may not be able to run more than one on the same breaker.

Also, these heaters get hot so you have to keep small children, pets, and anything that can be damaged by heat away from the heater.

3) Electric Radiant Oil Heaters

These heaters look like traditional radiators but instead of being hooked up to the plumbing, the gas lines, and the electric panel, they simply plug into an electrical outlet.  Inside of them, you’ll find an oil that can be heated up to provide radiant heat.

The advantage of this type of heater is that it runs more efficiently than an electric fan heater.  Also, because there aren’t any fans, you won’t have to listen to a noisy fan while watching tv or attempting to sleep.

These heaters also remain relatively cool to the touch, so they aren’t as dangerous as electric fan heaters.

The drawback to this type of heater is that it can take a little while to warm up.  It also has the same power limitations as the electric fan heater.  Additionally, an electric radiant oil heater will take up more space than the other types of electric heaters and they aren’t that pleasant to look at.

Expect to pay somewhere between $50.00 and $150.00 for this type of heater.

4) Ethanol Fireplaces

Ethanol fireplaces are small fireplaces that run on ethanol.

You can get ones that run on a gel or a bio-ethanol liquid fuel.  These fireplaces are nice because they provide a clean-burning fire without the need for ventilation.  In fact, it has been said that running one of these fireplaces is the equivalent of running a candle.

The downside to this fireplaces is that they are usually either underpowered or overpriced. 

What I mean by this is that smaller ones do not provide a lot of heat and larger ones burn a lot of fuel which can get expensive.

Additionally, you are working with a live flame so it isn’t safe to live this type of heater by itself.  This means that you’ll need to have another heater that you can use while you’re away or while you’re asleep.

5) Kerosene Heaters

Kerosene heaters provide a tremendous amount of heat and they are extremely portable.  You can even buy kerosene heaters that can sit close to the wall.

There are, however, many drawbacks to using kerosene heaters.  For starters, these heaters can be dangerous and it is recommended that you never leave them unattended.

These heaters have a live flame and this flame can quickly deprive a small apartment of oxygen so you’ll have to crack a window for ventilation.

Another issue is that many apartment complexes will not allow you to have a kerosene heater.  Even if you can have a kerosene heater in your apartment, you may not be able to find cheap fuel for it.

Kerosene is getting harder to find and more expensive with each passing year.

Also, kerosene heaters can get dirty quickly and they have wicks that need to be replaced.  This means you’ll have to spend time and money each week cleaning the heater and replacing the wick.

A kerosene heater will usually cost between $100.00 and $200.00.

6) Gas Space Heaters

Propane gas space heaters are a clean-burning alternative to kerosene and you can run most of them without the use of electricity.

Like the previous heaters mentioned, there are both advantages and disadvantages to using them.

Advantages of Using Gas Space Heaters

  • Can be purchased to run on natural gas or propane.
  • Inexpensive purchase price.
  • Burns cleaner than kerosene.
  • Can generate a lot of heat.
  • Puts off the heat immediately.

Gas space heaters can be purchased to run on natural gas in areas where natural gas is available.  They can also be purchased to run on propane gas which can be picked up all over the country.  This fuel does not rely on the electrical grid so it will work even during a power outage.

The heaters are also small and inexpensive to buy.  You can buy a portable gas heater for less than $150.00.

These heaters also burn much cleaner than kerosene and you don’t have to worry about changing filters or cleaning the heater’s components after each time you run them.

On top of all of this, a portable gas heater will put off a lot of heat and it will do so right away.  You’ll even get the satisfying view of a live fire while it warms your small apartment up for you.

Disadvantages of Using Gas Space Heaters

  • Safety issues.
  • Health issues.

There are really only two big drawbacks to using gas space heaters.  Unfortunately, either one of these issues makes a compelling case for not using a gas space heater in your home.

The first issue is the issue of safety.  When you work with a heater that burns gas you end up with a live fire inside of your home.

This fire must be watched over and children and pets must be kept away from it.

In addition to the safety issues caused by the flame, the gas could end up leaking out.  A gas leak can’t be seen so it can often be hard to detect.  Sure, you can smell a gas leak but what about in the winter when your nose might be stuffed up?  On top of this invisible safety issue, you also have another invisible safety issue in the form of carbon monoxide.

Remember, your burning a fire in your home and this home is competing with you for oxygen.  Let the flame burn long enough and you could end up with carbon monoxide poisoning.

The health issue comes in the form of too much humidity.  Ventless gas heaters can create a humidity problem within your home.

If you go for this solution you might have to check out these dehumidifiers as well. They are SILENT and priced right.

This can eventually lead to mold and mildew throughout your home which will eventually lead to health issues.

Permanent Solutions

For people who own their small apartment, it is usually best to go with a permanent heating solution.

This is especially true if you live somewhere that calls for the regular use of heat.  Fortunately, there are many popular permanent heating solutions that you can install in your apartment without ever having to put ducts in your small home.

These include mini-splits, electric underfloor heaters, gas fireplaces, and wood fireplaces.

7) Mini Split Heating and Air Conditioning Units

Air condition unit inside tiny house

Mini split heating and air conditioning units are currently the most popular permanent HVAC solutions for small rooms.

These heaters provide many benefits with very few drawbacks.

Advantages of Mini Split Heating and Air Conditioning Units

  • Efficient at both heating and cooling.
  • Do not take up floor space.
  • Modern electronic features.
  • Relatively inexpensive compared to other permanent heating options.
  • Better for the environment.

Heat ducts lose up to 25% of their heat through the duct system.  This is inefficient and a needless waste of fuel.  Because mini-splits provide heat directly without any ductwork, you end up using less fuel which is better for the environment and better for your wallet.

These heaters are also efficient with space which is great for small apartments and tiny houses.  One feature that makes them great for saving space is that they are mounted on the wall so they do not take up any floor space.

Another feature that makes them great for saving space is that they replace the need to have a separate window air conditioning unit.  This means you no longer have to store a separate AC unit all winter long.

With a mini-split, you also get the advantage of modern electronics.

These might include a timer, a remote control, and even a built-in dehumidifier.  These are conveniences you won’t find with a fireplace or even an underfloor heater.

The price to buy this type of heater is also relatively inexpensive.  You can buy a mini split heating and air conditioning unit that can heat and cool up to 800 square feet for less than $1,000.00.  On top of this, you’ll probably get a rebate or a tax incentive for buying it.

Disadvantages of Mini Split Heating and Air Conditioning Units

  • Installation.
  • Operating cost.
  • Aesthetics.

One downside to this type of heater is that you’ll need to find a professional to install it for you.  This is because these heaters need to be installed perfectly or they will not run as efficiently.

Install it yourself and it may work but not as well as it might have.  Installation prices will vary so you’ll have to shop around until you find an installer that you’re happy with.

Mini split heaters cost less to run than heaters with ducts and they are quite efficient.  However, the cost of natural gas and wood is always less expensive than the cost of electric.  This makes gas and wood fireplaces the least expensive types of heaters to run.

Another issue some people have with mini-splits is that they do not like the way they look when mounted on the wall.  This is more of a personal preference but it is certain that they are more noticeable than a duct would be.

8) Electric Underfloor Heaters

An electric underfloor heating system can go underneath laminate floors, ceramic floors, and even carpeting.  These heaters make a home really comfortable as they heat from the ground up.

However, just like the others, they have their advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of Underfloor Heaters

  • Use a minimal amount of power.
  • Heat is spread evenly throughout the room.
  • Quiet and unobtrusive operation.

Underfloor heaters do not require a lot of power.  For example, a 6 foot by 3-foot section of radiant floor heating only uses 180 watts.

The heat that radiates off of underfloor heaters is spread evenly throughout the room.  It starts at the floor and rises naturally so you won’t have any cold spots within the rooms of your home.

Not only this but since the heater is on the floor, you won’t hear or see it.

Disadvantages of Underfloor Heaters

  • Installation.
  • Heating power.
  • Cost.

Unfortunately, these heaters aren’t great for people who are already happy with their floors.  This is because the heating must be installed underneath the flooring.

You’ll either have to have your flooring pulled up or you’ll have to install a new floor over top of your existing one to lay the heating mats down.

These heaters may not be powerful enough for all situations either.

People living in cold climates may find that these heaters only work well as supplemental heaters and they’ll still end up having to install another form of heat for the colder months of winter.

Underfloor mats can also be expensive.

A 6 foot by 3-foot section of underfloor heat matting will cost around $125.00.  This might not sound like a lot but it can quickly add up.  Not only this, but you’ll also have to pay to have new flooring put in which can be very pricey.

9) Wood Fireplaces

Wood fireplaces can add a lot of character to an apartment and they can heat up a small one very quickly.  Additionally, the cost of heating with wood can be free for some people and very inexpensive for others.

The downside to heating with a wood fireplace is that the installation can be expensive and it isn’t always possible or even legal to put one in an apartment.

Remember, these heaters need a chimney so you won’t be able to put them in unless you’re on the top floor.

10) Gas Fireplace

A gas fireplace is a great alternative to a wood fireplace because you don’t have to worry about adding fuel to it manually.  Also, a gas fireplace is easier to vent and does not put off smoke and ash like a wood fireplace might.

The downside is that these heaters need to be hooked up to the gas line and they can be even more expensive to install than a wood fireplace.

Additionally, just like wood fireplaces, gas fireplaces may not be legal to install in your small apartment.

Final Thoughts

There are many different heating options for small apartments.

The one you choose for your home will depend on your ownership of the apartment, your local climate, and your budget.