Many heaters on the market fall into one of two categories: radiant heaters and convection heaters. Both types use heating elements to create the heat that is produced, with the major difference being the method by which they distribute heat. Radiant heaters are designed to heat a small area with little air circulation by directing the heat in a specific direction. Convection heaters are designed to heat larger areas with air circulation by letting the heat rise naturally and move along the room's normal air currents. Both radiant space heaters and convection units can make use of ceramic elements, saving energy while reducing the risk of fire that can be associated with other element types.
Radiant Heat and Convection Heat
Ceramics vs. Coil Heaters
The reason that ceramics are used in a number of different types of heaters is that they are relatively easy to heat without the fire and burn risk produced by coil heaters. Coil heaters generate heat by running an electric current through numerous metal coils, causing them to glow and become hot enough to burn. Ceramic heaters on the other hand use ceramic plates that are attached on the edges to a few metal coils; the coils are heated in the same manner as a coil heater, but the heat produced is readily absorbed by the plates and distributed into the air. Ceramic heaters don't become as hot, release their heat more quickly, and cool down much more readily than their coil counterparts once the heater is turned off.
Using Ceramic Heaters
Because of the speed at which the ceramic plates heat up, ceramic heaters can be used to produce heat much more quickly than older coil heaters at a fraction of the energy cost. To speed up the process even more, many ceramic heaters contain multiple plates so that a smaller amount of ceramic material has to be heated by each element in order to be effective. Ceramic heaters are often used to provide directed heat to small or large rooms using fans that are built in to the heater itself, with thermostats on the heater making sure that they don't overheat. To help prevent fire hazards, the fans will continue to run for a few minutes once the heating elements have been turned off so as to cool the ceramic plates down even faster. Heaters equipped with these options can be used almost anywhere, and generally feature a tilt detection unit on the bottom that will shut the heater off if it falls over as an additional safety feature.