Outside temperatures are rising but in the office some cubicle dwellers are dressed for winter. To cope with today’s overly chilled work spaces, employees break out sweaters, blankets, and other woolen wear. But sometimes even the trusty office sweater isn’t enough and that’s when space heaters start appearing under desks. Consumer Reports recently tested four personal space heaters that don’t draw a lot of power so perhaps your office manager won’t object to you using one. But first, why is it so cold in offices anyway?

Office temperatures are calibrated according to a decades-old formula developed when men regularly wore suits to the office and before women made up almost half of the work force. That’s what two (male) scientists reported in a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change. Picture a 40-year-old man who weighs 155 pounds dressed in a suit. Women typically have a lower metabolic rate than men and need higher temperatures to feel comfortable.

The researchers found that women prefer temperatures about five degrees warmer than men do. A woman might be more comfortable in a 75 degree room while a man is happy at 70 degrees, a common office temperature. That’s where the personal space heater comes in. While most of the heaters in Consumer Reports' space heater tests have an output of 1,500 watts, the output of the personal space heaters ranges from 200 to 900 watts. They cost between $20 to $45.

Personal space heaters from Vornado, Bionaire, Honeywell, and Lasko.
From left, the Vornado, Honeywell, Lasko, and Bionaire.

Four Personal Heaters

Tops in this batch is the Vornado SRTH, $45, with an output of 900 watts. It was good at spot heating, stays cool to the touch and is relatively quiet. The 3-pound heater has a safety switch that turns it off if it tips over. The Bionaire BCH4562E, $40, wasn’t quite as good at heating but it was super quiet and has a motion sensor that shuts the heater off if no motion is detected within two hours. That’s handy if you get stuck in a long meeting and forgot to switch your heater off. We also tested the Honeywell HCE100B, $25, and the Lasko MyHeat 100, $20. They didn’t perform as well but with outputs of 250 and 200 watts, respectively, will not put much strain on a building’s grid.

If you work in a frigid office that discourages space heaters, try this convincing argument: Employees are more productive when the temperature is just right—not too hot and not too cold. With a little extra warmth this summer, you can spend more time working and less making hot tea.