Some of us may have romantic visions of giant crackling fires beneath ornate mantels to warm our homes once the chilly days have settled in. But given the inefficient heating of open fires and the general lack of Citizen Kane-ish fireplaces these days, some of us may find ourselves huddling around a space heater instead.

Which isn't necessarily a bad thing. It used to be that electric space heaters were — aside from being hideous to look at — an expensive way to heat since electricity is one of the costliest ways to warm up the house. But new models incorporate features that make them much more energy-efficient (like thermostats and timers, for starters). And for people who choose to heat only one room, or supplement in an area if the whole house is being kept cooler, space heaters can have a great impact on energy usage.

So with that in mind, here are our top picks for portable electric space heaters. And although performance and energy-efficiency are the top criteria here, we're happy to report that none of these are particularly hard on the eyes.

1. Dyson's AM09

Looking more like an alien communication console as imagined by a 1950s' sci-fi writer, the Dyson entry in the market, as you might imagine, is not at all affordable, at least compared to most of the other options. CNET praises the AM09's design, as is par for the course with Dyson's products, but the publication also highlights remote issues (don't lose it!). So if you want a piece of abstract sculpture that has novel attributes and pitch-perfect performance, this is the one for you. See the Dyson site for specs, and for extra fun, read them in the voice of James Dyson. (Dyson's AM09, $450)

2. Vornado AVH2

Vornado AVH2 Heater Vornado's 'vortext action' evenly distributes heat. (Photo: Vornado)

Vornado's energy-efficient heaters differ from traditional space heaters because of their "unique vortex action" (their words, not ours) which disburses heat evenly throughout the room, hastening the process and requiring less power.

The AVH2 has digital controls and uses automatic climate control, plus safety features and a cool-to-the-touch exterior. (Vornado AVH2, $100)

3. Holmes HFH436

Holmes Bathroom Heater Fan with Preheat Timer No more cold bathroom tile floor for you with these compact bathroom heater from Holmes. (Photo: Holmes)

The parent company of Holmes also owns Sunbeam, Patton, Coleman and Bionaire, meaning it has nearly 40 percent of the U.S. space-heater market, meaning it knows its space heaters — which is why this affordable model scores so well in reviews.

Among other features, this petite heater has a pre-heat timer so that you can warm a cold bathroom before your presence is required. (Holmes HFH436, $35)

4. Lasko 6462 Full Circle Ceramic Heater

Lasko full circle ceramic heaterThis mod-designed heater offers comfort and style. (Photo: Lasko)

This 25-inch tall tower of a heater sweeps warmth around in a full 360-degree radius to quickly warm a whole room. Aside from its mod design, it has a list of handy features, such as remote control, an easy-to-clean filter and a number of safety components. (Lasko 6462 Full Circle Ceramic Heater, $60-70)

And a final note: Although these selections are some of the safest on the market, space heaters can be dangerous. See a list of safety tips here.

This file has been updated since it was originally published in September 2015.

4 energy-saving portable electric space heaters
Take the chill off with these top-performing picks for staying warm.