Space heaters are much like furniture you add to your home….they’re a tool to make your home a warm and cozy place when needed. Electric space heaters are considered to be 100% efficient because they turn all the electricity they use into heat. While we don’t advise that space heaters be used as a replacement for your HVAC system; they’re a good tool for specific circumstances when used carefully. Keep in mind, water lines in homes with an abundance of cold air infiltration and/or leakage may be more apt to water lines that may freeze. (Pro Tip: keep kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors open where water lines exist to promote air circulation and help prevent frozen water lines.) Feel free to connect with us to receive a FREE Energy Audit to help identify air infiltration and exfiltration points in your home.
Space Heater Hazards
Many of the problems electric space heaters cause occur with improper use. Some examples include:
- Fires can occur:
- When used for longer periods of time than the manufacturer recommends
- When placed too close to flammable materials
- When plugged into extension cords, or power strips
- If cords are worn or frayed
- If improperly placed under rugs or furniture where they may get too hot.
- Electrocution can occur if used near water or if the cord becomes damaged.
- Burns can occur with some models of space heaters – this is particularly dangerous for pets and small children.
3 Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Space Heater
- An important consideration before purchasing a space heater is the amount of heat you want it to put out. Most heaters use between 600 and 1,500 watts of power. The larger the wattage, the more heat it produces (AND the more power it consumes).
- Determine your room’s square footage, then refer to the heater’s specifications to ensure it can efficiently – and safely – heat your space.
- Because electric space heating allows you to “zone” heat your home, you can realize savings because heating an occupied room with a space heater makes the people in it comfortable while the rest of your home remains cooler. If you turn down your thermostat and use your space heater responsibly, you can save money on your heating bill.
How to Calculate the Electric Cost of a Space Heater
To calculate the cost of a space heater:
WATTS ÷ 1000 x HOURS OF OPERATION per day x COST per kWh (0.09830) = COST
Example: a 1500 watt space heater used for 4 hours will cost an MPW resident 59¢.
What Type of Space Heater is Right For Me?
Did you know that space heaters are designed for a wide-range of uses? Knowing how each type of space heater functions along with your intent for use can help guide you in selecting the right one for your needs and the one that might be safest for you and your family, pets, and your home. Here, we’ll cover convection, radiant, and combination space heaters.
Convection heaters have a unique design to warm the air in a room, not the people and objects inside. They produce hot air that rises to the ceiling and pushes cooler air to the floor, causing circulation of air in the room. These heaters are either baseboard heaters or water- or oil-filled heaters. Water- and oil-filled heaters are by far the most efficient, and they are generally warm to the touch.
Radiant heaters are used to heat people and objects in a room, not the air specifically. This type of space heater provides warmth to someone sitting in front of it—promptly. If you want heat very quickly, this is a great choice for your home. However, be aware that there are certain dangers associated with radiant heaters. They can burn people and animals when touched, and they present fire hazards when placed too close to flammable or combustible materials. Always place any type of space heater at least three feet away from these objects on all sides.
Combination heaters provide the best of both options. They use a fan to help distribute heat throughout the space, but they are not as efficient as the other types of space heaters. They are a good choice for almost any room in your home.
Space Heater Purchasing and Installation Guidelines
When buying and installing a small space heater, follow these general guidelines and also refer to the manufacturer’s owner’s manual:
- Purchase models approved by an independent safety testing laboratory such as the UL (Underwriter’s Laboratory).
- Thermostatically controlled heaters avoid energy waste.
- Select a proper size heater for the room. Most come with a general sizing table.
- Avoid placing a space heater within three feet of anything flammable. The consumer Product Safety Commission calls it the “three-foot rule”.
- Keep the heater away from water.
- Plug directly into a wall outlet. Most manufacturers advise against plugging into surge protectors, extension cords, plug timers, or GFCI outlets.
- Buy one with a tip-over protection, so it turns off if it is ever tipped.
- Only run the heater when you’re in the room with it.
- Read the instruction manual.
- Do not run the space heater overnight.