Homeowners spend more on heating than lighting, refrigeration, and air conditioning. Unfortunately, much of this energy is wasted. Because furnaces can’t heat homes selectively, the only way to raise temperatures in one room is to raise temperatures across the whole house. Most homes aren’t fully occupied throughout the day, which means their owners can spend a lot of money heating empty rooms. Space heaters offer a solution. They’re one of the few reliable ways of reducing energy consumption and heating select rooms during winter. But how much energy do space heaters use? Which are most effective? And how can they be used safely indoors?
Just How Much Energy Do Space Heaters Use?
A space heater large enough to heat an entire room consumes approximately 1,500 watts of electricity and generates approximately 5,118 BTUs. Smaller heaters, designed to fit under desks, generally consume 400-500 watts and generate 1,364-1,706 BTUs. By contrast, a home furnace typically needs to generate 55,000-100,000 BTUs to heat your entire home. Given the energy requirements of a single room versus a whole building, the savings produced by concentrating heat into the used areas of your house are significant.
Of course, in cold climates, shutting off your furnace and relying entirely on space heaters is rarely practical. You need to maintain some level of warmth to prevent pipes from freezing. And letting temperatures drop inside your home increases the amount of energy required to raise them again.
The best strategy is to lower your thermostat and use space heaters to supplement your heating system in the necessary rooms. Setting the temperature to 60-65°F will provide significant savings without creating problems in the rest of the house.
Types of Space Heaters
Unlike furnaces and boilers, space heaters aren’t part of the ENERGY STAR program and don’t come with an EnergyGuide label. As a result, there is no model with a clear energy advantage. Instead, homeowners should select a heater based on their particular needs.
- Convection Heaters. Equipped with a fan that directs air over the heating element, creating a natural circulation of warmth throughout the room. They’re especially effective in large spaces.
- Radiant Heaters. Operate like old-fashioned radiators, only with oil instead of water. The oil circulates over the heating element then out through a set of radiator fins, which emit heat in all directions. Because their range is limited, they work best in small spaces.
- Infrared Heaters. Generate a concentrated beam of heat that warms people and objects, but not the air. Infrared heaters are highly directional, good for spaces that are drafty or poorly insulated, such as garages.
- Micathermic Heaters. Produce both convection and radiant heat. Their heating element is mounted on a reflective surface that warms everything in its line of sight. At the same time, hot air generated by the unit spreads warmth throughout the room. Micathermic heaters are one of the most efficient systems on the market. They heat up quickly and their large surface area raises room temperatures quickly.
How To Use Space Heaters Safely
Operating a space heater requires no special training or precautions, just a few common sense guidelines. To prevent fires and avoid accidents:
- Read the Manufacturer’s Instructions. Space heater designs vary significantly, so don’t assume every model functions the same way. Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and recommendations.
- Keep Away From Flammable Material. Heaters should be kept at least 36 inches from all potential fire hazards, including bedding, clothing, curtains, and paper.
- Place on a Flat Surface. Heaters placed on an uneven surface tip over easily. Make sure the unit is stable before switching it on.
- Keep Vents Clear. Convection heaters tend to accumulate dust around their vents. Wipe them off to ensure a steady airflow.
- Check Cords for Damage. Frayed, worn, and tattered electrical wires can spark electrical fires. If you notice any damage, replace the cord immediately.
- Plug Directly into Wall Outlets. Space heaters are high wattage appliances, and the current flows in power strips and extension cords aren’t high enough to support them. Unless plugged directly into an outlet, they can quickly overheat and catch fire.
- Keep Children and Pets Away. Space heaters, especially radiant heaters, can be hot to the touch. Never leave a child or animal alone with one and always keep a close eye on them while they’re in the same room.
- Use in Dry Spaces. Space heaters can short out when exposed to water. Never use them in bathrooms, kitchens, or any other area with sinks and faucets.
- Turn Them off at Night or When Unattended. Unsupervised space heaters are a fire risk. Don’t leave them running while you’re asleep or out of the room.
- Only Use Electric Heaters Inside. Propane, kerosene, and natural gas heaters emit dangerous fumes, including carbon monoxide, that can threaten your health if used indoors.
Save on Heating and Heating System Repair
Reducing your heating costs requires both short-term and long-term strategies. Space heaters help reduce current costs, while programs such as EnergyGuardTM help reduce future ones. EnergyGuardTM protects your heating, cooling, and electrical systems* against damage from wear and tear, which isn’t covered by home insurance.
When the need for repair occurs, Agway customers don’t waste time searching for a qualified repairman. They call us instead. We maintain an extensive network of local contractors. In no time, we can have a technician at your door, ready to get your system back online. There are no service fees or deductibles. Our team pays for the visit and all covered parts. Don’t wait. Sign up to enjoy the benefits of EnergyGuardTM today!
*Coverage depends on which commodity you purchase.