Space heaters are small heating units that you can you use to supplement your central heating system. Most space heaters rely on electricity, though others use more efficient heating sources like propane or kerosene. To reduce your monthly energy costs, turn down your thermostat and switch to portable heaters that provide heat only where its needed. You can further reduce costs and help protect the environment by looking for units that use energy efficiently.
Electric Space Heaters
Don’t be fooled by space heaters that promise high rates of efficiency. Technically, all spacer heaters that use electric-resistance heating are 100 percent efficient, according to the US Department of Energy. This means that none of the heat they generate is wasted through heat loss or leaks. Electricity, however, is the most inefficient way to produce heat, especially compared to fuel-powered combustion heaters. Despite their relative inefficiency, many consumers rely on electric space heaters because they are the safest for indoor use. They don’t produce harmful fumes or affect indoor air quality, and fire risk is much lower than with a combustion heater.
To find the most efficient electric space heater, the Department of Energy recommends choosing a unit with a built-in thermostat. This will allow you to set the desired temperature for the room to minimize heat waste. Choose a heater that’s sized correctly for your room to avoid overheating. Most electric space heaters come with sizing charts that help you match the heat output in kilowatts to the square footage of a room. Size your heater carefully to maximize efficiency and avoid waste.
Radiant Vs. Convection Heaters
Electric space heaters rely on either radiant or convection heating. Either of these technologies can heat a room efficiently, though the choice between the two depends on your specific heating needs. Convection heaters use fans to blow hot air through the room. According to the Department of Energy, convection heat is the most efficient choice for people who need to heat up a room quickly, or heat a fairly small area. They are inefficient for heating a large room, or for keeping a room heated for an extended period. The most efficient convection heaters use some form of internal refrigerant or oil. This material stores some heat and reduces cycling, leading to improved efficiency.
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources recommends radiant heaters for heating a large area, or for keeping a room warm for an extended period. Radiant heaters, which resemble traditional radiators, are inefficient for providing short-term heat or for warming a room quickly.
Any type of combustion heater offers a much greater efficiency rating than any electric heater, according to the Department of Energy. These combustion units rely on propane, kerosene or natural gas for energy. Unvented combustion heaters cannot be used indoors because they produce fumes that contribute to poor indoor air quality. These unvented heaters provide an energy-efficient option for heating outdoor spacers like decks and patios.
Vented combustion heaters are designed to heat small areas, but are not as portable as electric space heaters. They must be installed with permanent vents to the outdoors in order to exhaust harmful fumes from the homes. Vented units with sealed air supply ducts are the most efficient option, according to the Department of Energy, and unsealed units that rely on air from inside the home are less efficient.