Are Space Heaters an Efficient Heating Option?


As the thermometer dips outside you may be thinking about using space heaters to supplement your current heating system. In some cases, small space heaters can be less expensive to use if you only want to heat one room or supplement inadequate heating in one room, but in other cases these little heaters can be quite costly to operate.
Although most space heaters rely on convection (the circulation of air in a room) to heat a room, some rely on radiant heating; that is, they emit infrared radiation that directly heats up objects and people that are within their line of sight. Radiant heaters are a more efficient choice when you will be in a room for only a few hours, if you can remain within the line of sight of the heater. They can be more efficient when using a room for a short period because they avoid the energy needed to heat the entire room by instead directly heating the occupants of the room and the occupant's immediate surroundings.
Electric space heaters are generally more expensive to operate than combustion space heaters, but they are the only unvented space heaters that are safe to operate inside your home. Although electric space heaters avoid indoor air quality concerns, they still carry hazards of potential burns and fires, and should be used with caution.
For convection (non-radiant) space heaters, the best types incorporate a heat transfer liquid, such as oil, that is heated by the electric element. The heat transfer fluid provides some heat storage, allowing the heater to cycle less and to provide a more constant heat source.
So how much does it cost to operate an electric space heater? A popular infrared space heater claims to use 1.5 kilowatts per hour. If this heater was in operation 16 hours per day for a 30 day period it would result in a charge of approximately $60 (using the Village’s base electric rate and power cost adjustment for Dec 2012). A typical small personal 1500 watt space heater in operation for the same time period would result in a nearly identical charge.
For more information on portable space heaters visit the U.S. Department of Energy website.

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