Published: January 8, 2018

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We’re in the dead of winter, and the cold feel relentless. There may be some areas in your home your furnace doesn’t warm as much as you’d like it to: basements, three-season rooms and additions to your home. Space heaters can be the perfect choice for adding more heat to specific areas of your home. Bear in mind, they aren’t always an efficient way of heating your home, and they do come with some safety concerns. Before investing in a space heater, understand what your options are and how to properly use them.

Space Heater Efficiency

Most people assume space heaters are more energy efficient than turning up your furnace. hen they are used for “comfort heat” on top of the heat already coming from your furnace, however, your energy bills may be inflated. The Department of Energy states space heaters, “can be less expensive to use if you only want to heat one room or supplement inadequate heating in one room.” Before buying a space heater, take a look at its features and warranty to ensure it’s the most energy-efficient option. Choose one that is made to heat the size of the room in which you intend to use it and compare wattages of multiple models to determine which one uses the least energy. While using it, consider turning down the thermostat in that room and always turn it off until you’re ready to use that specific room again.

Space Heater Safety

Space heaters can be dangerous if misused or neglected. As of 2014, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimated that space heaters are associated with over 20,000 residential fires each year, resulting in 300 deaths. To use a space heater responsibly, follow these tips:

  • Purchase a heater with an overheat protection switch or a tip- or tilt-over switch so it can automatically shut the heater off if it tips over or overheats.
  • Look for these certifications before buying a space heater: UL (Underwriters Laboratories), CSA (Canadian Standards Association) and ETL (Intertek Group).
  • Space heaters listed by Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) have been tested, proven and certified to meet specific safety standards.

Once you start using your space heater, keep it out of reach of children and pets. Turn it off when not in use. Most importantly, frequently inspect, clean and maintain your space heater to ensure everything is working properly.

Space Heater Options

There are three types of space heaters to consider. Radiant heaters live on the floor and are able to quickly warm a very small area. Ceramic heaters are better for heating bigger areas of your home and are labeled by the amount of square footage they effectively heat. Oil heaters are the most efficient for heating large areas and are typically more expensive. They don’t actually run on oil, electricity heats their inner core of oil, heating the surrounding environment. Here are a few buying considerations:

  1. Only purchase newer models with all of the updated safety features. Look for the Underwriter’s Laboratory label for the safest option.  
  2. Consider buying a heater controlled by your thermostat to avoid wasting energy or overheating a room.
  3. Once you purchase a space heater, put it on a surface level away from walking areas in your home. Be cautious of keeping your kids and pets away from the heater.

There is a certain time and place for a space heater. While they can sometimes be efficient and add more warmth to your home, they can also be costly and dangerous. We’d love to hear from you: do you use a space heater? Do you think it makes your HVAC system more efficient? If you have any questions about space heaters, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re happy to help!