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Putting Space Heaters In Their Place

If you want a space heater to save money on your electric bill, you need to use it correctly or you’ll end up spending more money instead.

Space heaters heat a small space. So to save money, turn the thermostat of your central heating system down considerably (as low as 50 degrees). Place the space heater in a room occupied by people, and close off the rest of the house.

Space heaters cannot replace efficient central heating or weatherization improvements. All electric space heaters produce 1 unit of heat for every 1 unit of electricity consumed, meaning they are 100 percent efficient. In comparison, geothermal heat pumps can produce more than 3 units of heat for every unit of electricity, making them 300 percent efficient.

Three main types of space heaters are available:

RADIANT HEATERS heat objects and people–not the air. They are best used where the person who wants to be warmed can be in direct sight of the heater. Radiant heaters can be a good choice if you want instant heat for a short time. They can pose a burn or fire risk and should not be near furniture, drapery, pets, or children.

CONVECTION HEATERS heat the air. Hot air from the convection heater rises to the ceiling and forces cooler air to the floor, creating a cycle. They are generally warm to the touch and, compared to a radiant heater, have a decreased fire and burn risk.

COMBINATION HEATERS bring radiant and convection heaters into one package. These heaters are versatile and more common, although do not typically perform as well as a radiant or convection heater.


Beware of high-priced heaters
An electricity information organization is warning about promotions of expensive electric space heaters.

The Rural Electricity Resource Council says this time of year brings out the marketing of heaters whose main benefit is that they are more expensive.

According to the Council, although space heaters costing $300 to $400 may have attractive wood exteriors and digital displays, they do not deliver any more warmth than standard heaters costing $30 to $100.

“It wouldn’t be so bad if this was the only problem, but most claim their heaters can cut home energy bills up to 50 percent,” says an RERC newsletter. “They fail to explain that a consumer must exclude heat to all other rooms in the home to accomplish this.”

The RERC concludes that when shopping for a space heater, you need to decide if you’re buying furniture or warmth. If you want a heater with a wood covering, or one that looks like a fireplace, be prepared to pay more.

More information is available on the Rural Electricity Resource Council’s Web site at

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