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What You Need to Know About Buying a Space Heater

What You Need to Know About Buying a Space Heater

Rising home heating costs have many homeowners scrambling for affordable heating alternatives. If your utility bills skyrocket when cold weather strikes, you may have considered purchasing a space heater to offset the cost of whole home heating. Using a portable space heater can definitely help you save money and energy — especially if you generally spend time in one room of your home or office. However, there are some very important points to consider before you buy a space heater.

If energy efficiency is a top concern for you, go with an electric space heater. These units don’t lose valuable heat through ducts (like central heating systems) or combustion (like gas-powered space heaters). This means that every bit of heat produced by the electric heater goes into the room, making the temperature comfortable for a longer length of time. Different types of electric heaters include radiant space heaters, convection space heaters, ceramic space heaters and micathermic space heaters.

Portable gas heaters run on a variety of substances, like natural gas, propane, kerosene and butane. While they lose a lot of heat during the combustion process, they warm up quickly and heat evenly. Many people rely on gas space heaters in emergency situations—power outages, severe winter storms, main heating system failure, etc. The major drawbacks of using gas space heaters are the very real danger of carbon monoxide poisoning and fire.

To make sure you’re getting the safest, most energy efficient heater, purchase a unit that is appropriately rated for the room in which you plan to use it. Using the wrong size space heater can increase utility costs and risks for things like fire and air pollution. All manufacturers include clear, reliable square-footage ratings on their product packaging.

Convenience is important when using a space heater, so look for units that have decent temperature controls. Choose a unit with a digital temperature setting or a programmable thermostat. Automatic turn-on and shut-off are nice features, as are timers and multi-temperature settings.

More than anything, though, you want a space heater that is safe. Any portable heater is a potential fire hazard so minimize your risk by looking for appliances that have been inspected by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory, organizations that standardize and certify electrical components; this designation will be clearly visible on the product packaging. Other safety features to look for are automatic tip-over shut-off, heat resistant exterior casing, front grill touch sensors, and internal overheat protection switches.

To estimate the average daily cost of using a space heater in your home, all you need are a few simple formulas (and maybe a calculator). First, divide the heater’s wattage by 1000 to get the kilowatts used per hour. Then find your cost per kilowatt hour of electricity on your last bill. Finally, multiply these two numbers by the number of hours your heater will be in use each day. The result will be the amount you can expect to pay per day of operation. For example:

1.5 kilowatts per hour x $.15 per kWh x 8 hours a day

= $1.80 a day or about $54 a month to operate

Completing research ahead of time will ensure that you’re buying the right space heater for your home.

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