Even though winter is still months away, we need to brace now for a rude surprise coming soon. I’m talking about winter heating bills. Natural gas and heating fuel prices are surging.
Just as I was knee-deep in researching, testing, and updating the role of electric space heaters in managing the cost of home heating this winter, this letter washed up on my desk.
Dear Mary: I need your help to figure out how we can reduce our home heating bill. It’s killing us to pay so much to keep our house warm during the cold months. We have a gas furnace and I just read the cost of natural gas is up 108% in the U.S.
Our home is two story with a basement. Our kids are grown so it’s just the two of us. My husband travels for his work, so I’m the only one here most of the time. Thanks in advance for your help!
The most efficient and easiest way to reduce your home heating cost is to heat only the rooms that are occupied, while keeping your furnace set very low to say 60 F. Use a space heater(s) to make the occupied room comfortable. You can rely on this method during the day as well as at night.
My recommendation is that you keep your winter heating bills under control by keeping the main source of heat (your furnace or another source of heat) set very low, supplementing strategically with electric space heaters.
How We Use Space Heaters
EC Central is located in the lower level of our home. In order to get the office at a comfortable 68 F to 70 F using our forced air furnace, the rest of the house gets a lot warmer—especially the upper level where it gets downright hot. That’s totally unacceptable because the upper levels are not occupied during our workdays. So here’s what we do:
We program the house thermostat to 62 F for weekdays. Then we rely on a space heater in the office, which operates with an appliance timer to come on in time to make the office warm and comfortable at about 68 F. The office is about 400 sq. ft., and one De’Longhi Micathermic heater does a remarkable job of keeping the temperature even throughout the entire space making the office perfectly comfortable.
At bedtime the house thermostat goes down to 55 F and we set the space heater in the bedroom to 65 F.
Not all space heaters are alike. And I’ll admit that there are some things about typical space heaters that I really do not enjoy. Finding the right heater requires research. And we nailed it.
We have been so happy with our micathermic space heater, we now have three of them. This space heater is quiet. Remarkably so! I find it annoying and disruptive to hear a heater fan cycle on and off, so this one feature may be the biggest reason I love the micathermic option.
What is Micathermic?
Micathermic means the heating element is covered in thin sheets of mica. The manual states that it produces both convection heat and radiant heat. It’s on wheels and quite lightweight, which makes it easily portable. And it’s designed to not tip over.
A micathermic heater creates immediate warmth—a nice gentle kind of heat, not a blast of hot air. It provides is a constant source of warmth—not constant warming up to hot then shutting off until it gets cold again.
While the maker of our micathermic heaters is no longer manufacturing space heaters, I have done a lot of research, identifying a competing brand micathermic space heater, which is very similar to our Bionaire heaters in every way.
I would be remiss if I did not also offer information on all types of space heaters for you to consider as you prepare to manage your winter heating bills.
Best Space Heaters
Micathermic means the heating element is covered in thin sheets of mica. The manual states that it produces both convection heat and radiant heat. It’s on wheels and quite lightweight, which makes it easily portable. And it’s designed to not tip over. This De’Longhi Mica Panel Heater my pick for the best inexpensive micathermic portable space heater. As an added feature option, this micathermic (aka mica panel) heater can also be mounted to a wall.
The general way that a convection heater works is that it relies on the circulation of air within the room to heat the room. The fan blows air over a heating element and then it is re-circulated into the room. A convection heater is great for a small space like a bathroom or small bedroom. Convection heaters push hot air up to the ceiling. If the space has a high ceiling, a ceiling fan together with the heater creates an ideal comfy warm solution!
The best inexpensive parabolic heater uses a computer-designed parabolic reflector to focus heat, like a satellite dish concentrates TV signals. That makes it feel three times warmer than 1,500 watt heaters, yet uses a third less energy. Because it warms you directly, you feel the heat almost instantly without it first having to heat the entire room.
Infrared heaters offer the lowest wattage per heat provided, makes these type of space heaters the cheapest to run. An infrared heater is completely safe to touch. You don’t need to worry too much about injuries, especially if you have children and pets around. However, that doesn’t mean you should let them fiddle around with this however they like. An infrared heater is not going to provide the kind of heat you might expect.
Portable infrared heaters work like the sun, producing infrared lightwaves, not warmed air. An infrared heater will heat you, your dog, your chair, the carpet, the walls—not the air around you.
It’s like the difference between being directly in the sunlight versus sitting in the shade. You feel warm in the sun because the light that hits your clothes and skin keeps you warm. Infrared warms objects and surfaces, which then radiate warmth back into the room.
Oil-filled radiators are better for heating a whole room for a longer duration, but they heat a room much more slowly than a micathermic—at least 30 mins. to feel any heat at all, but hours to bring a room to a comfortable temperature. And that’s what makes it more energy-efficient.
This De’Longhi model is the oil-filled option I recommend. It is sturdier than its plastic competitors and stays cool to the touch—something to think about if this heater will be near pets and children. And it is completely silent—absolutely no noise.
This heater is large—think if a full-size suitcase. Something to consider if your home and or the room where you will be using this is small.
Operates using energy-efficient halogen lamps. They provide radiant heat, which means that they heat up the objects that are around them but not the air. It does not operate with a fan, which should be good news for people who suffer from dust allergies. Our pick for the best inexpensive halogen heater is the Comfort Zone Flat Panel Halogen Heater. This is a small spot heater, very quiet.
Produces infrared which heats objects, not the air. Comfort Zone Quartz Tower Heater has auto safety shut-off and tip-over protection to help prevent accidents. The quartz element glows red making the front grill very hot and hazardous for young children and pets. Operates with a fan that cycles on and off.
In keeping with the EC philosophy to match quality with need, this may be the space heater you need. It is small but mighty! The manual says it heats a room up to 300 ft., allowing you to control your desired personal comfort level. This is a great choice for chilly days and nights.
Did I say it’s tiny? Yes, it is! (Adorable, too.)
Originally published 12-2-15; Updated and Expanded: 10-6-21
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