As home heating bills continue to surge—natural gas and heating fuel prices are expected to increase in the months ahead, and just in time for Winter 2024—we must continue seeking out practical ways to cut the cost. 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 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 global natural gas prices are expected to impact home heating bills in a frightening way this winter 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 and at night.
I recommend 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, strategically supplementing with electric space heaters.
How we use space heaters
EC Central is located in the lower level of our residence. 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 unacceptable because the upper levels are not occupied during workdays. This is what we do:
We program the house thermostat to 68° 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 Mica Thermic heater (below) does a remarkable job of keeping the temperature even throughout the entire space, making the office perfectly comfortable, even on the coldest of days
At bedtime, the house thermostat goes down to 55° F, and we set the space heater in the bedroom to 62° F (and the heated mattress pad to ON). The house programmable thermostat is set to 68° F at 6:30 am to take the chill off, while the office begins to warm.
Best Space Heaters
For its size and price Vornado Personal Space Heater surpasses almost every other space heater in speed and total power, delivering an immediate temperature increase that built steadily and evenly across the room over the course of an hour. The VH202 is also quieter than most other ceramic heaters I’ve tried, emitting only a soft whir It’s also one of the safest heaters out there, featuring overheating and tip-over protection, and a plastic exterior that stays relatively cool to the touch—so you can warm yourself without having to worry.
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 Mica Panel Heater is our 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 for safety.
We have been so happy with our mica thermic 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 mica thermic option.
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 and the heater create 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 first heating the entire room. Heatwave Parabolic Space Heater deserves your attention.
Infrared heaters offer the lowest wattage per heat provided, making this type of space heater 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.
Our pick for the best infrared heater for the money is Dr Infrared Heater DR998. It features an ddvanced dual heating system with a humidifier, osscillation fan, and reemote control!
Oil-filled radiators are better for heating a whole room for a longer duration, but they heat a room much more slowly than a mica thermic—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: a full-size suitcase. Something to consider if your home and/or the room where you will be using this is small or you plan to move it from room to room.
Operates using energy-efficient halogen lamps. They provide radiant heat, which means they heat up the objects 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.
Space Heater Safety
Put space heater on the floor and leave it there
Unless your space heater has been manufactured to be mounted to the wall and comes with instructions and mounting hardware, a space heater should be placed on the floor in accordance with the instructions in the manual. Not on a shelf, not on a headboard or table. Put it on the floor and leave it there.
NEVER plug a space heater into a power strip
Or an extension cord or surge protector. Only plug a space heater into a wall outlet. Because a space heater creates heat (duh!), it pulls more energy than say a lamp. Plugging it into an extension cord is a sure way to create a fire because the energy it pulls will overload that flimsy corded outlet, and something is going to blow.
Go one step farther for safety and make sure that the space heater is the only thing plugged into the wall outlet. Leave the companion outlets empty if it is a duplex or 4-plex outlet. You don’t want to come close to overloading that outlet inside the wall.
Keep it away from water
Common sense should always prevail when dealing with any electrical appliance. Unless they’re designed and approved for it—and most are not—keep your space heater out of all wet locations such as kitchens or bathrooms.
Avoid flammable objects
Do not place a space heater within 3 feet of anything flammable such as curtains, papers, furniture, pillows, and bedding. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) recommends further precautions, such as keeping flammable materials like paint and matches far away. If there’s even a slight risk of a pillow or another flammable object falling, such as in an earthquake, set the space heater somewhere you think that object won’t land on it.
Never leave it running in a room unattended
You wouldn’t leave a candle burning in an unattended room, so treat your space heater in the same way. Before you leave, turn it off. And if children have access to that room, also unplug that space heater! Curiosity could get the better of a toddler who just wants to push buttons and turn dials!
Originally published 12-2-15; Republished: 10-25-22; Updated and Expanded: 3-06-23
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