A Woman With Warm Clothing Feeling The Cold Inside House

Best Inexpensive Way to Reduce Home Heating Bill

Just as I was knee-deep in researching, testing, and learning all I could about electric space heaters, this letter landed in my inbox.

A Woman With Warm Clothing Feeling The Cold Inside House

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 in the winter.We have a gas furnace and where I live the cost of gas has gone up more than 10 percent, while at the same time the cost of electricity has gone down slightly. 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! Jeanine

Dear Jeanine: 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. Then use a space heater to make the occupied room comfortable; You can rely on this method during the day as well as at night.

You could easily see your heating bill drop 35 percent or more by simply keeping the main source of heat set very low, supplementing with electric space heaters. It’s such a simple way to make a huge difference in your home heating costs.

Cheapskate Central is located in the lower level of our home. In order to get the office at a comfortable 68 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 60 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 this one heater does a remarkable job of keeping the temperature even throughout the entire space making the office perfectly comfortable.

At night 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 took some research. And we nailed it.

Seriously, we are so happy with the Bionaire Silent Whole Room Heater, we now have three of them. Something else—Bionaire is completely silent. 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 this Bionaire.

Bionaire is micathermic, which 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. It doesn’t get hot to the touch, making it safe for pets or children.

The Bionaire creates immediate warmth—nice gentle kind of heat, not a blast of hot air and it is a constant source of warmth—not constant warming up to hot then shutting off until it gets cold again. The surface of the heater does not get hot to the touch, which makes it totally safe for pets and children.


 

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All of these features make a Bionaire Silent Whole Room Heater (which looks remarkably like a modern version of an old radiator heater like the one you see in the picture above) an ideal heater for any space from a guest room to a play room but most of all, a very busy office. We recouped the purchase price of our first Bionaire during the first month of use.

As much as I prefer the Bionaire micathermic room heater for our current needs, I would be remiss if I did not mention other types of space heaters for you to consider that will heat the rooms in your home that are occupied—all of which are less expensive than the Bionaire (may be different than shown).

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Convection

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. Convection heaters push hot air up to the ceiling that results in energy loss. Still a viable option, our pick for the best inexpensive convection space heater is the Crane Convection Heater.

Parabolic

The best inexpensive parabolic heater, Presto HeatDish Parabolic Electric 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.

Halogen

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.

Quartz

Produces infrared which heats objects, not the air. Comfort Zone Quartz 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 wth a fan that cycles on and off.

Hope that helps!

Originaly published 12-2-15; Updated 1-16-20


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16 replies
  1. Susan says:

    We have found that fleece sheets are much warmer than flannel sheets. And if you want cheap insulation for your windows try using bubble wrap which is easily applied by misting the windows with water.

    Reply
  2. jimijean says:

    My mantra in the windy and cold prairie winter of Illinois is “dress warm, sleep cool, avoid crowded places”. I set my thermostat on 58, have two quartz heaters and use flannel sheets year around. I don’t use electric blankets because I’m thinking they might be dangerous. But I do use an electric mattress pad to warm my bed before I get under the covers. I can do all this because I’m retired. If I was still working I might have to re-think some of it.

    Reply
  3. Moe says:

    I really appreciate your post. I live in New England & have electric heat with thermostats in each room, which are usually set at 54-60, depending on the room. I bought 2 Heat Surge (Amish) heaters & use one in the living room when I’m there & one in the bedroom/office occasionally. I don’t need to use it at night because I’m plenty warm under the down comforter. You brought up good points though about the blowers, which my heaters depend upon (noise & blowers). I have high ceilings & live in the ground floor apartment. My upstairs neighbor has a very low heating bill, probably because I’m heating their space. I will consider selling these 2 heaters & getting Bionaire ones like yours.

    Reply
  4. Sue in MN says:

    We live in Minnesota, in a 45 year-old split level home. We have replaced the original windows and doors and sealed and insulated everywhere you can think of – the energy auditors this summer couldn’t find any leaks! We heat our home & water, cook & dry our clothes with natural gas for a total cost of $700/ year. Not bad with 170 heating days per year.
    We have solved the problem of too-cold lower level (where our workrooms are) and too-warm upper level;with dual thermostats and adjusting heat vents. In winter we close the upper level vents and open those downstairs (warm air rises) and set the both thermostats to 70 in day & 62 at night. In summer we open the upper level vents and close those downstairs.(cold air falls) and set both thermostats to off unless we need the A/C – then we set them to 78.
    Whoever said it is inefficient to close off rooms not in use is WRONG – if you close the doors to the unused spaces, We proved this years ago – the closed off rooms in our old home were as much as 20 degrees colder than the rest of the house – that translated to fuel saving.of 15% the first year we did it. Logically, heating less space takes less energy. It is the same reason we seal attics and other unoccupied spaces.

    Reply
  5. Gehugh says:

    We live in the Rockies at latitude 48 and winters can be pretty darn cold for quite a long length of time. Here’s what we’ve learned:

    ·Think about your heating needs 4-5 months before you’ll be needing it.

    ·Have an energy audit, if you have not already. We had one done by our electric provider and one by our natural gas provider. They were free, very helpful and we received a multitude of free, usable goodies and gadgets.

    ·Be knowledgeable about keeping your system (s) operating in tip top shape. Change your filters as often as recommended, know what your system does and isn’t supposed to do and do a little preventive maintenance. You CAN close off the floor vents from rooms, but you should rotate them out (this room this week, the next room the next week, etc). If you leave the vents closed and the doors open your thermostat should equalize. Leave bathroom doors open so that they don’t over heat.

    ·We have our home thernmostat at 62° from late September ’till mid April or so. Then it is off for 4 or so months and we don’t need airconditioning. We make use of space heaters (contained oil radiator style) when needed in two rooms that are not heated by our gas furnace. We have a gas stove (looks like a wood burning stove) in an unheated family room. We have baseboard heaters in some rooms, but in our home they were placed in areas that didn’t make sense, so we don’t use them.

    · We have carbon monoxide detectors in several places on every floor (we have 3 floors).

    ·We use electric blankets to warm the bed when we first get in, then they are turned off. We use flannel sheets year round.

    ·We went on budget billing because despite our economical diligence, our natural gas bill can get high especially when it is 38° BELOW for days on end. Budget billing spreads the anticipated cost throughout the year, which is affordable. If we were strictly on electrical use we would buy into our providers’s solar program. Very worth checking out! I have heard of ductless heaters being one solution and many energy providers can finance or offer credits to ease the cost.

    Reply
  6. Ed says:

    A few years ago I was given a quartz infrared heater. I’ve always thought space heaters aren’t terribly efficient or safe so I was skeptical. It is very energy efficient though and so safe that I leave it on day and night (it has a thermostat). The air it puts out gets about as warm as a hair dryer but really warms the room. My home is 75 years old, about 800 sf., and has oil heat. I keep the space heater in the living room where it heats the front half of the house easily and the back part a bit too. Full time use with the thermostat for the oil furnace set lower only adds about $25/mo to my power bill while putting a big dent in my oil usage. This type of heater is well worth purchasing. If you use the oil filled radiator type space heaters, you’ll notice that they have two wattages (a low and high setting). I was told by an electrician that two of those heaters on the low setting will put out more heat than one on high and use less energy. To those using electric blankets and throws, please use caution. I know of a family who lost everything when their blanket shorted out in the middle of the night and sparked a fire. Luckily, they all got out safely. Two family members have had them short out and start smoldering. Also, depending on your financial situation, you may qualify for the weatherization program in your area. It is a locally administered program that uses federal grants to insulate older homes. In many areas, even renters can qualify for the program. Another trick I use is venting my electric clothes dryer inside in the winter. Just buy or fashion a lint filter for the end of the hose. Using oil heat, the air in my house stays pretty dry in the winter so the added humidity is a good thing for me. If you have a large family and do laundry constantly, it could be a little too much humidity.

    Reply
  7. Gail says:

    Thanks so much for this post! We have increased our insulation and keep our window covers (inside) pulled when it is super cold, and that helps, but these ideas you are sharing sound really good to try! Will do! Love love love your post! Awesome!

    Reply
  8. grannyL says:

    When we were buying our new HAVC unit, the furnace man said the same thing Sandra did about not shutting off any of your rooms, or vents.

    Reply
  9. Jordan says:

    I don’t keep any heater on while I sleep. I have a good-quality down blanket and down comforter, one or both do the trick depending on the temp. They have paid for themselves many times in heat savings. My electric bill doesn’t go up at all in the winter due to hat, and my Vornado space heater that I use when awake. I prefer a cooler room for sleeping. As long as I’m warm in bed, the room doesn’t have to be particularly warm.

    Before I got the down items, I used a space heater while sleeping. That stopped the night I woke up and found it had set something on fire. I no longer think it’s safe to use them while sleeping, and my local fire department cautions against that.

    I don’t keep the house heater on at all during the day if I’m not home. When I am home I set the heater at a moderate temp and only run it 1/2 hour or so, just to get the chill out of the air, then I have the Vornado heater that I mostly rely on. Excellent heater, and it’s easy to regulate the temp. Heats the air, not you, so it’s much like a house heater in effect.

    Reply
  10. JuanitaS (NC Nita) says:

    BTW Mary – I made my first loaves of artisan bread this week. I got the Artisan Bread cookbook from the library. I am on hold for the Cast Iron Cookbook and the Italian on Sunday book. 😉

    Reply
  11. JuanitaS (NC Nita) says:

    I also like using electric heated throws when you cut back the thermostat especially in the evenings if you are watching TV, using tablet, reading. You can cut back the heat and if someone is colder than others in the house they can stay warm with electric throw. It eliminates hassles over what the room temp should be. It also serves double duty – use it as a throw in the living room and then I place it on my bed to warm the blankets and mattress just before bedtime at night. Wal-Mart sells a nice fleece throw made by Sunbeam for around $20 to $25 (super soft microplush around $40). I have given several as get well gifts and anyone that has received one has let me know how much they love it.

    Reply
  12. Renita says:

    Along with this, programming your thermostat (or upgrading to a programmable one) is a great idea – make sure you are not heating the house when nobody is going to be home for long stretches! Ours is set to low during the day, warm up a bit more as we are getting home from work, and then back down again at night.

    Also, personally, I sleep better in a cooler room, winter or summer – which, yes, raises our AC bill a bit in the summer but I make up for it with lower heating bills. Try sleeping in a 60-degree room with an extra blanket or warmer socks. And use a humidifier in your bedroom to keep the dry air at bay and keep everyone more comfortable.

    Reply
  13. Sophie LaFontaine says:

    The parabolic heater doesn’t heat up everything, just a very small section, which is great, if one gets warm only around 82 degrees and the roommate is warm around 72 degrees. The only bad thing about the parabolic heater is that one needs to continuously shift positions in order to not have one part of the body be burning hot and the rest of the body be frozen. One annoying (but understandable) safety feature of this heater is that if it tips even a little bit (mostly when I am moving it), it blares out loudly as a warning. This can be avoided by turning it off before moving it.

    Reply
  14. penny50 says:

    While I agree with most of this, I have never understood how I am supposed to feel warm at 68 degrees. I would find 68 uncomfortably cold in the summer with the air conditioning on. I never set the air conditioning below 74 in the summer and I find I set the heat about 72 degrees. My husband will complain it is cold if I set it any lower, and I would agree with him. Part of this is that we have a heat pump, and that heat never feels nice and warm. I am going to try a space heater to see if that helps. Heat pump always feels cold.

    Reply
  15. Sandra says:

    My huge farmhouse is in Appalachia and the company that keeps my oil furnace and heat pump in working order advises NOT to turn off heat in rooms that aren’t used. Charlie said, “When you have unheated rooms, the heat surges toward that area in an attempt to heat the empty space.” IOW, nature abhors a vacuum, any vacuum. Space heaters work and I use them but making sure the house has good insulation is another step. Check to make sure the insulation is still fluffy and working well. Keeping the thermostat set low, wearing wool -sweater, socks- is another way to win the battle on cold. Every July, I have the propane tank filled at a reduced cost than in winter. Think outside the season.

    Reply

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