Are space heaters a good idea?

Ted Curley
Journeymen wiremen at US Electric-International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

Hello, I'm Ted Curley, a licensed electrician with a wealth of experience in the electrical field. I've recently joined this platform as a contributor to share my extensive knowledge and insights with you. My journey in the electrical field spans over a decade, during which I have cultivated a deep...Read more

Are you eagerly seeking solace in the warm embrace of cozy comfort during chilly winter nights? If so, allow me to shed some light on a topic that seems to keep cropping up when temperatures start to drop: space heaters. I invite you to join me on a closer examination of this often-debated subject as we explore the question that so many of us have pondered: are space heaters a good idea and are they worth the investment?

In this article, we will analyze the pros and cons of these portable heat sources, considering their effectiveness, energy efficiency, and overall cost-effectiveness. By the time we reach the conclusion, you’ll be armed with the knowledge to make an informed decision on whether to embrace the warmth and convenience of a space heater or seek alternative heating options. So, let’s delve into the realm of space heaters and discover if they truly hold the key to creating a toasty oasis within the confines of your humble abode.

Pros of using space heaters

Energy efficiency
One of the key advantages of using space heaters is their energy efficiency. Unlike central heating systems, space heaters allow you to warm up specific areas or rooms without having to heat the entire house. This targeted heating approach can result in significant energy savings since you are not wasting energy on rooms that are not in use. Space heaters often have energy-efficient features such as programmable timers, thermostats, and adjustable heat settings, allowing you to optimize energy usage according to your needs.
Cost savings
Space heaters can also lead to cost savings. By using a space heater to heat only the room you are in, you can avoid wasting energy and money on heating unoccupied areas. Compared to central heating systems, space heaters generally consume less electricity or fuel, which can reduce your monthly heating expenses. Additionally, if you live in a colder climate and frequently use space heaters, you may see a significant decrease in your overall heating bills.
Another advantage of space heaters is their portability. Unlike traditional heating systems, space heaters are compact and lightweight, making them easy to move around and transport. This portability allows you to use the heater in different areas of your home, depending on where you need the heat the most. Whether you want to warm up your living room while watching TV, heat up your home office during work hours, or keep your bedroom cozy at night, a portable space heater can be conveniently positioned wherever you choose.
Quick heating
Space heaters are known for their ability to provide quick and instant heat. Unlike central heating systems that may take some time to warm up a whole house, a space heater can generate warmth within minutes. This rapid heating feature is particularly beneficial if you want to quickly heat up a small area or if you want to warm a room before you enter it. Whether it’s the chilly winter mornings or the brisk evenings, a space heater can promptly provide the warmth you need to make yourself comfortable.
Zoning options
Using space heaters gives you more flexibility in zoning your home heating. With a central heating system, you usually have limited control over the temperature in each room since the whole house is heated collectively. However, space heaters allow you to create individual temperature zones within your home. You can heat the rooms you frequently use while keeping the rest of the house at a lower temperature to save energy. This zoning ability not only provides personalized comfort but can also contribute to lowering overall energy consumption.
big space heater

Cons of using space heaters

Fire hazard
While space heaters offer several advantages, it is important to be mindful of their potential hazards. One of the significant concerns associated with space heaters is the risk of fire. If a space heater is not used correctly or placed too close to flammable objects such as curtains, furniture, or bedding, it can ignite a fire. To minimize this risk, it is crucial to use space heaters according to the manufacturer’s guidelines, ensuring they are placed in safe locations away from flammable materials and never left unattended.
Potential for burns
Space heaters can also pose a risk of burns, especially if they come into direct contact with the skin or if children or pets accidentally touch them. Some space heaters have exposed heating elements or hot surfaces that can cause burns if proper caution is not exercised. It is important to choose a space heater with safety features such as cool-touch exteriors and automatic shut-off functions to prevent accidental burns.
Drying effect on air
Another drawback of using space heaters is that they can have a drying effect on the air in the room. As space heaters generate heat, they may reduce the humidity levels, resulting in drier air. This can be uncomfortable, especially during the winter months when the air is already dry due to central heating systems. To counteract this, you can use a humidifier alongside your space heater to add moisture back into the air, creating a more comfortable environment.
Limited heating capacity
While space heaters can effectively warm small to medium-sized areas, they may have limited heating capacity for larger spaces or open floor plans. If you have a larger room or an open-concept living area, a single space heater might not be sufficient to provide adequate warmth. In such cases, you may need multiple space heaters or consider alternative heating solutions to ensure even heat distribution throughout the space.
Some space heaters can produce noise while operating, which can be bothersome, especially if you prefer a quiet environment. While modern space heaters are designed to minimize noise, certain types, such as fan-forced heaters, may produce noticeable sound due to the operation of their internal fans. If noise level is a concern for you, consider opting for space heaters that prioritize quiet operation or have adjustable fan speeds to suit your preference.

Types of space heaters

When it comes to space heaters, there are various types available, each with its own features and benefits. Understanding the different types can help you make an informed decision about which one is best suited for your needs.

Ceramic heaters

Ceramic heaters are popular choices due to their efficient heating capabilities. They consist of ceramic heating elements that warm up quickly and distribute heat evenly. Ceramic heaters are known for their safety features, such as cool-touch exteriors and overheating protection. These heaters are an excellent option for warming small to medium-sized rooms.

Radiant heaters

Radiant heaters emit infrared radiation that directly heats objects and people in their proximity rather than heating the air in the room. This makes them an efficient option for providing immediate warmth. Radiant heaters are ideal for spot heating or for use in small areas where you want rapid heat production without waiting for the entire room to warm up.

Oil-filled heaters

Oil-filled heaters, also known as radiators, heat up oil inside the unit and then transfer the heat to the surroundings. They provide gentle and consistent heat and retain warmth even after being turned off. Oil-filled heaters are a good option for heating larger spaces and maintaining a steady temperature over an extended period.

Fan-forced heaters

Fan-forced heaters utilize a heating element and a fan to blow out warm air into the room. These heaters offer quick heat distribution and are suitable for rooms that require rapid warming. Fan-forced heaters can be a bit noisier compared to other types, but they are often compact and portable.

Infrared heaters

Infrared heaters operate by producing infrared heat waves that warm objects and individuals directly without heating the air. They are highly efficient for localized heating and are commonly used in outdoor spaces, patios, and garages. Infrared heaters do not produce any noise, making them a suitable option if you prefer a quiet heating solution.

Factors to consider before investing in a space heater

Before purchasing a space heater, it is important to consider several factors to ensure you choose the right one for your specific needs. Understanding these factors can help you make a more informed decision and select a space heater that meets your requirements.


Size of the area

Consider the size of the area you want to heat. Different space heaters have varying heating capacities, so it’s crucial to choose one that is appropriate for the square footage of your space. A space heater that is too small may not provide sufficient warmth, while a heater that is too large may consume more energy than necessary.


Safety features

Ensure that the space heater you choose has adequate safety features. Look for features such as tip-over protection, overheat protection, and cool-touch exteriors. These safety features can help minimize the risk of accidents and ensure safe operation, especially if you have children or pets in your home.


Energy efficiency

Check the energy efficiency rating of a space heater before making a purchase. Look for heaters with energy-saving modes, programmable timers, and adjustable heat settings to maximize energy efficiency. Additionally, consider models that have received certifications like Energy Star, as they meet specific energy efficiency criteria.


Noise level

If noise is a concern for you, pay attention to the noise level of the space heater you are considering. Some heaters are designed to operate quietly, while others may produce noticeable sound due to their fans or heating elements. Look for information on the noise level provided by the manufacturer.


Heat settings and controls

Consider the heat settings and controls available on the space heater. Certain heaters offer adjustable temperature settings, oscillation features, and remote controls, allowing you to customize and control the warmth in your space. These additional features can enhance your comfort and convenience while using the space heater.

Tips for maximizing energy efficiency
To maximize the energy efficiency of your space heater, here are some helpful tips:
Utilize the thermostat
Set the thermostat to the desired temperature and let the heater automatically regulate the heat output. Avoid keeping the heater at maximum heat levels if it is not necessary, as this can lead to unnecessary energy consumption.
Use the heater in conjunction with central heating
Instead of relying solely on the space heater, consider using it as supplemental heating in specific areas while keeping the central heating system at a lower temperature. This way, you can reduce overall heating costs while maintaining comfort.
Close off unused areas
If you are only using certain rooms, close doors and seal off those spaces to prevent heat loss. This allows the space heater to concentrate its efforts in the areas you are occupying, maximizing its efficiency.
Insulate the room
Improve the insulation in the room by sealing drafts, adding weatherstripping to windows and doors, and using insulation materials. Proper insulation helps retain the heat generated by the space heater, minimizing energy waste.
Monitor and adjust heat settings
Regularly monitor the heat output of your space heater and adjust the settings accordingly. If the room is adequately warm, you can lower the heat settings or turn off the heater to conserve energy.

By implementing these energy-saving strategies, you can optimize the energy efficiency of your space heater and potentially reduce your heating costs.

Cost savings with space heaters

Comparing costs with central heating

When determining the cost savings of using a space heater, it is essential to compare it with the cost of using a central heating system. Central heating systems typically heat the entire house, regardless of which areas are in use. This means you may be wasting energy and incurring higher heating costs for rooms that are unoccupied or not frequently used.

Space heaters, on the other hand, allow you to heat specific areas or rooms, avoiding unnecessary energy consumption. By selectively warming the spaces you use most, you can potentially reduce your overall heating costs. However, it is important to note that the actual cost savings will depend on factors such as the size of your home, insulation levels, and energy rates in your area.

Calculating potential savings

To get an estimate of the potential cost savings with a space heater, you can compare the energy consumption of the space heater with that of your central heating system. Start by calculating the average energy consumption of your central heating system per hour. Then, determine the energy consumption of the space heater you are considering. Multiply the energy consumption of both systems by the number of hours you typically use heating during a day or month, and compare the total energy costs.

For example, if your central heating system consumes an average of 2,000 watts per hour and you use it for 8 hours a day, the daily energy consumption would be 16,000 watt-hours or 16 kWh. If the space heater consumes 1,000 watts per hour and you use it for the same 8 hours, the daily energy consumption would be 8,000 watt-hours or 8 kWh. By comparing the energy costs per kWh in your area, you can determine the potential savings based on the difference in energy consumption between the two systems.

Determining payback period

To further understand the financial benefits of using a space heater, you can calculate the payback period. The payback period is the time it takes for the cost of the space heater to be offset by the energy savings it generates.

To calculate the payback period, you need to consider the initial cost of the space heater, the energy savings per month, and the difference in energy costs between the space heater and your central heating system. Divide the initial cost of the space heater by the monthly energy savings to determine how many months it would take to recoup the investment. This will give you an indication of how long it would take for the space heater to become financially advantageous.

Keep in mind that the payback period is an estimate and the actual duration may vary depending on factors such as energy rates, usage patterns, and the cost of the space heater itself. Additionally, it is important to prioritize the safety, comfort, and convenience aspects of the space heater as well, and not solely focus on the potential cost savings.

Quick heating with space heaters

Rapid warmth in targeted areas

One of the notable advantages of space heaters is their ability to provide quick and immediate warmth. Unlike central heating systems that may take some time to heat up an entire house, space heaters can generate heat within minutes. This rapid heating feature is particularly advantageous when you want to heat up specific areas or rooms quickly. Whether it’s stepping out of a cold bathroom into a warm bedroom or feeling cozy within minutes of switching on the heater, space heaters offer prompt comfort and relief from the cold.

Reducing reliance on primary heating systems

Space heaters also offer the benefit of reducing reliance on primary heating systems. Instead of relying solely on a central heating system to warm your entire home, you can use a space heater to heat specific areas or rooms that you occupy the most. This allows you to tailor the warmth to your needs, directing the heat exactly where you want it, and potentially reducing the energy consumption of your primary heating system. By using space heaters strategically, you can create a comfortable environment while minimizing the load on your central heating system.

Efficiency in small spaces

Space heaters are particularly efficient in small spaces where you want to quickly heat the area and maintain a comfortable temperature. These small spaces may include home offices, bedrooms, dens, or garages. Since space heaters are designed for localized heating, they can effectively warm these smaller areas without wasting energy on heating unused space. This targeted heating approach ensures that the energy consumed is solely utilized for the specific area you are occupying, resulting in efficient and effective heat distribution.

Whether you need quick warmth in a specific spot, want to reduce reliance on your primary heating system, or have a small space that requires efficient heating, space heaters can fulfill these requirements promptly and efficiently.

Zoning options with space heaters

Heating specific rooms

One of the major advantages of using space heaters is the ability to heat specific rooms or areas. This zoning approach allows you to focus on heating the rooms that you frequently use, while leaving other areas at a lower temperature or even unheated. By heating only the rooms you occupy, you can save energy and reduce overall heating costs. Zoning with space heaters also allows you to customize the temperature for each room based on individual preferences, providing personalized comfort.

Individual temperature control

Using multiple space heaters for different rooms or areas gives you the advantage of individual temperature control. This means that each room can have its own specific temperature setting, catering to the preferences of individuals utilizing that space. For example, if you prefer a warmer bedroom while sleeping, but a cooler living room while watching TV, you can adjust the temperature accordingly with the respective space heaters. Individual temperature control not only enhances comfort but also maximizes energy efficiency by eliminating the need to heat the entire house to cater to varying temperature preferences.

Reducing overall energy consumption

Implementing zoning with space heaters can contribute to reducing overall energy consumption. By heating specific rooms or areas that you frequently occupy, you can avoid wasting energy on heating unoccupied spaces. This targeted approach minimizes the load on your primary heating system and allows you to create individual temperature zones within your home. By reducing the need to heat the entire house, you can conserve energy and potentially lower your heating bills. Zoning with space heaters provides a practical solution to optimize energy usage and reduce your environmental footprint.

Key factors to consider before purchasing

So, when considering the purchase of a space heater, evaluate various factors to ensure you make an informed decision and select a heater that suits your specific needs and preferences.

  • Size and layout of the space
  • Safety features and certifications
  • Energy consumption and cost efficiency
  • Noise level preferences
  • Availability of heat controls and settings

Ted CurleyJourneymen wiremen at US Electric-International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW)

Hello, I'm Ted Curley, a licensed electrician with a wealth of experience in the electrical field. I've recently joined this platform as a contributor to share my extensive knowledge and insights with you. My journey in the electrical field spans over a decade, during which I have cultivated a deep understanding and expertise in various roles. Let me take you through my journey and my passion for electricity and space heaters.

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