While a good central heating system is designed to meet whole-house needs, sometimes we have to turn to space heaters for additional warmth. And in some cases, small space heaters can make financial sense—for example, if you only want to heat or supplement inadequate heating in one room. However, a space heater is not necessarily an economical source of long-term warmth.
Getting More for Less
The key to efficiency is using space heaters in smaller rooms that are occupied infrequently, in conjunction with lower thermostat settings on your central system.
Lowering thermostat settings from 70 to 65 degrees and using a thermostat-
controlled space heater to heat 10% of a home’s conditioned floor space will save about $67 a year. Space heaters are most efficient when used in small spaces for limited periods and will likely waste energy if used to heat too large of an area.
Buy the right size heater for the right size space—too small and the results could be disappointing, too large or powerful and you’ll be uncomfortable (and pay more).
Safe, Not Sorry
Space heaters get seasonal use, but they are responsible for 25,000 residential fires a year. Burn injuries associated with surface contacts with room heaters send about 6,000 people to emergency rooms every year.
Because the devices are designed to give off heat, they should always be plugged directly into the wall and set in locations clear of all flammable materials and out of reach of small children, pets and anyone with impaired mobility.
Choose a heater with an adjustable thermostat and a tip-over safety feature to automatically shut off in the event that the unit tilts beyond its upright position.
Here are some more tips to stay safe when using your space heater:
DON’T: Leave your space heater unattended. Always unplug it before you leave the house or go to bed.
DON’T: Use an extension cord to plug in your space heater. It can cause the heater to overheat and can be a tripping hazard.
DON’T: Place your space heater near curtains, clothing, furniture or bedding.
DO: Plug your space heater directly into the wall outlet.
DO: Keep your space heater at a safe distance (at least 3 feet) from kids, pets and flammable items.
DO: Buy a unit with an automatic shut-off in case the unit tips over or you forget to shut it off.