Fresh, cool air is drifting through the color of the autumn trees and some of us are turning the thermostat to “Heat.” Smaller homes and vacation cabins often do not have a furnace, so we rely on the fireplace, a wood stove, or electric heat baseboards to keep the house livable in the winter time. Even in homes with central heating, a small “space heater” can be a handy addition when we only need heat in one chilly area.
Space heaters are handy and convenient, but don’t count on one to heat your home exclusively, or to save much on your heating bill. Electric heaters, even those claiming “infrared technology” are expensive to operate compared to central heat systems such as heat pumps and propane furnaces. You may see mail or television ads for “discounted” space heaters that claim to save you money on your electric bill. Don’t fall for these claims. Most of these ads feature items that are overpriced and then discounted. Similar performance can be found for much lower prices in models available over the internet or in local stores.
Hit the internet yourself (or ask a teenager to help you if this is not your favorite thing) and learn everything you can. Reading the reviews on can tell you a lot. My favorite is Consumer Reports magazine. Consumer Reports Union is a non-profit organization and they do not accept advertising in their magazine. As a result, they are professional and unbiased in their testing and ratings of products.
Use the following tips to choose the right space heater for your home.
What size should you get? The amount of heat generated is rated in “watts” which is a way to determine how much electricity the heater is using. It’s easy to figure out how many watts you need:estimate 10 watts per square foot and multiply the square footage of the room by 10. For example, a room with 144 square feet will require 1,440 watts. When we say square feet, we are just saying measure your room with a tape measure – length and width – and multiply the 2 numbers.
Once you know how many watts you need, you can calculate what it will cost over a year by multiplying the watts times how many hours you have it on times the rate per kilowatt-hour that the electric company charges. Here’s an example. If you have a 1,500-watt heater and you leave it on 24 hours a day at a rate of 9 cents a kilowatt-hour, the cost would be $3.24 a day(1,500 x 24 ?� 1,000 x $0.09). Over a month that would amount to $97.20; a year it would be $1,166.40.
How can a space heater help save on energy costs? While the costs in the last paragraph are indeed high, you can still use a space heater and save a little money every month by doing the following.
A� Only run the heater when you are in the room.
A� Buy an appliance timer to use with your heater if you think you’ll forget to turn it off.
A� Lower the thermostat in the rest of the house. Obviously if there are a lot of people in the house, or you’re going from room to room, this strategy will not be comfortable.
Although you will hear words like radiant, oil filled, infrared, ceramic, quartz halogen, and convection in heater descriptions, there are really only 2 types of heaters: radiant and convection, plus combinations of these two. Radiant simply means a strong heating element, like a halogen bulb, that radiates heat. These heaters work well for spot heating. Convection heaters use wire or ribbon elements and a powerful fan to move the heat through the room. They are better for heating large areas. A combination unit, such as a radiator type, uses water or oil circulating in metal fins to produce heat. They don’t get as hot and give off a constant, steady heat.
Any of these heater types are available for less than $200 unless they have fancy accessories like remote controls. Do your homework, and you’ll save money and stay warm too.

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