Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What You Should Know About Space Heaters and Energy Savings

With a frigid winter showing no signs of abating, many Americans are probably looking for some energy savings when it comes to their heating costs. One of the easiest ways to find some savings is to have a professional energy audit that can tell you where your home is losing energy -- and what you can do to retain that money. In deregulated markets, homeowners can also consider switching their gas and electricity providers in order to get better rates. You might be surprised to know that the prices of energy aren’t necessarily fixed by generation costs; while in 1995, power generation accounted for approximately two-thirds of what electricity cost, actually generating electrical energy now accounts for less than half of electricity prices, according to the Edison Electric Institute.

But if you’re looking to change your heating habits to garner some energy savings, one very small investment is worth considering: a portable space heater. Here are the pros and cons of such an appliance.

Space Heaters Vs. Central Heating

If you’re looking to save some money, you’ll need to figure out when using a space heater is more efficient than using your home’s central heating system. Almost all central heating is more efficient than space heating in terms of energy consumption versus heat output. However, if you’re using a space heater to heat one small room rather than your whole house, it’s likely you’ll save quite a bit on your overall bill. You should make sure that you’re turning down your thermostat in order to compensate for turning on your space heater; one reason some people see their bills increase with the use of space heating is that they use portable heaters for “comfort heat” on top of their regular heating system.

Choosing the Right Space Heaters

The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t currently certify any space heaters as being worthy of the Energy Star label, but you should pay attention to efficiency nonetheless, comparing heat output and power usage for any models you’re considering. There are basically two types of space heaters: convection and radiant. The former rely on circulating heated air around rooms, while latter work because radiant heat moves in straight lines to heat whatever or whoever is in front of it. This means radiant heaters can be a more efficient choice if you’re looking to simply warm yourself up for a short period of time before moving into another space.

Important Safety Considerations

You’ll also want to keep safety in mind, both when choosing a space heater and when using it. You should ensure that you're purchasing a vented heater rated for indoor use, that your heater has an automatic shutoff in case it tips over, and that it carries the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) label. It’s very important that you not plug space heaters into extension cords, and that you never leave them on when you’re away from the house. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters lead to over 25,000 home fires every year, and are responsible for about 300 deaths. Space heaters offer opportunities for savings, but absolutely must be used safely to avoid these tragic outcomes.

Where are you looking for energy savings as the heating season drags on? Share your tips and tricks in the comments.

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