Space Heater Energy Use: What to Consider
Winter is coming. In preparation, it’s time to start thinking about the amount of energy and heat you will be needing and how to minimize it as much as possible. According to the EIA, the average costs for heating oil and propane for households are going to be the highest that they have ever been.
A common solution for many, especially those living in the Northern and Eastern states, is to use space heaters throughout the home instead of turning up the electric heater or gas furnace. Space heaters will still require electricity to run. So the question becomes, how much energy do space heaters consume and will it save you money in the long run? To answer this, we must first consider what the main function of a portable space heater is.
What is the purpose of a portable heater?
A portable space heater is a device that uses electricity to produce heat in a single room or area of a room. They are usually used when the central heating system is failing, inadequate, or too costly to operate. Individuals that are sensitive to cold can use them to boost temperatures without excessively heating the rest of the home.
How to Calculate the energy use of a space heater
There are a couple of different ways that you can figure out how much energy your space heater is using. The simplest way is to use an Energy Use Calculator, but you can also calculate the figure yourself.
You will need to know the wattage that the specific space heater uses, which you can typically find printed on the actual heater or in the owner’s manual. The wattage that is listed tells you how much electricity you will need in order to power it. The average space heater uses about 1,500 watts, but it can vary. Since your utility company charges based on kilowatts used, you can divide that wattage by 1,000 to get the kilowatt amount. So a 1,500-watt space heater uses 1.5 kilowatts.
You will also need to know how much your electric company charges you in kilowatts per hour (kWh). This figure is found on your electric bill.
The formula to calculate your space heater’s energy consumption is…
[(Number of Watts X Hours Used)/1,000] x kWh charged by the utility company
For example, let’s say your space heater uses 1,500 watts and you plan on using it for 12 hours a day.
1,500 x 12 = 18,000
18,000/1,000 = 18
Your utility company charges you $.10 per kWh.
18 x .10 = 1.8
So, it will end up costing you about $1.80 per day based on using the one space heater for 12 hours.
You can find energy-efficient models that use a much lower amount of energy than is typical of space heaters. Some use 30 percent less energy, as little as 400-500 watts.
Does it save you money to use a space heater?
Using a space heater can save money if used properly. Again, the purpose of a space heater is to heat up a single room or an area of a room to supplement for a central heating system. In this case, using a space heater can certainly be less expensive.
However, if you are using space heaters in addition to your regular central heating system, you can expect your bill to increase significantly. The Alliance to Save Energy says that using space heaters to heat an entire room is not as efficient as using your central heating system. So not only are you adding to your overall electric bill, but your room will not be heating as quickly or as well when using a space heater.
When should you use a portable space heater?
The best time to use a space heater is if you will only be using a single room of the house and will not be heating up the rest of the home. Because you are only using the space heater, you are saving money by not having the central heating system running and you are still warming the space that you are occupying.
It is important to consider alternatives to heating and ways you can lower your heating bills. Look for advice through EnergyStar to get plenty of tips on ways that you can save. To help keep warm air in and cool air out, consider adding insulation throughout your home in attics, basements, ceilings, and floors. Just by lowering your central heat thermostat by 10 to 15 degrees for 8 hours can cut your heating bill by 5 to 15 percent.