Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives
Baby, it’s cold outside!
It’s hard to turn on the television these days without seeing a commercial for some type of supposedly brand new technological wonder of a space heater. Most of them claim to be able to save you 50% on your electric bill through the use of their revolutionary new design, but how do you know the truth? This month we will look at some of the basic facts of space heaters in an attempt to dispel some of the misinformation out there.
While it is true that if used in certain situations space heaters can save you money most of the time those situations simply don’t fit into a typical American lifestyle.
According to a report from the Cooperative Research Network (CRN), most space heaters use between 600 and 1,500 watts of electricity. A homeowner using a space heater 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, for a month, would spend approximately $15.26 for this additional electricity. However, space heaters can heat only a small space.
You can save significantly if you use the space heater in this way: turn the thermostat of your central heating system down considerably (as low as 50 degrees in some cases). Place the space heater in a room occupied by people and close that room off from the rest of the home. This method of “zone heating” will save you money.
Consumer Reports has also evaluated the claims of several space heater manufacturers, (www.consumerreports.org) coming to the conclusion that, “manufacturers of electric space heaters want you to believe that using one of their devices will lower your heating bill. Lowering your home’s thermostat(s) and using your main heating system less in tandem with a space heater—called zone heating—will cut your utility bill. (Every degree you lower the thermostat(s) can save you about 2 percent on your heating bill.)”
Further, Consumer Reports finds that scenario assumes that you have only a single room to heat at a time or that you own multiple … space heaters; that once you’re in a room you stay put and don’t move around the house; and that you’re willing to keep the rest of your home at a chilly 50°F.°
Of course, that means that anytime you leave your heated “zone” you no longer have the benefit of heat. You may find this method of heating unsuitable.
There are safety concerns when it comes to space heater use as well. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that in 2007, U.S. fire departments responded to 66,400 home structure fires that involved heating equipment. These fires resulted in 580 deaths, injured another 1,850, and were responsible for $608 million in direct property damage.
Space heaters do have a use for heating your home, but keep in mind they are most effective for heating specific areas and should be purchased with some safety rules in mind. When you shop for an electric space heater, look for a label from a recognized testing laboratory such as UL (Underwriters Laboratory), ETL (Intertek), or CSA (Canadian Standards Association) verifying the heater’s construction and performance meet U.S. voluntary safety standards.
NFPA (www.nfpa.org) safety tips for portable electric space heaters:
- Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
- Use and purchase portable space heaters with an automatic shut off so if they’re tipped over they will shut off.
- Place space heater on solid, flat surface.
- Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
- Inspect for cracked or damaged cords, broken plugs or loose connections. Replace before using.
Ed VanHoose is the Digital Communications Administrator/IT Manager for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives in Springfield. He is a specialist in the IT field with over 12 years of experience working in leadership roles for technology based projects in Illinois and Missouri.