Which Energy Efficient Space Heater Is Best for You?
So, you have a room in your home or workspace that gets cold during the winter, and you want a cost-effective way to warm it up? We hear you. Lots of manufacturers of portable electric space heaters like to tout their “energy efficiency” as a selling point. But we’re going to let you in on a little secret: All electric space heaters are 100 percent efficient at converting electrical energy into heat.
Yes, you read that correctly. All of them, at least on paper.
However, there is a catch. (You didn’t think it’d be that simple, did you?) The problem is the electricity that powers an “energy efficient” space heater may come from any number of inefficient fuel sources, such as oil or coal. In other words, while so-called energy efficient heaters are efficient at converting electricity into heat, at their source they’re actually among the least energy efficient ways to heat your home.
That having been said, a portable, electric space heater is an inexpensive way to supplement your home’s primary heating system. And in some cases, it may be your only option, especially if you want to avoid installing any equipment or ductwork permanently in your home.
So, the real question isn’t how efficient an energy efficient space heater is, but rather how effective it is at heating the intended space. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the two basic types of electric space heaters for warming those hard-to-heat places in your home.
Convection Space Heaters
Like an oven, convection space heaters work by heating the air in a given space. Most convection-type electric heaters use an electrical element to transfer heat to a fluid, typically oil, or a series of ceramic plates, which then radiate the heat into the air surrounding them.
Unlike combustion-style space heaters, which burn gas, oil, or kerosene to create heat, convection heaters don’t emit any harmful fumes and are, therefore, safe to use indoors. In addition, the heat-transfer oil used in this type of space heater never needs to be replaced.
Convection-style ceramic space heaters may include a fan and oscillate to help circulate the heated air throughout a room. While a fan in your device may help heat a space faster, it won’t necessarily heat it up any more efficiently (in terms of energy) than a heater without a fan.
We recommend a convection-type electric space heater in the following spaces:
Bedrooms (fan-forced convection heaters are recommended for bedrooms with children and pets as most are cool to the touch)
Living rooms or family areas
Infrared Space Heaters
Infrared space heaters are so called because they use infrared radiation (don’t worry; it’s perfectly safe) to heat objects and people directly within their line of sight, as opposed to heating the air around them. Think of a charcoal barbecue grill or a campfire, which cook food through direct heat. The same principle applies here.
Whereas most convection space heaters take time to warm up a space, the main advantage of infrared heaters is that you can feel the heat immediately. In other words, whereas convection heaters are generally better at heating spaces over time, infrared heaters are generally better at heating locations within a space right away.
There are also what’s called “parabolic space heaters.” These heaters use a metallic bowl behind the heating coil to help focus the direction the radiant heat travels and can project that heat surprisingly far in that direction. Parabolic infrared heaters are particularly a wise choice if you’re going to be sitting or working in one spot for an extended period of time.
All infrared heaters create a visible, orange glow, which some people find appealing but others may find distracting.
We recommend an infrared or parabolic electric space heater in the following locations:
Offices and other workspaces
Bedrooms without children or pets (remember: never go to sleep while your heater is on!)
A Word About Safety
As with any electrical appliance, there is always a risk for injury when using a space heater. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that portable space heaters cause about 1,200 injuries each year. Not to mention, space heaters represent a potential fire hazard if used improperly.
To stay safe, we recommend the following best practices when using your energy efficient electric space heater:
- Keep all sides of your heater at least three feet away from any walls, beds, curtains, paper, clothes, and anything else that may catch fire
- Never run a space heater’s cord under any carpet or rugs
- Avoid using extension cords
- Keep your space heater away from water and avoid touching it if you are wet
- Always place your heater on a stable, level surface where it will not get knocked over
- Don’t leave your heater on unattended or while sleeping
- Keep electric space heaters in an area where children or pets won’t be able to touch them
- Wait a minimum of 25 minutes after turning off or unplugging your space heater before touching or moving it
- If any part of the cord or the outlet feels hot to the touch, unplug your space heater immediately and notify your product’s manufacturer
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