Bringing the Heat: Space Heaters vs. HVAC

Be strategic when finding ways to be toasty.

With the holiday season comes the winter season, so the temperatures are lower and the need for heat in the house is higher.

So when it comes to how often to use a space heaters versus an HVAC system, there is no one size fits all formula for the most cost-effective way to bring the heat. That being said, there are several ways to evaluate your gameplan and make sure your bills aren’t rising faster than the temperature.

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With space heaters, you want to keep an eye on how much energy it uses. the economics of this comes down to the wattage of your space heater, the efficiency of your heating system, and your utility rates.

So for example, your average space heater runs about fifteen hundred watts. Running that for six hours per day for thirty days will cost you roughly thirty to thirty-five dollars. Run it for ten hours per day and now you’re looking at approximately sixty dollars for those thirty days.

Whether that makes sense for you primarily depends on the size of your house and the temperature you’re looking to keep it at. Bob Hawkins, who specializes in HVAC for CDL Electric, reminds us that electric space heaters do pose their risks, and while they can work well when we’re in-between seasons, they’re not designed to be a primary source of heat.

“The problem with the electric space heaters is they don’t have all the safeties designed into them to shut themselves off if something is wrong. So to plug one in and leave, you may come back to a burned down house. If you’re going to use them, check the cord periodically, you have a problem.”

At the same time, proper use of a well-designed space heater can be a nice way to compliment your main heating system when you want to give it a minute to breathe.

The Department of Energy says dialing back your thermostat seven to ten degrees for eight hours per day can save you as much as ten percent annually on heating and cooling.

Here are some great resources and online tools from the Department of Energy you might find helpful: