How to use energy efficient space heaters to save energy & money

This is a guest post from Jeff at who has many great ideas on products that will move you more to Self Sufficiency by being more energy conscious.

After the recent record cold spells experienced by much of the United States, you may be dreading the arrival of the electric, gas or heating oil bill. Now’s the time to start planning to handle the next cold snap more efficiently and cost-effectively… and energy efficient space heaters might work well as a part of the plan.

Now, you may be thinking “Aren’t space heaters energy-hogs?” In most cases, yes… and setting up multiple space heaters around the house to run constantly won’t help with the utility bills… it’ll probably raise them even more. But if you approach your home heating more strategically, and choose the proper space heater for your situation, you can cut those energy bills while staying warm.

Use energy efficient space heaters to heat spaces… not the whole house

Your furnace is designed to heat your whole house. While newer models are very efficient, they’re still heating spaces that you may not be using. By turning the furnace down, and using a space heater in a room or rooms that you’re using frequently, you can save energy. Keep these tips in mind to get the most out of this approach.

  • Only use electric space heater inside. Fuel-burning heaters are designed for outdoor use or permanent placement (with proper venting). Carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t an appropriate trade-off for energy savings!
  • Use a newer-model heater to get the highest energy efficiency. If you need to buy a new one, make sure that it’s thermostatically controlled (so you don’t overheat the room), and that it’s certified by Underwriter’s Laboratory as having all of the current safety features.
  • Consider purchasing a radiant heater rather than a convection heater. Traditional convection heaters rely on moving air to heat a room; radiant heaters emit infrared radiation that directly heats up objects and people that are within their line of sight. They heat up quickly, and are more efficient that convection heaters.
  • If you buy a convection unit, consider one with heat transfer liquid. The liquid (often oil) stores heat, so the heater doesn’t have to cycle as often. You may also want to consider a ceramic heater, which is also more energy efficient.
  • Turn the space heater off when you’re not in the room. This is smart not only for saving money, but also for safety.

Finally, always keep in mind that improperly used or monitored space heaters are a major fire hazard. According to the U.S. Department Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters, along with fireplaces and chimneys, cause nearly 25,000 fires and 140 deaths every winter.

Stay safe, stay warm, and keep the utility bills down. Please share any tips you have with us on making the most of space heaters as a part of your strategy to save energy and money.

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog, which now offers green shopping in addition some of the best eco-themed content on the web. You can follow him on Twitter @sustainablog.

5 Responses to “How to use energy efficient space heaters to save energy & money”

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  1. My home in the past has been primarily heated through a furnace run on propane. If you have checked out the price of propane lately you would understand the reason that we went to radiant electric heat.

    By doing this we have been able to better control the heat of our home in areas that we live, without heating the rooms that we don’t.

    As you stated, our energy costs have greatly decreased and our comfort has greatly increased. We also eliminated the fear of carbon monoxide poisoning.

    Thank you for the cost saving and informative article. Although all costs of energy are going up, electricity is still very efficient when used properly.

  2. Almostgotit says:

    Radiant heaters are very nice… they don’t heat space, they heat objects (including us. And radiant heat really feels good, too…) And of course, at the risk of being obvious (but we Americans can be a little dense sometimes) *wear more clothes in the house when it’s cold!* For indoors, I’ve found that thick bulky layers can get in the way of working at my desk or in the kitchen, so I’ve discovered that sleeveless vests (wool, or even goose down) are lovely layers to wear instead. And my husband (raised in cold Wyoming) will even wear a hat indoors sometimes (50% of heat loss is through the head!)

    • Almostgotit,

      Ah ha, I have to disagree. According to a very reliable source, actually it was a comedy show yesterday, that is a myth. If you exposed your bum to the cold air you would lose more than if you exposed your head, just about surface area.

      At least that is what the very intellectual comedian said yesterday 😉

      It’s going to be more layers for us for a while now as, gasp, we are running low on firewood for the estufa.

  3. This is really a very effective article even though I live in India, I still think this is a great idea because it actually save energy. Everyone should forward their hand on saving energy no matter they have the money to pay the bill or not.

  4. Johanna says:

    Hi. Just got around to reading this post. I enjoy your blog, and missed it when y’all were missing for a couple of months.

    Some things in this post I agree with, but I can’t agree with the oil-filled space heaters vs radiant fan-forced space heaters.

    I live in an elderly mobile home in Texas that I’m repairing as I can.

    In the winter of ’06-’07, I used exclusively oil-filled heaters. I was gone 16-18 hours per day and had no pets, so the place was unheated daily during that time. When home, I only heated a 12′ x 16′ space using 2 heaters. Even wearing multiple layers, hats, coats, etc. my highest electric bill was $141.00 US.

    I didn’t live there for two years afterward. I did install insulated skirting, but I can’t say that made the difference. Read on…

    In ’09-’10, I realized that the radiant heater I’d only used when bathing did a better job of making the original space comfortable, so I switched. I heated a 12′ x 41′ space using 2-3 radiant heaters and now have a small dog, so I never completely shut off the heaters unless the weather allowed. I also was comfortable enough that I could go without the coat, and could wear a shawl with a heavy long-sleeve shirt or sweatshirt and long-johns under jeans. Both winters I had two multi-day freezes (remember, it’s central Texas), and my highest electric bill was $139.00 US.

    Not a very scientific study. However, I have to conclude that the heaters made more difference than the skirting installation. The improvement in my quality of life? Wait for it… priceless.

    Please keep up what you’re doing, I’ll get there someday.