The Smart Do’s and Don’ts of Using An Electric Space Heater
A space heater can do a great job of making chilly rooms cozier and more comfortable. When used correctly, they provide you with a means to warm a specific area without cranking up the central heating system of the house. But to be effective—and safe—it’s important to select the right type of space heater, as well as one that produces enough heat for the area you want to warm up.
3 Types of Space Heaters
“Use space heaters as supplements, not your primary source of heat.”
The heaters covered below all run on electricity, which can be an expensive way to heat a house. And if you have multiple heaters working at the same time, you run the risk of overloading your home’s electrical system. With that in mind, it makes a lot of sense to ensure that your central heating system is properly maintained, to seal drafty areas around doors and windows, and to insulate the house to recommended levels. Doing so will help your space heater work most effectively.
Electric space heaters deliver heat in a few different ways, so let’s take a look at the top three.
- Convection Heaters – This is the process of heating the air within a space. Cool air crosses the heating element and is warmed. The warm air flows into the room, drawing more cool air across the heating element. There are a few different types of convection style heaters. Some use an electric coil, while others use a ceramic disk to produce the heat. Many models include fans to help blow the warm air into the room. These are good choices for areas where people move around within a space, such as a child’s playroom.
- Radiant Heaters – With these devices, the heat produced radiates into the room, heating only the objects it touches, much like the blast of heat you feel when you stand close to a roaring fire. These are good choices for spaces where people tend to remain in one place, such as a TV room or a home office.
- Combination Heaters – Some devices use both convection and radiation. Oil-filled space heaters are a good example of this. Many of these devices look like standalone classic radiators. The oil does not burn, but serves as a heat-carrying The electric element heats the oil, which then circulates through the fins of the radiator. The heat radiates off of the fins where convection currents in the room circulate the heat.
The Do’s of Space Heaters
When it comes to using a space heater, it’s a wise move to practice some safety to avoid any fires or health issues.
- Do buy products that carry the label of a recognized testing laboratory, such as UL (Underwriters Laboratory) or CSA (Canadian Standards Association).
- Do follow the manufacturer’s directions for use.
- Do buy the right size unit. Electric heaters list the amount of watts they consume to produce the heat. Figure you will need about 10 watts for every square foot of floor space. For example, a 150-square foot room will require a 1,500-watt unit.
Features that contribute to the safety of space heaters, as well as their efficiency, include:
- A programmable automatic thermostat that allows you to keep a room comfortable without constantly adjusting the controls.
- A tip-over switch that shuts down the unit if it falls over.
- Cool-to-the-touch exterior surfaces.
- Automatic shut off when the unit overheats.
- Multiple heat settings.
- A remote.
- A cord long enough to avoid using an extension cord. If you must use an extension cord, use a heavy-duty 14-gauge or larger cord.
- An energy-saving mode.
The Don’ts of Space Heaters
And, on the flip side, there are also some things you should avoid doing with your space heater.
- Don’t disregard the manufacturer’s directions for use and maintenance.
- Don’t leave the space heater unattended while it is on.
- Don’t let children or pets near the space heater.
- Don’t place it near flammable objects.
- Don’t operate in an area that does not contain a working smoke detector.
- Don’t hide the heater’s electrical cord under the carpet.
A Note on Space Heater Fuel
There are certain models of space heaters that run on kerosene and other fuels. Heaters that rely on the combustion of a fuel source and are unvented, which means they are not vented to the outside through a chimney or other flue, are banned from use in residences in many places. If they are allowed, follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use. Electric heaters do not produce the byproducts of combustion and, thus, they are safe for interior use.
So if the winters where you live fall between somewhat mild and very cold, a space heater can be a great investment for your home. But don’t be tempted to heat your entire house with space heaters – you’ll go broke! Instead, use space heaters as supplements, not your primary source of heat, and you’ll be much happier – and warmer – in your house this winter.
Guest Author Bio: Fran Donegan is a DIY-for-the-home authority, and he writes on energy-saving tips for The Home Depot. Fran’s heating tips are geared to provide you with numerous options for your home during the winter months. To research a variety of space heating options, you can visit the Home Depot website.