Text by Mary Hunt
Just as I was knee-deep in researching, testing and learning all I could about electric space heaters, this letter popped up in my inbox.
Dear Mary: I need your help to figure out how we can reduce our home heating bills. It’s killing us to pay so much to keep our house warm in the winter. We have a gas furnace, and where we live, the cost of gas has gone up more than 10 percent while, at the same time, the cost of electricity has gone down slightly.
Our home is a two-story with a basement. Our kids are grown, so it’s just the two of us. My husband travels for his work, so I’m the only one here most of the time. Thanks in advance for your help!
Dear Jeanine: An efficient and easy way to reduce your home heating cost is to heat only the rooms that are occupied and keep your furnace set very low. Use a space heater (or heaters) to make occupied rooms comfortable. You can rely on this method during the day, as well as at night.
You could easily see your heating bill drop 35 percent or more with these simple changes. It’s such a simple way to make a huge difference in your home heating costs.
Keep in mind that multiple space heaters could become less efficient and more expensive than running the central heat. It’s a matter of experimentation and careful tracking.
Just as I received your letter, I was in the throes of figuring this out for my own situation here in Colorado, as we were facing our first winter and the matter of heating the house. I learned that there are several types of space heaters, each with its own strengths.
Micathermic: This type of heater has an element covered in thin sheets of mica. The Bionaire Silent Micathermic Heater is a good example. The manual states that it produces both convection and radiant heat. The Bionaire creates immediate warmth – a nice, gentle kind of heat, not a blast of hot air. And it is a constant source of warmth – not a constant warming up to hot and then shutting off until it gets cold again.
Convection: Generally, a convection heater relies on the circulation of air within the room to heat the room. The fan blows air over a heating element, and the air is re-circulated into the room. Convection heaters push hot air up to the ceiling, which results in energy loss. Still a viable option, our pick for the best inexpensive convection space heater is the Mill Convection Heater that can be found for under $50.
Parabolic: The best inexpensive parabolic heater, the Presto HeatDish Parabolic Electric Heater for under $100, uses a computer-designed parabolic reflector to focus heat like a satellite dish concentrates TV signals. That makes it feel three times warmer than 1,500-watt heaters, yet it uses a third less energy. Because it warms you directly, you feel the heat almost instantly without it first having to heat the entire room.
Halogen: It operates using energy-efficient halogen lamps that provide radiant heat, which means that they heat up the objects that are around them but not the air. It does not operate with a fan, which should be good news for people who suffer from dust allergies. A good choice for a halogen heater is the Comfort Zone Oscillating Flat Panel Halogen Heater, in the $50 range.
Quartz: This produces infrared, which heats objects, not the air. The Holmes Quartz Tower Heater, a bit pricy at about $140, has an auto safety shut-off and tip-over protection to help prevent accidents. The quartz element glows red, making the front grille very hot and hazardous for young children and pets. It operates with a fan that cycles on and off.