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Save Money On Your Electric Bill With Space Heaters And Electric Blankets

Updated on December 13, 2015

Using Space Heaters To Reduce Your Heating Costs

My portable convective space heater that I use during the winter to warm just my bedroom so I can leave the natural gas heating off when it's not needed.
My portable convective space heater that I use during the winter to warm just my bedroom so I can leave the natural gas heating off when it's not needed. | Source

Are Space Heaters A Good Option To Reduce Your Electric Bill?

First and foremost, I have to advise that using space heaters to cut cost on your electric bill is primarily applicable to anyone who uses electric heating, such as an electric furnace to keep their home warm. Depending on where you live, other heating sources may or may not see a similar benefit to dialing the thermostat down for the whole house and using a space heater to warm the room or rooms that you're using.

For example, someone in Florida using a heat pump with emergency heating as a backup has less of or even no benefit to gain since ambient outdoor temperatures may not get so low as to require the emergency heat to kick in, if ever. On the flip side, someone using the same type of heating system in New England can stand to benefit, especially when a cold snap hits or when ambient temperatures are generally so low that the emergency heating has to kick in because the heat pump can't extract enough heat from the air outside the home.

And of course, other scenarios where space heaters might not benefit someone could be if they use natural gas heating since typically in most areas, this is cheaper than electricity. However, anyone can stand to save by turning the thermostat down and either dressing a little more sensibly to stay comfortable, or by using electric blankets or mattress pads to cut back on either electric or fuel bill costs.

How Can I Save Money On My Electric Bill During Winter?

Winter is always an interesting time, not just with the holidays, family gatherings and the chance for snow. However the downside of winter, especially if you rely on electric heating or a heat pump. The drop in the temperature can bring on a staggering rise in your electrical bill.

You can save a significant amount of money and conserve energy by turning the thermostat down by a few degrees and dressing more sensibly by wearing a sweater, sweatpants and socks for example, instead of wearing shorts and a T-shirt. However, you can go a step further and get even more significant savings by lowering the thermostat a little further to 65ยบ Fahrenheit and heating only the rooms that you and/or your family use. To do this, you can heat individual rooms with space heaters. There are a primarily two different types of heaters, and one may be more suited for your needs than the other.


Radiative Heaters

Radiative heaters can heat a room quickly, thanks to the fan built into these units. They are able to circulate the warmed air around a room, although they tend to be noisy. Most of these are fairly portable and contain safety features such as a tip-over switch that cuts the unit off if turned over in order to prevent fires and accidents.

Some convenience features you can find on many models are thermostats, which you can set a specific temperature (on digital models) to maintain in a room, and different heating modes, like low or high. High mode causes the heater to draw full power and provides the most heat, while Low mode simply causes the heater to draw less than full power, typically half of the maximum 1500 watts that most radiative heaters can draw, and will still heat a room, just more slowly. There are also small radiative heaters that are small enough and draw less wattage than your typical heater that can fit easily on or under your desk at work which can keep you warm in a frigid office.

Convective or Radiator Space Heaters

The operating controls on convective space heaters are almost always located on a single side of the unit, letting you choose the power setting from Low to High, and letting you adjust the thermostat on the unit to suit your preferences.
The operating controls on convective space heaters are almost always located on a single side of the unit, letting you choose the power setting from Low to High, and letting you adjust the thermostat on the unit to suit your preferences. | Source

Convective Space Heaters

Oil-filled convective heaters are another option if you want something quieter. These types of heaters look similar to old-fashioned boiler radiators that you might see in older buildings and homes. Most of these heaters are designed with wheels on the bottom to make them easier to move around. There is no fan in a convective space heater as they rely on the fact that warm air rises and cold air sinks, so they create their own air flow just by heating up the metal fins and allowing physics to go to work. Cold air near the ground is warmed up by the fins and rises.

These radiators can keep a room warm, however keep in mind that the trade off for quietness means that one must wait a bit longer for a room to be warmed up with one of these heaters. For the majority, these heaters are also safer around pets and children since the heat is spread more evenly and across a greater surface area than most radiative heaters. If you were to touch a heated fin, you'd know it was hot but it wouldn't be enough to burn you so quickly, giving you time to react. Many of these types of space heaters also have built-in tip over safety switches.

Just like the radiative heaters, you can find the same convenience features, like thermostat dials which will let you adjust how often the heater operates to control your room temperature, as well as high, medium and low power operating settings.

Safety Tips For Space Heaters

When using space heaters, you want to make sure you aren't using them improperly. First, you want to make sure that you aren't overloading any electrical circuits. Most space heaters operate at a maximum of 1500 watts, or up to 15 Amps. The majority of household electrical circuits, which are usually relegated to a single room, are rated for 15 or 20 Amps. Therefore you don't want to run multiple space heaters in the same room, unless they are plugged into a separate circuit to avoid overloading one and blowing a fuse or tripping a circuit breaker, or worst case, causing an electrical fire.

When considering a spot to place any space heater, you want to be mindful of any foot traffic. Place the space heater in a location where both it and its electrical cord won't be in the path of anyone walking by. That being said, you also want to keep the space heater away from any combustible materials like curtains, blankets, papers, etc...that could burn in the event of a fault with the heater. With radiative space heaters, don't aim them at a couch or directly towards your feet. With any space heater, radiative or convective, do not leave children or family members who have reduced sensitivity to pain unattended with one operating nearby.

What Space Heater Is Good For A Bedroom?

In a bedroom, if you're a light sleeper, a convection type space heater will be a better choice since they make the least amount of noise due to the fact that they lack a fan. The most noise they might make will be some slight creaking, or clicking noises as they heat up and cool down and the occasional click of the relay that turns the heating elements in the unit on and off to maintain temperature according to what you've set on the thermostat on the unit, if it features one.

Of course, for safety, you should always invest in a unit with a tip-over safety switch and position it away from anything flammable like papers, curtains or blankets for example.

What Kind Of Space Heater Should I Use In A Living Room?

In a living room area, rec room or really any other area of the home, a force-fan heater may be the better choice as they can warm a room up quickly since the fan in the unit circulates the heated air much faster than a convection heater.

Although they produce a more noise, which may not be a bad thing depending on how much noisy the area you're using it in is. For example, while watching TV, you probably can't even hear one operating. In a more quiet environment, say while you're reading a book, you can definitely hear one while its running and they can become more noticeable as they cycle on and off, if you're using a model that has a thermostat. That's why I prefer not to use this type of space heater in a bedroom since the fan cycling on and off wakes me up and can be extremely annoying.

Again, with safety in mind, place a fan-forced heater in a location where it won't have contact with flammable materials like paper, curtains or furniture and look for models with tip-over cutoff safety switches.

Electric Blankets And Mattress Pads

Electric blankets or throws are amazingly comfortable when one is just relaxing on the couch watching tv, or reading in a recliner.  Plus they're great gifts for the elderly!
Electric blankets or throws are amazingly comfortable when one is just relaxing on the couch watching tv, or reading in a recliner. Plus they're great gifts for the elderly! | Source

What If I Don't Need A Space Heater For The Whole Room?

For a single individual, a space heater may not be quite necessary in most cases. You can certainly get by with heated blankets or throws, which work wonderfully when you just want to snuggle up on the couch and watch TV, even if the household thermostat is set at 65 degrees or lower. Most electric blankets or heated throws have an automatic cut-off timer of at least 3 hours, so if you forget to turn it off, it will automatically stop heating and wasting electricity, or if you're still using it, you can simply turn it back on again.

Another option would be mattress pad heaters. These are the electric blanket's big brother. There are many models available on the market to fit all sizes of beds from twins, to queen and king size beds. Essentially these go on top of a mattress, much like a fitted sheet, which you can then cover with your usual fitted sheet and blankets. A control unit plugs into one end of the mattress pad, usually at the foot of the bed, and can be placed on a night stand and then plugged into the wall. The control unit has a thermostat that lets you control how warm the pad gets. Most of these feature a safety timer up to around 12 hours, which, if not turned off manually, the control unit stops feeding power to the mattress pad.


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