Are Portable Space Heaters Efficient?

A woman and cat sit on a couch with a blanket. A space heater is on in front of them.

Small space heaters are meant to do exactly as their name says: heat a small space. Unfortunately, many people use portable space heaters to heat their entire home, which takes a toll on their energy bills.

Whether you should use space heaters depends on your home’s efficiency and energy needs. If you’re using a space heater to compensate for problems in your home—such as inadequate insulation, drafty windows and exterior doors, or an inefficient heating system—space heaters are not a practical solution. Your best choice is to improve the overall efficiency of your home.

Stay Warm with Efficiency

If you’re on a tight budget, caulking and weather stripping around windows and exterior doors is a low-cost, easy way to save energy. Depending on the size of your home, adding insulation can be a great next step. Loose-fill insulation typically costs $1 to $1.50 per square foot. Benton REA will pay up to $2 per square foot of attic, floor and wall insulation depending on the amount you add.

Benton REA incentives for whole-home air sealing are based on the reduction of air volume moving in and out of the home, measured in cubic feet per minute and determined through a blower door test before and after air-sealing. Benton REA will pay a rebate of 20 cents per CFM.

Taking these proactive energy-saving measures rather than relying on space heaters for supplemental warmth can reduce your heating and cooling bills for years to come.

When to Use Space Heaters

Perhaps your home is energy efficient, but you’re cold-natured and want a specific room to be cozier than the rest. In this case, a space heater may work.

A good comparison is ceiling fans. We use ceiling fans in the summer to cool people, not rooms. A space heater can be used in a similar way during winter months. Only use a space heater in small spaces that you’re occupying. If possible, try to shut off other rooms to contain the warmth provided by the space heater.

If you decide to use a space heater to heat a small area in your home, make sure the heater is properly sized for the space. Most heaters include a general sizing table.

A Word About Safety

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates more than 25,000 residential fires are associated with the use of space heaters every year, resulting in more than 300 deaths. If you must use a space heater:

  • Buy a newer model that includes the most current safety features and make sure it carries the UL.
  • Choose a thermostatically controlled heater to avoid energy waste and overheating.
  • Place the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic when in use.
  • Always keep children and pets away from space heaters.

Consider alternative ways to stay warm such as extra layers of clothing or UL-approved electric blankets. If you have hardwood or tile floors, lay down area rugs to provide additional insulation and maintain warmth.

We know it’s cold out there, but remember in addition to safety concerns, space heaters can greatly increase your energy bills if used improperly.

Benton REA Is Here to Help

If you’re looking for alternative ways to save energy and increase comfort in your home, contact Benton REA at 509-786-8265. We’re here to help you manage your energy use.

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