Is it Cheaper to Run the Heat or Space Heater?

is it cheaper to run the heat or space heater
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There’s no better way to know that fall is here than when you start thinking about heating your home. You know what is ahead for the next few months – high energy bills. So you might be wondering is it cheaper to run the heat or a space heater? The answer is going to depend on a few things. Here’s what you need to know.

Heat or Space Heater – Which is Better for You?

It’s rather ironic that as I am sitting here writing this I am sitting in a chilly room with a sweater on because I don’t want to turn the heat on.

It’s not so much because of the cost, but I’m in the middle of replacing a 30 plus-year-old boiler with a new HVAC unit and all the ductwork.

At this point, I don’t really trust the boiler not to blow up, so I can deal with a chilly room. It does lead me to the question of whether or not it makes sense to get a space heater or two or just to tough it out until all the estimates come in for the new HVAC.

So far, we’re looking at about $14,000 and I can’t help but think boy-oh-boy I could buy a lot of space heaters for that much money, but down the road would I save money not using a heating system and just blasting my house with space heaters? 

Well, let’s find out what’s best for me and you.

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(You can read how I got myself drowning in debt here and how I got out of it here and here.)

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Things to Consider Before You Make Your Decision

There are several considerations you need to be aware of before you decide between using a space heater or your heating system.

1.The Size of Your Home

The larger your home, the more expensive it becomes to heat it regardless of whether or not you are using your heating system or space heaters.

Even so, there is a tipping point where one makes more sense than the other. If you are simply trying to heat one or two rooms in your home, the space heaters make more sense and will save you money, so in this case, a space heater is cheaper

This is also true if you are just trying to heat the part of the room you are in. 

For example, I’m sitting at my desk in my office right now, so I could put a space heater near the desk and I’d be toasty warm and saving money because I wouldn’t care if the rest of the room or house was warm.

I’m at my desk for about 8 hours per day, so this could save me a lot of money.

On the other hand, if you are trying to heat your whole home or several rooms, the scales tip in the favor of using your home heating system.

While it is possible to heat your whole home with space heaters, it will be more expensive than using your heat system.

So, in one or two rooms, it makes sense to use space heaters. For the whole house, you should use regular heat.

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2. How Willing You Are To Wear Extra Clothing

Do you mind throwing a blanket over yourself while watching TV? Does it bother you to wear a couple of sweaters to stay warm?

This is important because if you can handle your house being a bit cooler then a space heater might do as good a job for you as your regular heat. In that case, using a space heater can save you money.

Sure, if you turn your heat down, your utility bills will go down as well. 

But, if you are using space heaters in just a couple of rooms and can deal with lower temperatures in your home and don’t mind wearing extra clothing, then the space heater will come out the winner again.

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3. What Part of the Country You Live In

Let’s face it, where you live plays a major role in how expensive your heat bills will be. 

When I first moved to Florida from Illinois, it was in June and it was already hot. I rented half of a little duplex and turned the air conditioner on and didn’t give the rest much thought.

That was until one day when it got cold. Yes, it does get cold in Florida. Anyway, I went to turn the heat on and realized there was no heat. That was kind of a shocker and it never occurred to me that there wouldn’t be heat in the duplex.

Of course, it doesn’t stay cold in Florida for long, and it doesn’t get that cold. I think the worst I saw was 30 degrees at night for a few nights. 

So, in that case, a couple of space heaters, one in the bedroom and one in the living room did the trick.

I would also highly recommend an electric blanket. 

Now, I live in Illinois again. Winters here are very cold and in February it is not unusual for the wind chill to be below zero and every couple of years we seem to have a storm with 40 below wind chills…burr…

For me personally, a space heater is not going to cut it when it gets that cold out. Not to mention, the number of space heaters you would need to use would send your electric bill skyrocketing.

The bottom line here is that if you live in a warmer climate space heaters make a lot of sense and will save you money.

If you live in the frozen north, then using your heating system will save you money.

4. Do Space Heaters Make Your Electric Bill Go Up?

Yes, they most certainly do. Most heating systems, especially in the north are gas. Electricity is too expensive to heat your home in the dead of winter. 

So, if you are not using your gas-powered heating system and instead are using space heaters that run on electricity, your electrical bill will go up. However, your gas bill will go down.

You will need to compare how much you are spending on electricity and how much you are saving on gas to determine if the space heater is saving you money or costing you money.

5. Which Type of Heater is Cheapest to Run?

If you decide to try out a couple of space heaters, you need to make sure you get the right kind, or you will be losing money before you even get started.

If you do any research you will learn that Oil-Filled radiators and Halogen Heaters are the most efficient and the least expensive to use. You want the lowest amount of watts possible as the higher the space heater’s power rating in watts, the more money it will cost you to run it.

I used to have an oil-filled radiator space heater and I really liked it. It kept the room warm and I liked that there were no heating elements exposed. It just seemed safer to me. 

Are Space Heaters Dangerous?

Yes, they certainly can be and you need to use them with caution. This may be a better reason not to use space heaters than how much money you may or may not save.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, “Space heaters account for 43 percent of U.S. home heating fires and 85 percent of associated deaths.”

Safely needs to be one of your major considerations when deciding on whether or not to use space heaters or your heating system to warm your home.

If you are using space heaters, you will want to always turn them off when you leave the room. This means that you will have to re-heat the room every time you come back into the room. 

It will take about 35 minutes to raise the temperature 10 degrees. 

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Related Questions:

Can I Heat My House With Space Heaters?

Yes, you can, but if you are trying to heat your whole house, they are not the best option and will cost you more money in the long run. 

Not to mention, space heaters can be dangerous. 

How Long Does it Take for a Space Heater to Heat a Room?

It can take up to an hour for a space heater to heat an entire room to a comfortable level. It takes about 35 minutes to raise the temperature ten degrees. 

Of course, if the space heater is near you, you will start to feel warmer very quickly.

Can You Leave a Space Heater on All Night?

Honestly, you really shouldn’t. You should only use a space heater when you are in the room with it and awake and alert, so if anything happens you can get it turned off before it starts a fire.

If you are cold at night without the space heater, buy an electric blanket for your bed and you will be toasty warm.

To Sum it All Up:

Space heaters can be a cheaper option than the traditional heating system you find in your home, if you are only heating one or two rooms, live in a warmer climate, and don’t mind your house to be a little cooler. If you want to heat your entire house or live in the north part of the country, traditional heating systems will always be less expensive than space heaters.

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