Homeowners might use space heaters or portable heaters for a variety of reasons. Maybe they think that they will waste more money by nudging up the thermostat. Perhaps one room of the home is prone to feeling drafty. Maybe they live in an older home and not all rooms offer central heating.
While space heaters can help provide extra warmth, they also could pose issues and add to energy costs. Can an energy-efficient room heater help homeowners warm their home and not sweat over the energy costs? Here’s what homeowners need to know before they plug in a portable heater.
Energy-Efficient Room Heaters Aren’t Labeled
While homeowners can find many energy-efficient appliances for their home, an energy-efficient space heater isn’t among the options. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t energy-efficient options, but these appliances currently are not currently qualified for the ENERGY STAR label. In addition, ENERGY STAR notes that the Environmental Protection Agency also doesn’t have plans in the future to qualify them for the label.
Homeowners that want an easy way to identify the most energy-efficient room heater might be out of luck. Instead, they may need to look to other resources to find their best choices. The Department of Energy provides a few tips for selecting a room heater and recommends consumers:
- Purchase newer products. Look specifically for the Underwriter’s Laboratory label.
- Opt for a model with a thermostat. This lets homeowners control the temp and the energy use.
- Make sure to select a size appropriate for the room or space.
- Keep the heater on a level surface…and away from kids and pets.
Obviously, homeowners should be careful about the placement of the heater. Don’t set the heater in an area that could cause someone to trip.
Finding the Right Size Heater for the Space
The Department of Energy notes that homeowners shouldn’t buy a larger heater, as the appliances are labeled to help homeowners find the best size. When shopping for a space heater or portable heater, know the room size so that it’s easier to find the best option for the room.
Heaters come in different types, too. Home Air Guides lists six different options of space or portable heaters for homeowners to use:
- Ceramic heaters
- Fan heaters
- Infrared heaters
- Oil-filled heaters
- Propane heaters
- Panel heaters
All these options have positives and negatives associated with them. For example, ceramic heaters are great for small spaces, but anything blocking the heater can block the heat, too. Not all propane heaters can safely be used inside, and these units also pose an increased risk of fire and explosion (per Home Air Guides). It’s important that homeowners understand any safety risks before using any type of portable heater. And, again, not every type of unit is appropriate for indoor use.
Looking for the most energy-efficient space heater? Bob Vila’s website breaks down the options. The site recommends the Dr Infrared Portable Space Heater. It’s fairly reasonably priced; homeowners might even score a deal online.
Using Space Heaters Safely
Space heaters need to be used safely, as they can pose a fire risk. The Consumer Product Safety Commission explains that these appliances should not be left unattended. In addition, homeowners also need to check the plug, outlet and cover to ensure that the appliance isn’t overheating. The plug should be secure in the outlet—not wiggly. Of course, the heater needs to be placed away from anything that could catch fire—drapes, furniture, etc. The heater also must be level.
In addition, the CPSC notes that homeowners shouldn’t use broken heaters or space heaters near a water source. The heater also should include an OSHA mark, and homeowners should NOT place the cord of the heater beneath rugs or carpet.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), portable heaters were responsible for more than 80 percent of the deaths associated with fires caused by heating sources. Between 2014 and 2018, 500 individuals lost their lives to fires caused from a heating source (like a fireplace, portable heater, etc.). Homeowners should use caution when using personal heaters or any heating source.
Other Ways to Warm Up!
Older homes that lack complete central heating might rely on space heaters or portable heaters for extra warmth in some rooms. However, homeowners who feel drafty in their home (with central heat) might want to look to the root cause of those cooler rooms.
Some homeowners might simply feel chilly. Space heaters could be an easy solution to provide a little extra warmth. However, if some rooms are noticeably cooler, there could be other issues. Homeowners should check windows to feel for drafts. Film insulation over windows could help trap in heat and provide a little extra protection against the elements.
Rooms also could feel cooler if the insulation is subpar. Homeowners might hire a pro to check their home’s insulation. Doors also could be a source of drafts. Weather stripping beneath doors also could need to be replaced.
The HVAC system also could be a culprit. Homeowners can check the vents to feel for proper air circulation. Is the air blowing cooler? Maybe the vent is closed! If homeowners notice that their furnace is blowing abnormally cool, they should call a pro to check it out.
While using an energy-efficient room heater could seem like a convenient option to provide extra warmth to a room or space, currently the EPA doesn’t qualify these appliances for an ENERGY STAR label. Homeowners on the hunt for their most energy-efficient option might need to do a bit of research. Before using portable heaters, though, homeowners who notice a draft in a room or the entire home should look for the reasons causing the cooler environment. Fixing the issue could save more energy in the long run!