Many people who want to save on heating bills try switching off their central furnace. Then, they turn to operating a small indoor space heater instead. With its petite size and smaller output, it might seem like these little heaters use less energy. However, the reality is they can cause all sorts of problems. Not only do space heaters result in higher utility bills, but they can also cause numerous safety risks.
Comparing Indoor Heater Costs to Central Heating
When looking at the costs to heat the same amount of space, central heating wins hands down. Using small electric space heaters costs 43% more than a gas furnace, according to the Department of Energy. The problem with small indoor heaters is they are only meant to briefly warm up a small space right in front of you. To warm up an entire room to a comfortable temperature, they must run nonstop for hours.
Even though an indoor heater might be smaller than a furnace, it produces a huge energy drain. Since an indoor heater usually can’t warm up the whole home, people end up running multiple heaters at once. This cost quickly adds up. Meanwhile, furnaces or other large central heaters are carefully designed to warm an entire home, so they use fuel more efficiently and run less often. The only way it’s cheaper to use a space heater is if you’re running a single heater in a very small space, and this doesn’t reflect the reality of most homeowners’ heating needs.
Potential Safety Issues Associated With Space Heaters
For most types of indoor heaters, the biggest danger is from fire. These little heaters get extremely hot, so they can easily start a fire if they’re near the fabric, paper, or other flammable materials. Every year, indoor heaters are responsible for roughly 55,000 fires and more than 1,500 serious injuries. These fires can hurt you and your family, and they can also damage your home. Having to replace important belongings and find a new place to live during the middle of winter is a stressful experience no one wants to have.
Many indoor heater fires start when a blanket, curtain, or other similar pieces of fabric falls against the heater. However, you may have problems with fires even if you’re not falling asleep with a space heater located by your bed. Electric indoor heaters draw an enormous amount of power. This makes it easy for them to overload a circuit, especially if you’re running your heater while also watching television or working on a computer. Sometimes, this additional load just leads to an annoying power failure. However, in other cases, it can lead to an electrical fire. Depending on where the fault in your system occurs, the fire could start in a separate room from the space heater, making it harder to notice and put out.
Even without starting an actual fire, indoor heaters can still cause dangerous burns. Although many space heaters have all sorts of safety guards, they all tend to have at least one or two spots where they become extremely hot. If you or a family member happens to brush up against a heater, it can be hot enough to cause instantaneous burns. The danger is especially high for children and pets who may accidentally grab or lean against its super-hot surface.
If your indoor heater burns fuel to generate heat, such as a gas-powered heater or a wood-burning stove, another potential problem is its effect on your indoor air quality. Any indoor combustion-based heater has the potential of venting dangerous byproducts into the air. Carbon monoxide and other chemicals can cause issues like headaches, difficulty breathing, nausea, and dizziness. In cases where enough poisonous fumes build up, the poor air quality can even be deadly.
Ideally, these sorts of space heaters should only be operated in areas with proper ventilation, so the dangerous combustion byproducts can go outside. However, it can be surprisingly easy for ventilation systems to be disrupted. Something as simple as tripping over the indoor heater can cause a ventilation leak that ends up allowing dangerous fumes into your air.
When Should You Use Indoor Space Heaters?
With all the potential dangers and high costs of indoor heaters, you might be wondering why people even bother with them. They may be problematic as a main source of heat, but they can be useful for supplemental heat. An indoor heater can warm up a small area like a bathroom to provide extra warmth after a shower. They can also be useful if one member of the household likes their room warmer than others. Just remember to only run it for an hour or two, here and there, if you want to keep your energy costs low.
Be sure to follow these safety tips if you decide to use an indoor space heater:
- Check heaters regularly for frayed wiring
- Avoid use in areas with a lot of moisture
- Never leave a heater running while sleeping
- Place it out of reach of children or pets
- Don’t use with extension cords or power strips
- Never leave it on when leaving your home
- Only operate in rooms with carbon monoxide detectors
Find a Better Alternative
Ultimately, using indoor heaters that are just meant to heat a small space within your home as your main source of heat is a bad idea. Not only do they cost more to run, but they also have the potential to cause fires, burns, and other health problems. A small indoor heater can be helpful if your heater is broken, but it is never meant to be your main source of heat for an entire winter. The safest and most cost-efficient option for indoor heating will be some form of central heating.
There are all sorts of styles of indoor heating, so it is easy to find one that fits your budget. Electric furnaces are one of the simplest options, and they are very easy and affordable to install. However, they tend to be a bit pricey to operate, especially when the temperatures drop lower. Gas furnaces cost a bit more upfront, but since natural gas is usually cheaper than electric, they can be more affordable in the long run.
Another option that many homeowners enjoy is a boiler system. This system uses hot water to heat your home through radiators, heated baseboards, or radiant flooring, resulting in very energy-efficient heating. Heat pumps are also a popular type of high-efficiency heating. These warm your home by collecting bits of heat from outside and then concentrating the warmth inside your home. Heat pumps are becoming an increasingly popular heating choice because they’re incredibly energy efficient and can also cool your home during summer.
To find the right heating option for your home, turn to Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning. Residents of Syracuse trust us for all their heating installations, repairs, and maintenance needs. We also service air conditioners and commercial HVAC systems. Our fully licensed and trained technicians are known for providing high-quality and reliable customer care. To schedule your next appointment with Holbrook Heating & Air Conditioning, give us a call today.