Why Space Heating is Ineffective

A small, old space heater sitting next to a potted plant.

Space heating is a popular and convenient method of staying warm during the winter. It provides localized warmth with a variety of fuel choices and sizes. But space heaters should not be relied on for whole-home heating. Here’s why they are not worth the convenience.

How Space Heaters Work

Space heaters are portable heaters that can be used at your leisure when necessary. They come in varying sizes and are powered in a variety of ways.

When looking for a space heater, get one that fits your room’s size and satisfies your heating needs—aiming to heat an entire room and wanting a little more warmth for your legs, while on the couch, will require different units.

Space heaters work both with radiant and convection heat. They can use electric, oil, or gas fuel.

Safety Considerations

One of the most common criticisms of space heaters is that they pose a significant safety risk, especially older models. When using a space heater, make sure there is enough space around the unit that it is not vulnerable to starting a fire. This includes preventing children and pets from having direct access.

You should also never leave a space heater unattended, which makes whole-home heating nearly impossible. Seriously consider the safety risks when using space heaters. Some models are rated by Underwriter's Laboratory (UL), which means they have had safety inspections that are up to standards.

Space Heating Efficiency

The actual efficiency of a space heater depends on several factors:

  • The average temperature of the home
  • Efficiency rating of the heater
  • Whether there is a central heating system in the home
  • Local cost of fuel
  • Type of fuel used in the heater
  • Usage features

Space heaters can be more efficient when they have a thermostat attached, helping prevent the unit from working more than it has to. Older models of space heaters are also prone to having low efficiency, so if you have an old heater lying around, it may be time for an upgrade.

When we talk about efficiency, we’re comparing the use of space heaters versus whole-home heating with central heating, usually provided by a furnace. Furnaces, while not perfect, can provide much more efficient heat. This means you won’t be paying for wasted energy in your monthly utility bills and you’ll be getting a better result.

In many areas of the country, a furnace is necessary to heat a home during the winter. Space heaters are not equipped to prevent frozen pipes, which are commonplace in the northern part of the country. In areas like southern California, Florida, and other parts of the South, it’s less necessary to have a formal heating system, though many homeowners still opt to install one.

The convenience of space heaters falls by the wayside when you attempt to use them to heat your entire home. Heaters would need to be placed strategically, providing an even cover for different areas of the house. Space heaters should not be left alone, which means you’d need to be personally managing each unit. A central heating system becomes more convenient because you’ll be able to handle the whole home’s heat through a thermostat.

When Space Heaters Are Effective

If you’re going to use space heaters for heating a significant amount of your home, you should take great care to get the most efficiency and cost-effectiveness possible.

Space heaters work best if you tend to run cold, and they can help provide some warmth on freezing nights. They can also be useful if you live in a small home and are only trying to heat one or two rooms.

Heating Services in Elk Grove

Mac's Plumbing, Heating & Air has service you can count on for all your home heating and cooling needs. Call us today at (916) 794-8884 for more information on what we offer.