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How much does it really cost to run electric space heaters?

Can Electric Space Heaters Save You Money?

You may already know the answer. When outside temperatures drop, it is common to turn up the heat in your home. However, you may be looking for a more cost-effective way to heat. Have you heard claims that purchasing a “magic” space heater will slash your electric bill by up to 50 percent, or that you can heat your home for pennies a day? What these advertisements do not tell you is how many pennies it will actually take. Your local electric cooperative advises members to be cautious of such claims and investigate fully before purchasing a potentially costly space heater.

To achieve the savings these “magic” space heater advertisements claim, you must turn the temperature in your house down to between 50 and 60 degrees and move the heater with you from room to room. Not only is this a potential safety hazard, you also sacrifice convenience and comfort in the rest of your home.

How Much Energy Does a Space Heater Use?

Electric plug-in space heaters are not more efficient than other electric heating sources. and Another thing to note is that all electric space heaters are equally efficient. An electric space heater rated at 1,500 watts will use the same amount of power (1,500 watts), producing the same amount of heat regardless of what you pay for it.

In addition, electric plug-in space heaters are not more efficient than other electric heating sources, and all electric space heaters are equally efficient. An electric space heater rated at 1,500 watts will put out the same amount of heat regardless what you pay for it.

You would be better off to take the money you would spend on a space heater and put it toward weatherization improvements to your home, such as adding insulation and caulking. 

Calculate the Cost of Running an Electric Space Heater

Before you purchase an electric plug-in space heater that claims to lower your heating bill, consider the operating costs. The cost to operate depends on the type of heater and the size of the room you are heating. Use the formula provided to calculate the operating costs of an electric space heater or any electric appliance. For example, we’ve calculated the true cost of running a 1,500-watt space heater 24 hours a day for 30 days. Here's how to calculate operating costs for your space heater:

Watts x hours of operation ÷ 1,000 x kilowatt-hour (kWh) electric rate
  Watts Running hours per day Cost per kWh Cost per day Cost for 30 days
Space heater 1,500 24 $0.10 $3.60 $108
Here's the math:  1500 x 24 = 36,000     36,000 ÷ 1,000 = 36    36 x 0.10 = $3.60    $3.60 x 30 = $108

Space Heater Fire Hazards

When using an electric space heater in your home, it’s important you’re aware of some of the associated dangers. As an example, nearly half of all home fires occur in December, January, and February. Space heaters, whether portable or stationary, account for 43 percent of home heating fires and 85 percent of home heating fire deaths.

Space Heater Safety Tips

If you do decide to use an electric space heater, here are a few things you should know to do so safely.

• Keep the heater at least 3 feet from flammable items such as curtains and furniture.
• Choose a heater that is certified by a nationally recognized testing institution such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
• Select a space heater with a guard around the heating element.
• Keep children and pets away from heaters.
• Be sure the heater has an automatic shut-off switch if it tips over.
• Never leave a space heater unattended.

To learn more safety tips, visit our space heater safety page on our Members First website.

How You Can Save Money on Heating in the Winter

There are many ways to remain warm during the chilly winter months without the use of an electric space heater, such as dressing in layers and using an electric blanket at night. These kinds of ideas provide a quick solution, but may not be comfortable or convenient.

If you are looking for long-term fixes for your heating needs that will help to save you money, your cooperative has a program called Take Control & Save to help members manage energy use and reduce their energy consumption in smart ways during the winter months. Using energy wisely will help members keep their electricity bills as low as possible while maintaining comfort.

Instead of using an electric space heater, here are few other things you can do to your home to help you save money on your utility bills this winter.

• Install a ground-source or air-source heat pump that will heat your home in the winter and cool your home in the summer.
• Install a programmable thermostat. Turn it down when you are gone for the day and when you are sleeping.
• Add insulation, caulk, and weather-strip.
• Strategically place fans at low speed to pull warm air from the rest of the house into the cooler space.
• Change your furnace filter regularly. A dirty filter forces the furnace to work harder, decreasing its efficiency and increasing heating costs.
• Have the duct work in your home inspected by a professional. Ducts may have come loose and could be feeding warm air into your attic or crawl space instead of the living areas of your home.
• Complete a home energy audit and implement the recommended measures

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