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Space Heaters are Power Eaters

Date: February 20, 2017
Topics: Press Releases

“If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” That saying rings especially true when it comes to most claims about space heaters that indicate they can dramatically cut your heating and cooling costs. Many people turn to space heaters—both electric models and those powered by kerosene or even wood— as a convenient source of warmth in winter months, believing that they’ll actually save on their electric bill. Don’t be fooled by its small size.

Space heaters only warm a small area. You may save some money if you turn down the thermostat (sometimes to as low as 50 degrees Fahrenheit), set the space heater in a room with people in it, and then close off that room from the rest of the house. But space heaters cannot come close to replacing energy-efficient central heating or weatherization improvements. And often times when space heaters are placed in a low-profile area such as water well house for warmth during freezing temperatures, we forget about them when the temperatures rise or until a noticeably high electric bill arrives. So while it’s technically possible to cut your heating bill using space heaters, for most people, it’s impractical.

“When it comes to saving energy, there are no magic solutions,” asserts Brian Sloboda, senior program manager for energy efficiency at the Cooperative Research Network, the research arm of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association. “Anyone promising to slash your utility bill by double digits is stretching the truth to the breaking point. Buying ENERGY STAR-rated appliances, unplugging battery chargers and other ‘vampire’ electronics, and sealing air leaks around windows and doors are some of the best ways to save money and energy.”

The bottom line: there’s no substitute for good old-fashioned energy efficiency measures like weather stripping around doors, caulking around windows, adding insulation to your attic, plugging leaks in ductwork, and regularly cleaning or replacing furnace filters.

Learn to live with these space heater safety tips.

  • • Keep the heater at least 3 feet from flammable items such as curtains, furniture, or bedspreads.

  • • Select a space heater with a guard around the heating element.

  • • When buying a heater, choose one that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing institution such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).

  • • Buy a heater that can handle the area that you want to heat.

  • • Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.

  • • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

  • • Never leave a space heater unattended.

  • • Never go to sleep with a space heater on.

  • • Never use or store flammable liquids near a space heater.

  • • Do not use a heater in a bathroom–it’s a high-moisture area that could cause damage.

  • • Keep heaters away from water to prevent electrocution.

  • • Do not use an extension cord with a space heater.

  • • Do not use the heater to dry clothes.

  • • Be sure the heater’s plug fits snugly in an outlet. The cord and plug may feel warm when operating since the unit draws so much power, but they should not feel hot. If they do, unplug the heater and have a qualified repair person check for problems.

  • •  Do not attempt to repair a broken heater yourself. It should be checked and repaired by a qualified appliance service center.
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