A small electric space heater can save money on energy bills if you warm up the area around you and keep the temperature lower on the central heating system, leaving the rest of the house cooler. However, you have to buy space heaters wisely and use them carefully. 

If misused, space heaters can be dangerous and expensive to operate. You should not use electric space heaters to warm up every room, but you can efficiently heat a small space around the desk in a home office, for example. Safety and efficiency are the keys to using electric space heaters.

Space heater safety

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission links space heaters to 25,000 house fires and more than 300 deaths each year. The biggest dangers can be avoided with some common sense and basic guidelines:

  • Don't leave the heater on when you are sleeping or away from the house. 
  • Don't use electric space heaters in a bathroom or near water.
  • Put space heaters on a level surface in an area where children, pets and others can't walk into them and burn themselves.
  • Buy a new model with the Underwriter's Laboratory safety seal and a safety guard around the heating element. Also, look for a space heater with an automatic trip switch that turns off the heater when it falls over.
Space heater energy efficiency

A big reason to use an electric space heater is to save energy and lower power bills. Make sure to maximize energy savings by choosing the right space heater and using it efficiently.

Most importantly, use electric space heaters sparingly to provide extra heat in one room. It is too expensive to use electric space heaters to heat the whole house. Though electric power may be cheaper per unit than natural gas or heating oil, the cost of electric heating is higher.

For cost savings, turn down the furnace to 55 degrees F and put a space heater in a child's room or near a regularly used spot, such as your office desk or an armchair where you like to read. Smaller spaces are easy and inexpensive to heat with a radiant space heater. The alternative option is a convection heater, which relies on air circulation around the room to spread the heat.

To maximize efficiency, check wattage and size rating listed on the space heater and choose the right heater for the size of your room. Also look for a space heater with a temperature control so you don't overheat the room or constantly switch the unit on and off.

The Eco-heater Whole Room Heater uses as little as 400 watts to heat (4 cents per hour based on an estimate of 10 cents per kilowatt hour) a room.

You can take advantage of electricity savings with an electric space heater. Just buy and use it carefully to maximize safety and savings.

Steve Graham originally wrote this story for Networx.com. It is reprinted with permission here.

How to use space heaters efficiently
A carefully used, energy-efficient space heater can save on energy bills while providing comfort.