May 03, 2019
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Space Heaters may be the number one culprit of high energy bills in Mason County.
Do you have some space heaters plugged in around your home to help keep the temperature up this winter? Perhaps it is because your heating system can’t keep up with cold temperatures? Maybe your home is under-insulated, not well sealed against drafts, and the cold just can’t be beat? Portable space heaters provide close-area-comfort, but they can also provide a surprising hit to your electricity bill at the end of the month. One of the questions we get in such circumstances is “How can such little heaters use so much electricity?” The simple answer is that space heaters use lots of electricity on their own; especially when teamed up with others throughout a home or business.
The Columbia Basin Hearald has a great article about some of the risks associated with heating your home with space heaters.
Most electric space heaters are rated at 1,500 watts. In operation, all 1,500-watt electric space heaters produce the same amount of heat and use the same amount of electricity, regardless of cost, brand name or style. Each 1,500-watt portable electric space heater costs up to $75.00 per month to operate. This includes oil filled portable space heaters. This can be tricky, because the oil in the oil-filled space heaters is used as a heat transfer liquid, not as a fuel. Electricity is the fuel.
Space heaters are intended to supplement existing heat sources, or increase the temperature of a small area for a short amount of time. They use convection, which moves heated air around the room. Others rely on radiant heat, which give off infrared radiation to warm people and objects that are in their line of sight and in close proximity. When choosing a space heater, perhaps under your desk at work or near your easy chair, a radiant heater can be slightly more efficient because they warm the object they are aiming at, rather than the air in the room. Consider a heater with a thermostat to ensure that it turns off when it reaches a selected temperature. Remember, as long as it’s on, if it’s a 1,500 watt space heater, it’s still using 1,500 watts of electricity, regardless of the heating method!
The reason people opt for using a space heater is that their existing heat system isn’t doing its job. Prime culprits include leaky ductwork, insufficient insulation, or a malfunctioning heating system. A poorly operating heating system, combined with space heaters, drives up the consumption of electricity and inflates utility bills.
If a house has leaky ductwork or a manufactured home has a disconnected crossover duct, a customer is essentially heating the great outdoors. Insufficient insulation means that precious warm air escapes easily into the elements. A malfunctioning heat pump system (perhaps a compressor is not working or there’s a refrigerant leak), means emergency heat strips turn on and the cost to run it can skyrocket. Adding space heaters is a costly band-aid, and may not address your real heating issues! If you suspect your heating system isn’t working properly, contact a heating technician right away. The cost of putting off the inevitable often outweighs the proper fix.
PUD 3 has many great energy conservation programs available, including expert advice, low/moderate income insulation and duct sealing opportunities. If you have questions about your home energy usage, portable electric space heaters, insulation, ductwork, or heating systems, feel free to call an energy advisor in the PUD 3 conservation department at (360) 426-0777.
A final note: please be safe when using a space heater. Unplug them when not in use. Never leave a space heater unattended. For more information, see the US Department of Energy's Portable Heaters website.