All Things Electric

Cheap Space Heaters

Posted on 12/19/2011 by Greg Newell in Home Heating
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Do the cheap space heaters work? What are the pitfalls of buying a cheap space heater? Is there any difference between the expensive space heaters and the cheap ones relative to heating up a room?

 

In a word, no.

The amount of heat generated by a space heater is determined by how much energy it pulls from the outlet. So when you're shopping specifically for how much heat a particular unit can deliver, it's all in the wattage. The highest available wattage is usually 1500 watts. Forget efficiency ratings. Poor efficiency converts into what? You guessed it - heat! What usually sets space heaters apart is durability, cosmetic appeal, settings and type of heat.

TYPE OF HEAT

Heaters offer a range of heating types. There's infrared, ceramic, quartz and probably a handful of other types. To greatly simplify this, there are really two types of heaters - regardless of the elements involved. Those with a fan and those without a fan. Most of the little plastic ones, like the one you see pictured have a built in fan. Radiant heaters do exactly that...they "radiate" heat. You can still heat a room but most people find them to be very directional. For general room heating, ones with fans seem to deliver a more even heat.

FEATURES

I'm not a salesman for either Walmart or whoever manufactures this particular heater...just so you know. But it does have all the features I'd consider necessary. It has a fan, a thermostat and multiple settings. This one has 4 settings (off, fan only, half, full). The fan delivers a more even heating pattern in the room you're heating (versus radiant). The thermostat allows the unit to turn off when the room is hot enough. There is nothing fancy about the thermostat mind you. There's no temperature setting. You just turn the know to the point where the unit turns off when you feel that the room is in your comfort zone. When the room cools, the fan will turn back on. Hey, it works.

COST

Besides the cost of the unit itself, does a space heater save money in heating? That depends. If you have a space heaters in every room in the house and your're trying to create a warm and cozy home without the home furnace kicking in, save your money. The cost for electricity is probably more expensive than the cost to operate the furnace to generate the same heat in your house. But then, that's not the point. You should be running space heaters where you need them, when you need them. (When is a key point and we'll get to that). The judicious use of space heaters can allow you to turn the thermostat down considerably without giving up the warmth you want in the room where you spend the most time.

TIMING

The one feature that usually does not come with the cheaper space heaters is a timer. For example, if you want your kitchen to be warm when you get up in the morning, you might want the heater to kick in before you get up for that morning coffee run and then turn it off for the rest of the day. You can do it yourself of course, but it would be nice if this were done automatically. For the budget minded, you can still keep the $19 space heater and use an outlet timer (like the ones used for turning on and off christmas tree lights). Note: you could also use one of those outlet timers to turn your electric blanket on and off just before bedtime.

SAFETY

Safety is a big concern with space heaters and it should be. You should always heed the warnings and recommendations associated with the use of any electrical device you purchase and this is particularly true relative to heating devices. This isn't a blog about space heater safety but here is some information that can help you understand space heater safety concerns. In general, consideration needs to be given relative to where the unit will be used, who will be near it (kids and toddlers for example) and the electrical environment that the unit is operated in (does it meet code). 

In short you can do well, even with the $19 space heater from Walmart. Without going into brand recommendations, read the reviews on the web for these types of units and buy something that a lot of people like and have purchased. Don't let price be the only determining factor.

 

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Posted on 12/19/2011 by Greg Newell in Home Heating
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