Looking for an ENERGY STAR space heater? Give up now…

Looking for an ENERGY STAR space heater? Give up now…

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By Jeff McIntire-Strasburg

space heater Seen the forecasts for heating fuels prices? Yep, they’re going up again… so you may be looking into cheaper, more efficient ways to heat your home this winter. You may have already done some searching, in fact, for portable space heaters certified by the government’s ENERGY STAR program. Smart move, but one with a surprise waiting for you: there’s no such thing as an ENERGY STAR space heater.

The program provides no reason for its choice not to rate these products, but a good guess: space heaters use quite a bit of energy period (as do other products that mainly serve to produce heat). And the safest models — electric space heaters — are the most expensive to operate.

So, should I avoid space heaters?

Not necessarily… as the Department of Energy points out, you can save money with portable heaters… but only if you choose the right models, and use them properly. If you want to save money with space heaters this winter, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Turn down the thermostat: A space heater makes the most sense if you spend a lot of time in specific areas of your home… heat that space rather than the whole building. That means, of course, that you need to turn down the furnace…
  • Consider a radiant heater vs. a traditional convection heater: Traditional space heaters heat spaces (duh!); radiant heaters, however, heat objects. If you can set one up with a clear line of site, a radiant heater will keep you warm much more efficiently than a convection model.
  • Consider a convection heater with a heat transfer liquid: A radiant heater won’t work for you? Than look at electric convection heaters that incorporate a heat transfer liquid (often oil). The heating element warms the liquid stores some of that heat, so the heater itself doesn’t have to work as hard.
  • Look for a thermostatically-controlled heater: Heating a room too much not only makes you uncomfortable, but wastes energy. A space heater with thermostatic control allows you to set the temperature, and avoid the waste of overheating.
  • Check the sizing table on the heater you’re considering: Make sure the space heater you purchase is designed for the size of the room in which you plan to use it. If it’s too small, you won’t be warm enough (or you’ll always run it too high); if it’s too large, you’re using more energy than necessary.

Finally, remember that space heaters cause about 25,000 fires each year, which result in about 300 deaths… generally from improper use. Don’t put your safety at risk! Keep in mind that a new space heater will probably run more efficiently than an old one, and also contain the latest safety features. With electric heaters, buy one with a tip-over switch that automatically turns the unit off if it falls over. With models that use liquid fuels, make sure they’re properly sited and vented. And, of course, don’t leave a space heater running in an empty room.

You can include space heaters in your plans to stay warm for less this Winter… if you use them wisely. If you have other ideas for making efficient use of portable heaters, please share them with us.

Author Information

Jeff McIntire-Strasburg is the founder and editor of sustainablog, a green blog and product comparison engine. Come by to take a look at our current listings of energy efficient space heaters.

Image credit: ritingon at Flickr under a Creative Commons license

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Categories: Consumer Tips