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Ken's Weekly E-Tip: What is the Best Electric Space Heater?

What Is The Best Electric Space Heater? 

The nip in the air reminds us that winter is right around the corner. That means turning on your heating system. Many members use electric space heaters to help supplement their main heating system, or to heat one room or work area. 

We get asked often what heater is the best and most efficient. Advertisements promise that certain models of electric space heaters will save 50 percent on heating costs. Many may wonder if this and other claims are true. In fact, depending on how portable heaters are used, consumers actually can see their total energy costs go up. And promises of whole-house comfort from portable electric space heaters are exaggerated.


Heat By The Wire, Not By The Fire

Electric heaters work by sending an electric current through a wire under high resistance. Heat is created in the process. All electric heating is 100 percent efficient. That means all of the energy that goes into an electric heater will come out as heat. No energy is wasted.

Most space heaters generate 1,500 watts or about 5,118 BTU's (British Thermal Units). That is about the amount of energy needed to heat one small room. 

The only feature of an electric heater that affects the amount of heat the unit can generate is wattage. No matter how elaborate the cabinet that holds it, electric heating is the same. And buyers need to understand how the electric heater works or risk succumbing to a pretty package.


What Will It Do To My Bill?

Use the following formula to calculate how much it will cost to operate a 1,500-watt space heater (or any other electric equipment):

Watts x hours of use ÷ 1,000 x cost per kilowatt-hour = cost of operation

This means that if a 1,500-watt heater ran 24-hours at a rate of 10.5 cents (CEC's rate) a kilowatt-hour, the cost would be $3.78 a day (1,500 x 24 ÷ 1,000 x $0.105). For a month that would amount to $113.40 added to the electric bill of the average member. CEC's Home Energy Calculator has a space heater calculator that makes the task easy to assess monthly heater costs. Use $0.105 for cents per kilowatt-hour. 

If you're going to heat with electricity, a better investment is a heat pump or an off-peak electric system. 
Both are far more economical to operate than electric space heaters.


Types Of Heaters

  • Convection heaters have a unique design and are used to warm the air in a room, not people. They produce hot air that rises to the ceiling and this causes the cooler air to fall to the floor, causing a circulation of the air in the room. These heaters are either baseboard heaters or water or oil-filled heaters.  
  • Radiant quartz tube heaters are designed to heat objects or people, not the air around it. They work great for those who sit for long periods in one spot, such as watching television or at a work bench. Care must be taken that non-flammable objects are kept away from the unit, as well as children and pets.
  • Combination heaters incorporate a  quartz tube heating element that directs  its  warming rays to a metal tube. A fan  unit  circulates air over and through the  tube  and dissipates the energy into a  room. The unit is safe around children and pets because the outer shell stays at room temperature. Many recognize this style with names such as Eden Pure and Amish heaters. Comfort has been reported to be their highest attribute. But please remember that operating costs are no better than an inexpensive $25 milkhouse heater.


Remember Their Use

Spot, or zone, heating is what portable electric heaters were designed to do. If a portable heater is used in one area and the thermostat for the main heating system is lowered, energy savings are possible. However, operating both the main heating system and a space heater will end up costing more.

Additionally, to achieve savings a portable heater must operate with a thermostat so it doesn't run continually. Heaters with multiple output settings let you choose the lowest setting that keeps a room comfortable.
Temperature control is key to saving energy.


Visit Our Website

To learn more about energy use and savings log onto Central Electric Cooperative's (CEC's) website at and click on Home Energy Calculator or Together We Save.


Earn $25 Bill Credit

Let CEC install a load control device on your electric water heater and earn a $25 one-time bill credit and a monthly $2.50 bill credit. Load management helps stabilize future power costs. Over $350,000 was saved in 2013 by member participation in this program. It also improves reliability by taking demand stress off of our distribution system at critical times. Call 800-521-0570 x2195 to learn more. Members having a water heater installed by the cooperative are not eligible for the credits. 


Load Control Alerts

Participants in our load control program for electric heat and water heaters can find out when and how long control periods are predicted by logging onto and clicking our Twitter logo. Please remember that these are only predictions and actual times may vary. You can also sign up for email alerts by contacting me at


Energy Efficiency Seminar

Energy efficiency seminars are available for schools and organizations to cover such topics as lighting, insulation and building infiltration. The program lasts about 30 minutes and can be scheduled by calling 800-521-0570 x2172 or email

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