Space heaters are a nifty way to add comfort to high-traffic living spaces. When used effectively, they can even be more cost-efficient than turning up the thermostat. In contrast, space heaters have also been linked to an estimated 25,000+ house fires and nearly 80% of fire-related deaths in the U.S. each year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Operating a space heater safely is therefore paramount, but is the inherent risk worth the potential cost savings?
Generally, space heaters make sense when you want to add warmth to one or two living spaces for a finite period of time. A 1,440 watt energy efficient space heater costs about $0.20 per hour to run (at current energy prices in Minnesota). That’s quite affordable in short stints. For longer periods and bigger spaces, however, operating a gas furnace is only 43% of the cost of running space heaters, according to the Department of Energy.
The average cost of a space heater fire is over $50,000. So any cost-saving efforts therefore vanish quickly if the unit is not used properly.
Space heaters are a temporary heating solution and should never be left unattended or overnight while powered on. They should be placed on a level surface and with a minimum of 3 ft. clearance from all furniture, rugs, bedding, or other combustibles. It’s best not to use an extension cord. If it is unavoidable then use a heavy duty cord that has power ratings consistent with the label on the heater itself.
All-in-all, space heaters can make sense and cents for your home, but only when used safely and sparingly.