How to Efficiently and Safely Use a Space Heater

February 17, 2016

When the temperatures drop during Colorado winters, your energy bills can increase as your furnace works harder to heat your home. If you’re sensitive to cold weather or if you want to save money on heating bills, you can use a space heater to warm up an individual room without touching your thermostat. However, be sure you’re using your heater efficiently and safely by following the guidelines outlined below.

Choose an Electric Space Heater for Indoor Use

Gas- and oil-powered space heaters work well for outdoor spaces, but because they burn a fuel, they’re dangerous when used indoors in enclosed areas.. If you’re hoping to warm up your bathroom, bedroom, or office, select a portable electric model. These type of heaters do not require venting to the outdoors, and don’t negatively impact indoor air quality.

Choosing the best space heater for your home depends on how you intend to use it. All electric space heaters are limited in terms of the area they can adequately warm up, so be sure the unit you consider purchasing is rated for the approximate size room you want to heat.

Look for Key Safety Features

Make sure your space heater comes with safety functions that will shut off the appliance if it tips over or overheats. Unless the manufacturer’s instructions tell you otherwise, place the heater at least three feet away from walls, furniture, curtains, rugs, and anything else that could catch fire. Whenever possible, place the unit on a non-combustible surface, and be sure the unit sits firmly wherever you place it.

Every time you use the space heater, check the cord. If you spot a torn or frayed cord, replace the unit. When the unit has been operating for a little while, feel the plug where it connects to the outlet receptacle in the wall, to make sure it’s not getting too hot. If the plug seems unusually warm to the touch, unplug the unit and contact your electrician or heating company. Avoid using extension cords with your heater, but if you have absolutely no choice, use a heavy duty rated cord, and the shortest extension cord that will do the job. Be sure to check all connections for overheating and inspect the cord while the unit is operating.

Protect Your Home and Family

Space heaters pose a few safety risks, so be careful when you turn them on. No matter how cold you get, avoid standing directly in front of a unit that has a heating element radiating directly out the front. The concentrated heat could cause burns or dry skin. (Some oil-filled, radiator-style space heaters do pose this particular risk.) Similarly, keep the appliance away from areas near pets or small children. Always read the user manual thoroughly before operating the unit.

If you have only adults in the house, you can put a heater on the floor. Since heat rises, you might feel the effects faster that way. Avoid placing space heaters on wood or natural-stone surfaces because the units might discolor the material. Alternatively, look for a model specifically designed to rest on porous materials. We recommend that before purchasing an electric space heater you take the time to learn about the various types now available (basic radiant, oil-filled, infrared, etc.) and their heating capabilities and design features, to see if you can find the best fit for your needs. Your local hardware store is a great place to start!

Use Your Space Heater Wisely

When you invest in an electric space heater, look for one that will fit your lifestyle. In addition to different designs and styles, some have remote controls, so you can change the fan speed or temperature from across the room. When you’re at home, close doors if you’re using the heater to warm a specific room.

Keep in mind that space heaters heat only small areas of your home. Adding insulation or upgrading your furnace might make more sense over time, since those changes impact the entire house and are also value-added investments in your home. However, space heaters can improve short-term home comfort in relatively small areas as long as you use them properly.