space heater instead of house system??

behaviorkeltonFebruary 1, 2007

I posted this in the "heating A/C" forum as well:

I'm new to winter living... mild Tennessee winter...but I'm a Florida native. Anyway -

I'm experimenting with more economical and enviro friendly ways of keeping warm. I live in a mostly uninsulated old house with a new dual fuel central a/c & heat system (heat pump and gas 2.5 ton, small house).

Instead of running this big unit to heat the whole house, is it better to run one of those little ceramic space heaters just in the area that I sit?

Basically, I'm either at my desk, or the lazy boy chair. The little heater keeps me plenty warm although the house is chilly. (I don't insist on being totally toasty)

So let's assume I keep two of these heaters running on low (900watts each) most of the time. At night, I turn them off and use a heating blanket for sleep.

It *seems* more efficient than heating the whole house although I will have to wait until my electric bill arrives to get an idea. I don't know how to do the wattage cost calculation (particularly when I have to figure on the watts/gas cost of my central system)

What do you think? Surely, these tiny little heaters don't use anywhere near the energy as the big unit outside? right? Especially since the central system has to (try) to keep up with this inefficient house.

It's a little extreme and nontraditional, but it just rubs me the wrong way to heat a whole house when it's just me and my gal (no kids or parrots or hairless dogs).

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The "Heating A/C" forum has some fact filled posts for you. I have a den that was converted from the house's original one car garage somewhere back in the 50's. That room can be pretty unpleasant during Minnesota's traditionally coldest months of December thru February. Normally, the electric portion of my energy systems bill runs on average of $17 and change to $20.00 a month. Using a space heater, although mine is a baseboard type rather than ceramic, the electric bill jumps between $57 and change to $60.00 a month. And this is with responsible use - turning it off at night or when the room isn't going to be used for any length of time etc. If your other electricity using habits haven't changed appreciably, you'll definitely be able to tell if space heaters are cost efficient (or not) for you.

    Bookmark   February 1, 2007 at 6:07PM
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I'm also considering a space heater since I have baseboard heating that is expensive in my small condo. However, I've started looking at the small decorative electric fireplace types such as one that looks like a wood stove. Miss having a fireplace!
This weekend I'm going to check out the wattage facts on the ceramic & other. Hope something is on sale, so I can start using it....would be able to tell by the bill.
Think it's a good idea!


    Bookmark   February 3, 2007 at 1:38AM
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So here is where I'm at with my silly little tightwad project.

Target is having a big sale on their heaters, so I reluctantly bought one of the oil filled radiator type heaters... less than half price. I didn't really want one, I thought, because I assumed that it would take too long to heat up.

It actually heats up to a pretty good level well within 5 minutes.

I pulled my two recliners close to each other and put the radiator between us. A king sized quilt lays across both chairs and the heater. I'm thankful for the tolerant girlfriend.

It works like a charm...almost too warm!...and this is at the lowest setting! In addition, I have the thermostate set very conservatively, so it cuts off frequently (but remains quite warm).

At that low setting, it takes only 600 it's cheaper and safer than other kinds of heaters.

I'm guessing that my central (gas) heat requires between 20 and 30 cents per hour to run. The space heater uses probably less than 5 cents per hour. Granted, neither of them run continuously, but that's the estimate I'm going with for now.

Here in east Tennessee, electricity is 8.5 cents per Kilowatt hour...which, I am told, is rather inexpensive. Anyway, this means that it costs 8.5 cents per hour to run a 1000 watt heater.

Sharlee, I did quite a bit of looking at heaters on the net and looked at some in the stores. Most ceramic heaters require between 750 and 900 watts on the low setting, and they all seem to jump up to 1500 watts on high. As I said, the oil-radiator heater goes down to 600 watts and that is more than enough for my application.

I saw an even smaller radiator type electric "personal" heater that uses only 400 watts. I would have bought one if the local stores carried it.

If I can get away with this "system" of keeping warm, I feel like I would have succeeded in beating the expenses and wasted energy associated with colder weather.

Of course, this requires that you don't mind a rather chilled house. I'm the kinda guy that likes to experiment around with aspects of life and I generally like the idea of saving resources.

I can't stand it when the utility company practically begs it's customers to reduce their energy usage so that we won't have brownouts... and then hearing neighbors running their central heat systems full blast. I guess people insist on being as warm as a summer day no matter what!

Good luck. Tell me what you decide.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2007 at 5:44PM
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What happens if you decide to get up out of your recliner? Are you going to freeze?

    Bookmark   February 3, 2007 at 10:46PM
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I have a well insulated single wide mobile home as does my DD next door. We are in the country and i have butane and DD does not. I have central heating and air. Last year i payed $300 for the whole year (a big jump)for butane and abt $60 to $90 a month for electricity.
I have a butane space heater and cook stove which is also a live saver if electricity goes off.

DD pays $120 to $180 a month and keeps her home very cool in winter and 78 degrees in summer.
The older i get the warmer i want it in winter or summer which also makes it more important to have heat when and if electricty goes off.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2007 at 7:45PM
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It got down to 19 degrees last night. The house, with only a 600 watt space heater, got down to 51 degrees... but the space heater was in the bedroom during the night and that room was quite comfortable. Tonight it gets down to 15, and that is probably going to be the last of winter's fury for this season.

51 degrees is, to me, somewhat uncomfortable having just awakened and walking through the living room... but then again, I don't insist on being toasty at every moment during the winter. Somehow, that just seems too decadent!

I'm not familiar with butane... well, maybe in lighters....but $300 for the year sounds like a bargain.

You are heating a small, well insulated space. My place is just over 1000 sq ft, but as I said, it's essentially uninsulated.

On a side note, I have often thought that having a cheap, used single wide in a great/beautiful location might be the most economical ways to live if you can tolerate the whole 'single wide' thing! Trailers depreciate, but if you buy an already depreciated trailer situation, you are all set.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 11:10AM
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You're going to keep the house warm enough for the plumbing not to freeze, right?

I lived in an apartment in Chicago that had faulty heating (gas leaking). So I just used an electric heater in my bedroom and shut the door.

BTW, I live further north than you in Ohio, and I use my heat pump for the whole winter. My house is 1700 sq ft plus a full, finished basement. It's all electric, and my highest electric bill, ever, peaked at $130. And I like to be warm. If that's any help.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2007 at 4:25PM
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Just so you know, those oil-filled radiators can be a fire hazard. We had one almost catch fire earlier this winter. (We use them in our unheated second floor bedrooms) I wouldn't leave them running when you're not home.

FWIW, I like my house warm, too. We've packed and stuffed our old house with as much insulation as we know how to put in....LOL, and our utility bills are not horrible--less than $200/mo for gas and electric on budget, all year. And yes, I run the central air in the summer. We have about 2000 sq/ft.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 6:30AM
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I BEG you not to leave your space heater on all night!! I'm also uncomfortable with placing a blanket over the heater, even when you're awake (which in my case doesn't last long in a recliner). What if it shorts or catches the blankets on fire?

Last time I looked, electric blankets tend to have warnings about leaving them on for too long or when asleep.

Saving money and resources is commendable. IMO, however, it's not worth losing your life or home. If you want to keep a space heater on when you're up and about, fine. But do yourself a favor and do the central heating thing at night.

One more thing--do you have power outages often? What would happen if your house was at 51 degrees, and then there was a power outage preventing you from using your space heaters? Starting off that cold, you'd be down to freezing conditions a lot quicker than if you started off warmer.

It's really easy to install a programmable thermostat. This allows you to have the house chilly when you're not home or asleep, and then warmer when you're up and about. It saves money and hassle--no more remembering to lower the temp.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 12:50PM
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I am absolutely amazed at how little some of you are spending on power. We in Washington State have always been told that we get very low rates because of the Bonneville dams - but my winter electric/gas bill is running close to $300. We are running the temp higher this year because my husband wants to know what it would take to keep me warm and comfortable here so he doesn't have to move to the SW.

Could one of you give me a ballpark figure on what a heat pumps costs?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 3:55PM
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I think I have the electric radiator arranged safely, but I appreciate your concern.

Devorah, heat pumps cost 700-800 more than central a/c.

If the temps fall much below 40, though, I believe the heat pump becomes very inefficient.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 5:47PM
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Simply wanted to tell you since it's warming up here in Oregon I'm waiting on a space heater until I find the "right" one.....whatever that might be! Did stop in at Target, but radiator heaters were not available altho' everything's on sale right now.

I see you're really having a cold spell in the SE. Until this past year I used to visit folks in Nashville & spent time in Crossville & over to No. Carolina. You're in a beautiful part of the country!

Keep Warm!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 11:34PM
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I bought one of the Edenpure infrared heaters this year for my basement. I feel very safe using it because it doesn't have heating elements, it uses commercial infrared bulbs. It seems to work nicely and I haven't seen a hit on my electric bill for it, yet. I read about it on THS someplace, but they are very pricey.

So many fires are started in the winter from space heaters. I used to worry about the one I used in my bedroom in Chicago at nights.

Here is a link that might be useful: Edenpure

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 9:36AM
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behaviorkelton, We got our mobile home when we retired and were'nt looking for an investment just something to last us for our remaining years. We did build a regular roof over it and a large screen porch and some nice outbuildings,one my DD,s have dubbed the condominum. as it has a bed, table, lamps, besides shelves for storage and an electric space heater.Everyone wants to stay there when they come to visit.

We live on 30 acres of hardwoods on top of a mtn in the Ozark National Forest. So i understand what you want too.
you two stay warm

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 12:42PM
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In Japan, people rarely use central heating. They feel that it is too expensive in terms of energy cost. Each room is heated as needed basis. Japanese power consumption per capita is a fraction of what it is in the US.

Sharlee, a few times I have come across one of those decorative electrical fire places do not seem to heat the space at all. It is purely decorative.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 8:47PM
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Hi again!
With these 50' days I've got Spring Fever, so will deal with the heater later.

Did see mention of Edenpure on the Money Saving site & sounds nice, but out of my price range.

Yes, I'm sure you're correct on the decorative electric fireplaces. However, one of my friends has what she calls a potbelly stove (electric), altho' it resembles a small wood stove. It suffices for her needs to warm up LR in mornings. I'm at a point in life where I need to be practical & yet always had a fireplace, so that's where it comes in the picture. This same friend used to watch a video with a fire going at Mt Hood Lodge, but I'm not that desperate for ambiance. hahaa.

Take care all.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 5:31PM
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Well, it's good to know that another country (Japan) agrees with my idea! : )

Now, I'm moving on to alternatives to using the clothes dryer. Mine says that it uses 5400 watts. Obviously, hanging stuff out is the way to go, but I need to try to do it in a way that a) doesn't annoy the neighbors, and b) doesn't get "bird" on it!

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 6:35PM
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You hang it inside, in an unused or less-used room. It helps humidify that cold air, too.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 9:20PM
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