Learn More About Space Heaters
What are the differences between various types of heaters?
Convection heaters use special coils to quickly heat the air up and small fans to circulate the air around the room. Most of them feature a thermostat that keeps the air at the desired temperature.
A possible danger when using a convection heater comes from a risk of knocking it over and sending red-hot coils in contact with flammable materials. To reduce such risk, most convection heaters include some sort of an auto-shutoff system which turns the heater off if it is knocked over or covered. However, a convection heater can still be dangerous to use if you have little children or pets in the house.
Convection heaters are best used in the rooms you use during the day (living room, dining room, kitchen, office), or anywhere you need a good amount of heat in a short time.
Ceramic heaters have a ceramic disc as their heating element. The disk is usually hidden inside the body of the heater, reducing the risk of fire if the heater is knocked over. For their small size, ceramic heaters can provide you with a good amount of heat.
Ceramic heaters are somewhat slower to heat up then convection heaters. Another of their drawbacks is that you cannot control the temperature as precisely as you can with a convection or an oil-filled heater.
Ceramic heaters are a perfect shoice for a child's room, or an area frequented by pets, since they pose the least risk when knocked over.
Oil-filled heaters, also called radiators, feature a sealed reservoir filled with special oil. A heating element heats the oil, which can stay warm for a long time after the heating element is turned off. Most of them also include thermostats that turn the unit off when the air reaches desired temperature and back on when it cools down.
Just as it takes a long time for an oil-filled heater to cool off, it may take it a long time to heat up. But once it does, it will stay hot for hours.
Oil-filled radiators don't dry the air as much as other types of heaters, and so are ideal for people who suffer from dry skin or respiratory problems.
Oil-filled radiators may give off a smell when they are first used. This is normal, and results from the packing of the components. After being used for some time, the smell should fade.
Oil-filled radiators are ideal for bedrooms, where they can keep you warm throughout the night. This will allow you to turn the central heating system overnight, saving you a good amount on the heating bill.
Baseboard heaters radiate the heat upwards, heating the air right above them. If one is placed under a window (or somewhere where drafts are common), the rising current of hot air will meet with a cold stream coming into the room, warming it, and spreading across the room.
Do not, by any means, place a baseboard heater close to draperies or other hanging flammable materials! It can also be dangerous to knock one over - but that's where auto-shutoff systems come into play.
Baseboard heaters are recommended for use anywhere you need to stop incoming drafts - under a window, by the door, etc.
We would recommend using a convection heater in the rooms you use during the day (dining room, kitchen, or office - where you need quick heat), an oil-filled radiator in your bedroom (where it can keep you warm for the whole night), a safer ceramic heater in your child's room, and baseboard heaters wherever you need to stop incoming drafts.
What is a BTU?
A BTU is the measure of a heating or cooling appliance's capacity. Short for British Thermal Unit, this is the amount of heat needed to heat 1 pound of water by 1° Fahrenheit. As a rough example, the heat generated by burning a wooden kitchen match is 1 BTU. The typical heat gain added to a room by a person at rest is about 230 BTUs per hour.
How many BTU's do I need for my room?
Here's a somewhat rough way to figure this out:
1) First, multiply the square footage of your room by the height of it's ceiling. This will give you it's volume in cubic feet.
2) Multiply the room's volume by 4 if it has poor insulation; by 3 if it's insulation is average (3.5" thick insulated walls); by 2 if it has good insulation (6" thick insulated walls). This will give you a rough estimate of how many BTU's you need.
For example, a 10' x 10' room with a 8' ceiling is 800 cubic feet. It has average insulation, so we multiply 800 by 3, giving us 2400 BTU's.
Please keep in mind that this formula is very rough and does not take into account the climate you live in or your personal temperature preferences. If you live in a colder climate or prefer a higher temperature, you will need a heater with a higher BTU rating.
Since the power of many heaters is described in watts, rather than BTU's, you may still be left in the cold. To convert watts to BTU's, multiply the watts by 3.4. A standard 1500 watt heater typically puts out about 5100 BTU's.
How can I save energy while heating my home?
Use your ceiling fan. It may seem counterintuitive, but you can use your ceiling fan to help you stay warm. Most fans have a switch that will allow you to reverse the spin, sending warm air back down into the room.
Use the power of the sun. You don't need a solar array to use the sun's energy. Simply open your shades and let in the sun's heat during the day. At night, close them to help insulate your windows against heat loss.
Reduce uncomfortable drafts. Sealing up the air-seal holes, cracks and openings in your home reduces drafts and avoids potential moisture problems in the winter. After cracks have been sealed up, add insulation to stop heat from escaping through the walls and ceiling.
Invest in a good quality thermostat. A thermostat will keep it from becoming too hot or cold in your home. An overly cold home can mean you have a draft or poor insulation, and an overly warm home can mean that you are turning your heat up too high (and wasting energy).
Buy ENERGY STAR heaters. The government's ENERGY STAR is on products in more than 50 product categories for the home, including lighting, home electronics, heating and cooling equipment and appliances. ENERGY STAR qualified products provide the features and performance you want while helping you save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
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