Everything You Need to Know About Space Heaters in 2019

Everything You Need to Know About Space Heaters in 2019

Heating has been on our mind since the dawn of time. And the last 100 years have been a revolution for heating in terms of superior products and greater ability to cost effectively have it in our homes and offices. Here's a brief history of space heaters so you can get a better understanding of how they work and how far we have come.

History Of Space Heaters

Central Heating

Before space heaters were around, humans have always found ways to keep themselves warm. In earlier times, a fireplace was used to keep everyone cozy during harsh winters. However, other systems such as electric heaters and furnaces have gained popularity recently.  

Romans were of the first civilizations to use heating systems. They invented a central heating system that channels hot air from a furnace that would travel through pipes. The Romans ensured that the heaters were behind walls and pipes, to help improve the appearance of their homes without sacrificing warmth.

Early Koreans had a system similar to this. Instead, they would use excessive heat from cooking stoves to help retain heat indoors. Early Muslim architects would place their heat under the floors to help make the building warm.

By the end of the 19th century, the cost of heating was reduced. This was due to the production of cast iron radiators, which are inexpensive to create. By 1895, Steve Lennox became the first man to invent and market the first steel coal furnace.

​Because of the lack of electricity at the time, the heat would travel via natural convection instead of through the fans. However, this heating solution wasn't effective at keeping the house warm.

Invented right after the turn of the century, Albert Marsh founded Chromel: an alloy that's created out of 50% Nickel and 50% Chromium. There are some variations that use iron as an alloy.

The new alloy heralded the introduction of electrical heating elements in the market. And, the heater was 300 times stronger than the other materials. Albert Marsh is known as the "father of the electric heating industry”.

Centreal Heating

Alice Parker is credited for creating the first central heating system in 1919. The heating solution was a huge contrast to the models that were invented before it.

It gave people a simple means to regulate and manage the temperature throughout their homes. This invention was proven to be successful as people did not have to stay near a fireplace to stay warm.

The prototype of convection forced wall heaters began in 1935, and it uses a coal furnace, ductwork, and an electric fan to help evenly distribute heat throughout the building. In the middle of the 20th century, recessed wall heaters were common in many apartments and homes.

Another benefit of wall heaters was that they are temporary fixtures and can be moved around the house. During off seasons, you can detach them and store them inside a closet or garage.

Today's heaters are constructed out of advanced light metals, which makes them very durable. The heating elements that are used are ceramic materials or a group of coils and tubes that channel heat for maximum efficiency.

Also, electric heaters come with an electric blower to force warm air to travel is its desired direction.

What Are Space Heaters?

What are Space Heaters

Space heaters are small heating devices used to heat up an enclosed area. This is a contrast in comparison to central heating, which is used to heat up multiple areas at once.

Space heaters are powered by electricity or through other materials such as gas, fuel oil, or propane. Space heaters tend to be electric because they need a permanent exhaust for the heater to burn off fuel.

Using space heaters correctly is a great way to save up money. Space heaters only provide heat to the location that they're placed.

You can place one in the room you're currently in and watch it heat up the area quickly, usually through convection (or through circulation by the same way that HVAC heats). You can even use a radiant heater to directly heat the area that's in front of a heater.

Space heaters use less energy than HVAC appliances running at the same temperature, which helps you save money on power. You can also save money by turning off the HVAC system while your space heater is on.

You'll stay just as warm, but you're not wasting heating power in rooms that you're not currently in. Space heaters only consume power while they’re in use, so unplugging it when you’re done only saves you more money on energy bills.

To maximize their effectiveness, use a space heater that’s properly sized for your room and find if it uses the most effective and safest heating source.

Types Of Space Heaters By Power Source

Here are the three main types of space heaters that are commonly used in households and professional buildings:

Electric

Space Heater Dogs

Electric space heaters work by sending electric currents through a wire of high resistance. The heat is generated through the process. All of the electric heating is 100% efficient. This means that all of the energy that goes through the electric heater will be converted to heat. There was no energy that was wasted.

Most electric space heaters generate 1,500 watts or about 5,118 BTU (British Thermal Units). That’s all the energy needed to heat up a single room.

The only feature that affects how much an electric heater can generate is its wattage. No matter how the heating cabinet can hold it, electric heating will remain the same. And buyers have to understand how electric space heaters work or risk paying for a model that doesn't suit them.

When buying your first space heater, you have to pay attention to how much wattage it will take up. If you want to lower your bills, try to get one that's at a 750 watts rate.  There are some models that have a speed that can increase up to 2000 watts, so think about it the next time you get a space heater.

Gas

Gas Space Heaters

In some areas, having gas-fired heating systems is popular. This includes free standing, floor furnaces, and wall mounted heating, all characterized by their small heat output and their lack of ductwork. Due to the lack of ducts, they are useful for warming up a single room.

If multiple heating rooms are required, either more heating is necessary, or the doors between rooms have to be left open, or another heating method is needed.  Better models tend to use "sealed combustion air" systems, with the pipes, are installed through the wall to carry off combustion products and provide combustion air.

These units create an acceptable performance, usually for cabins and buildings where temperature differences between bedrooms and main rooms are acceptable. These models can be used via gas or propane, and there are some models that burn off kerosene.   

Solar

Collector panels

Solar space heaters are a great way to reduce expensive heating bills throughout your heating season. They work beside your current heating system to use the sun's solar energy to reduce the consumption of propane, oil, and other fuels.

Traditionally used with solar excavated tube connectors, solar heating systems work to create free, solar heating for your house throughout the entire heating systems.

On average, an American family spends more than $2,000 a year on heating costs. Heating systems that are reliant on fossil fuels (natural gas, propane, oil, etc.), will only to continue to rise in cost.

With a solar space heating system, you'll be able to take advantage of the sun's abundant and free energy. Heating up your home with solar energy will reduce your energy bills during the winter. Another benefit is that solar space heating systems can heat domestic water.

Solar space heating systems can reduce the number of greenhouse gasses and pollution that can result from the use of propane, oil, or other petroleum products.

Heating Categories

Electric Heaters can be divided by 3 categories. Here are the three most common ways space heaters emit heat throughout a room.

Convection

​Convection heaters have a unique design and are used to heat up the room and not the person. They create a hot air that rises through the ceiling, and allows the cooling air to fall through the floor, leading to the circulation of air in the room.

These heaters are either oil filled heaters or baseboard heaters. The oil and water based heaters are the most efficient and are warm to the touch.

Convection Currents

​Infrared or Radiative

Radiant heaters are used to provide heat to people or objects nearby. These heaters provide warmth when someone is standing in front of it and does it promptly.

Radation heatings

If you want fast heating, then this is the right choice. However, you have to be careful when using radiative heating devices. They can accidentally burn people or animals and are a huge fire threat when placed near combustible and flammable materials.

Combination

Heating and Cooling Combination

Combination heaters are a hybrid of radiant and convection heater. They use fans to distribute heat throughout your home but aren’t as sufficient as other heating types. They are a good option for anywhere in your home.

Electric space heaters create 1 unit of heat for each unit of electricity. To simplify, this means that every heater is 100% energy efficient. Geothermal heat pumps provide 3 units per unit of heat. This results in a heating power at 300% efficiency.

Heat Pumps

For climates that need moderate heating, heat pumps should be considered. During the summer months, the heat pump extracts heat from the house and transfers it to the outside air. However, it reverses this process during the winter, as it begins to bring in hot air throughout the house.

Heat pumps are transporters that transfer warm air from one place to another, depending on where it's needed and the season. Even in areas where it feels cold, the heating is present. Heat pumps move heat instead of generating heat, which makes it more efficient.

Note that heat pumps are better for areas that have moderate climates, and its supplemental heating source will be used for lower temperatures.

Additional Heating Sources

While these aren’t space heaters, these heating systems provide an alternative.

Fireplaces

Gas fireplaces are apart of a room's decor, they provide a warm glow, but they are not an effective heating source. With installations that rely on air that's drawn from the room in the fireplace for dilution and combustion, the fireplace will start to lose more heat than it provides, because a lot of warm air is drawn throughout the unit and has to be replaced by cold air.

On the other hand, if the fireplace has a tightly sealed glass door, a source of exterior air, it can be a great source of heat.

Are Space Heaters Safe?

Safety is an important aspect of Space heaters. Here we'll show some important safety features to look for when getting your first space heater.

Safety Features To Look For

When shopping around for a space heater, make sure that it’s safe to operate. This will prevent fires or other hazards in your house.

Shut Off Features

A smart sensor will automatically turn off the device when it overheats. You should also look for a space heater with a tip-over switch that will do the same if the heater is knocked over.

Sturdy Cord

Most space heaters have a cord that’s about 6 feet long. To stop it from overheating, don’t use a power strip or an extension cord with an electric heater.

Certification

Make sure that the heater your buy has a certification label from an independent testing organization, such as the CSA organization, Intertek, and Underwriters Laboratories.

GFCI (Ground fault circuit interpreter) Plug

Most home space heaters don’t have a GFCI plug, which is used to prevent shocks. Heaters without this plug shouldn’t be used around water, as advised by manufacturers.

How Much Energy Do They use?

Understanding the kilowatt

A kilowatt (kW) is a recognized global standard for measuring electricity. Energy companies will charge you by how much electricity you’re using by kilowatt hour.

Kilowatt hours

Kwhs

A kilowatt-hour is used to measure the energy that you're using. It does not mean the number of kilowatts that are used in an hour. It's a unit of measurement that equals the energy you'll use if you have a 1,000-watt appliance running for about an hour.

So if you turned on a 100watt lightbulb, it would take at least 10 hours to provide 1 kWh of energy.

Or a 2,000-watt appliance will use 1 kWh in about a half hour.

While an appliance that has 50 watts could be on for 20 hours before it reaches 1 kWh.

Understanding AC Heating

While most people associate their AC unit with the cold, the science behind cooling your home deals with heat transferring. Once the heat is removed or lost, the remaining cold air is used to cool home. In order to understand the system, let’s look at the major components.

Your central AC heating has two major components: the outdoor unit and the indoor unit. They work together to keep your home comfortable all year round.

Indoor Unit

The indoor unit is located in the basement or the closet, and it's near where the furnace is located. The unit has a coil box that has what is calls an evaporator. The evaporator allows for a refrigerant - a cooling fluid in the coiled piping which is known by a brand name called Freon - to absorb and evaporate heat. Once the heat is absorbed from the interior of your house, it leaves nothing but cool air throughout the house.

Just as water absorbs heat from the stove to evaporate (boil) refrigerant absorbs heat from the house. This means that both the refrigerant turn from water to vapor as they start to absorb heat. 

Outdoor Unit

How they work ACs

The outdoor unit is in the side or rear of the house, and it's where the heat from the interior of the house is dispersed. It has a fan, compressor, and a condenser coil. The heat that is absorbed from your house's air is transferred towards the refrigerant and is pumped to the out. As the heat is absorbed from your house is transferred to the refrigerant and is pumped towards the outward unit.

The compressor in the air conditioning system has its main job of moving the air refrigerant through the system. This is important because you can keep reusing the refrigerant to cool the house. The refrigerant is at a higher pressure and moves through the higher coil like the condenser. As the refrigerant goes through the condenser, a fan provides ambient air through the condenser coil which causes it to coil.

Central Heating vs. Space Heating

Central Heating vs. Space Heatings

Space heaters are less expensive if you're trying to heat up one room in your house. Based off of the findings by the Department of Energy, this is because space heaters are designed to heat up the person directly instead of using too much energy to heat up the entire room or house. So if 1-3 people want to be warm and they aren't moving too much, get a space heater. You should also get a space heater if your central heating isn't efficient.

However, if you have more than 5 people and your family is spread throughout the house, you need to resort to central heating. As long as you're using the device in 1-3 small rooms in your house, then central heating is a more efficient option.

To keep your heating bill down when having a central heating appliance in your home, make sure to check the thermostat. Place it at a temperature a little below comfort level and use extra means (warm beverages, clothes, blankets, etc) to feel warmer. 

Before usIng a space heater, check the manual and follow the safety instructions. About 25,000 residential fires occur annually because of an improper use of space heaters. And these cause around 300 deaths (as well as about 6,000 burn injuries). Carefully choose your space heater, set it up properly, and keep your pets and children away from it.

And if you’re trying to reduce your electric bill during the winter, don’t just rely on electric heating to stay warm. Wear warm socks and warm slippers (because if you warm your feet, then your body will become warmer). Combine it with heavy layers (long underwear, sweatshirts, and sweaters). Snuggle up with a loved one (your child, your pet, or your spouse). Use your blankets, and utilize your fireplace if there is one.

Space Heater Maintenance

Half of the home fires occur during December, January, and February. Here are some safety tips to help you maintain your space heater and keep it running properly:

  • ​Place the heater on a nonflammable, level, and hard surface. They are designed to sit o the floor and not a table.
  • ​Create a 3-foot pet free and kid-free zone around the heater.  Make sure never to put a space heater in a child room.
  • ​Keep your space heat at least 3 feet away from flammable materials such as curtains, bedding, and furniture.
  • Don’t use space heaters in a workshop or a garage near gas cans, near paint, matches.
  • Turn off the electric heater when you’re able to go to sleep or leave the room.
  • Unplug the space heater when it's not in use by removing it from the outlet. Check the cord for damage and don't use it if its worn or frayed.
  • Don’t plug in another extension cord or electrical device in the same outlet as a heater - this increases the chances of it overheating.
  • Install smoke alarms on every level and bedroom your house, and make sure to test it out monthly.

​​​​​​​​By using these techniques, not only will you improve the performance of your space heater, but you’ll also reduce additional energy bills. So take care of your space heater and watch how it takes care of you. They will remain warm as long as you clean them out at least bi weekly.

Conclusion

Space heaters are useful devices that help bring comfort to your home at a lower price than traditional heaters. However, there are some space heaters in the market that you can get at an affordable price. We suggest that you look at our buying guide and find out which one works the best for you!

Do you have any questions about using space heaters?

Leave a Comment: