Over the past century or so, space heaters have evolved dramatically, both in efficiency and safety. From ancient Roman hypocaust systems to modern wall-mounted space heaters, the revolution has led to thousands of companies entering the industry and contributing to extensive research meant to improve how heat can be distributed in the house in a safe, effective and efficient manner.
The competition for the consumer is very stiff as most companies have upped their game. Some will even claim that their’s will reduce your energy bills to as much as 50% or use similar tactics to lure customers to buy their products. This guide is meant to equip you with the knowledge to discern authentic from such and other similar exaggerated claims.
As winter approaches and the indoor spaces get colder, many families tend to shift to space heaters to solve heat inadequacies. While this is a good solution, it is good to ensure you understand your heater so you don’t end up inflating your bills with an inefficient one.
We will try to break down some of the features to look for next time you are buying a space heater in an easy non-technical language. This will arm you with more than enough knowledge you need to shop for one.
The power source of the space heater
There are different types of space heaters on the market. The major differences generally lie in how they work.
The electric space heaters
Electric space heaters use electric energy to turn to produce heat. The heating element that is made up of an electric current resisting material is used to convert energy into heat. The most common type of heating element for a majority of modern heaters uses a nichrome wire as the active element.
Most people get scared by the possibility of incurring huge cost while operating an electric space heater. While it is accurate that it takes quite some energy to turn electricity into heat energy, using them in a logical manner can help accomplish the goal while at the same time not incurring the dreaded huge bills.
Electric space heaters do not emit carbon dioxide which can be both a health and an environmental hazard. Make sure to use the heater only when you are inside the room and ensure the room’s doors are closed. This will ensure space is heated up faster and it will help you save on the energy cost.
These types of heaters can be a safety concern as they can start fires. Ensure you place them in a safe place far from flammable materials including wooden carpets.
The infrared/quartz space heaters
Quartz space heaters are types of infrared heaters that, like electric space heaters, use electricity to produce heat energy, albeit not directly. Quartz space heaters generate infrared radiation that warms the object it touches. Unlike other types that warm the air to heat the room, this type only warms the objects the radiation touches.
When compared to other space heaters, quartz space heaters are much energy efficient in providing heating energy. This is because they distribute heat primarily to people in the room when they are properly set up.
Infrared heaters are safety hazards and should be kept far from children and solid objects. If the heater is placed too close to the person, it can cause burns. Exposure should also be moderated as it can cause depigmentation of the iris.
Before buying one, you should ensure availability of various replacement parts such as bulbs, and their prices to ensure you don’t have difficulty operating the appliance in the future.
The kerosene space heaters
Kerosene space heaters use 1-K kerosene as fuel to produce heat energy. Basically, their mode of operation is very similar to that of a gas stove. They consist of a wick made up of fiberglass and cotton to draw kerosene from the reservoir. The wick is then ignited and the kerosene on it keeps burning as more kerosene is drawn from the reservoir through capillary action. The combustion of the kerosene produces hot gas that is used to heat the room through convection currents.
Kerosene heaters do not use electricity and they are some of the lowest in terms of cost of operation. They can use as much as half as their electric counterparts.
Maintenance should be done at least once per week to remove tar and other deposits on the wicks as they get burnt off. Wicks should also be checked to ensure they are getting burnt properly.
Safety precaution should be taken in order to prevent fire, personal injury and in some cases death. Choose a safe spot to place the heater and ensure you put it off about a half an hour before going to sleep to ensure they have totally cooled off as they take some time.
Using a kerosene space heater if you are only going to be home for an hour or two is not a smart decision.
The natural gas space heaters
Natural gas space heaters use natural gas to heat a room area. These can be of two types. The first one uses the Bunsen burner technology to produce heat. This is done by heating the air locally and then spreading it through convection currents. The second type uses a forced air system whereby air is moved into a heat exchanger heated using natural gas and then is expelled out using a fan or a blower.
They can be thermostatically controlled to ensure there is even and constant circulation of the warm air throughout the room. There is no electricity required to run this type of space heaters. Spaces heated using natural gas space heaters feel warmer as compared to electric or infrared.
Before using this type of space heater, you should ensure your house is fitted with smoke and fire detectors to ensure fire hazards are discovered early before they cause destruction or even death. You should also ensure you install carbon monoxide detectors to ensure you monitor its level to avoid poisoning as an excess of it can cause death.
The energy efficiency
Different space heaters perform differently in different conditions. The ratio of the amount of energy that goes into the appliance to energy that is actually produced is known as energy efficiency. Most space heaters have an efficiency of between 80% to 100%. Electric heaters are some of the most energy efficient space heaters.
Energy efficiency is measured in Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency (AFUE) units. Different factors can affect the efficiency of a space heater such as space or the method being used. Space heaters with thermostat tend to be more energy efficient than those that don’t have a thermostat.
Weight and size
The weight and the size of the space heaters are largely determined by the space that you are looking to heat. A 100 square feet room will require a space heater with a capacity of about 3400BTU. A small portable space heater would, therefore, be suitable for this kind of space.
Larger spaces, however, require bigger heaters and this also increases the weight of the appliance. This means that you will have to consider wisely about where you will place the heater as this can affect its performance.
Another factor that determines the size of the space heater is its type. Electricity based heaters are smaller as compared to gas and kerosene-based heaters.
You should ensure you have enough space to place the appliance away from flammable objects and surfaces.
The case of the wall mounted space heaters
Wall mounted heaters are attached directly to walls. This makes them suitable for keeping small areas warm as they do not require much space to operate. They are the alternative to portable and baseboard heaters for apartments and small-space buildings.
They contain an insulator that covers the front side of the heater. Air enters from underneath the heater and passes through the coils and exits over the appliance as hot air through convection currents. This makes them safer as they are not exposed directly to furniture and other flammable objects.
Wall mounted space heaters provide fast and efficient sources of energy as they take less than two minutes for the occupants to start feeling the change. Even after the unit has been switched off, they continue to run as the coils take some time to cool off. Most of them have a control panel that lets you set the preferred temperature level.
These types of heaters are easy to maintain as repairs are typically minimal. If it is firmly attached to the wall, there is no much to worry about this type of space heater other than making sure no curtains touch the coils from the top part.
Your safety, your family’s and that of your pets are the first things you should consider before settling on any space heater. Small kids tend to be adventurous and this might cause burn accidents in the house or cause fires. Kerosene space heaters should never be left unattended and you should always make sure that there is enough ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
Toxic fumes poisoning can cause headaches, dizziness, and fatigue and thus you should make sure you have detectors to alert you in case the levels reach predefined thresholds.
Most space heaters have safety features built in but you should ensure extra vigilance. Leaving a heater overnight creates a potential safety risk which should be avoided at all costs.
Space heaters should help add warmth and comfort, especially during the winter. You should use them properly to ensure they are energy efficient and safe.
Electric heaters are the better options for those who want quick heat-up. Kerosene space heaters are better for those who are looking to save on the energy bills. Portable space heaters are the safest unvented heaters for use inside the home. There are also several types of sizes to choose from.
Make sure you do a thorough research before settling on any particular space heater for safety, comfort, and efficiency according to your personality and the amount of space you need to cover.