What are the best space heaters for energy efficiency?

Does anyone have a good suggestion for the best space heaters? I’m looking for a portable space heater to keep my room warm – the one I have costs a lot to operate, tripled my electricity bill. I want a more efficient one.

Answer from Green Energy Efficient Homes

All electric heaters are 100% energy efficient – at converting electrical energy into heat. People may have positive experiences with one or another type of heater, and from this may conclude that a particular model is more energy efficient – for example, some people will claim that the best space heaters are oil rad heaters – but in terms of energy efficiency this just isn’t true.

As for why heating with electric space heaters is so expensive, it’s because electricity is expensive! After all, a coal-fired power plant is only about 35% efficient at converting heat to electricity, and another 7-9% of the electricity is lost in transmission to your house, so your 100% efficient heater is only getting about 32% of the original heat from the coal into your room.

Different electric heater types can be more effective than others at a particular heating task. For example, if you spend a lot of time in your small room sitting on the couch, a radiative electric heater works well. These heaters send out infrared radiation (perfectly safe – it’s what keeps french fries warm in the school cafeteria), which heats the objects it strikes, but not the air it passes through. So you set up the radiative heater to point to you on your couch; you and the couch will get warm, but the rest of the room will stay cool. So you’ll use less energy.

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The main reason people spend a lot of money heating small rooms is that the rooms tend to be very poorly insulated or drafty. If you’re in a rental there’s not much you can do about insulation but you can seal for drafts and add window insulation by getting better curtains/shades:

  • Buy a plastic window insulation kit. With this kit, a pair of scissors and a blow-dryer, you can insulate and seal your windows and cut down a lot on heat loss.
  • Buy proper window coverings – curtains with an insulating layer, or draw- down shades. The key with window coverings is that you need to seal the airspace between the window covering and the window. If it’s open at the top and bottom, the window coverings won’t help.
  • Buy a tube of clear silicone and run a bead around the wood of window frames and baseboard/quarter-round on exterior walls. This will cut down on drafts from those places.

Green Energy Efficient Homes articles cited

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