Portable Electric Heaters

Have you been thinking about trying to save money heating your home this winter? Maybe you have seen ads for “energy saving heaters” in the newspaper or on television. Many portable electric space heaters claim to deliver significant energy savings — saving you money.

Portable electric heaters can save you some money, if you set back the thermostat of your home’s central heating system and heat only one or two occupied rooms at a time. This is fine if you spend most of your time in only one or two rooms of your house, but don’t plan on heating your entire home. If you purchase more than one portable electric heater and try to heat your whole house, you will end up with larger energy bills than if you used your central heating system.

Watch out for electric heater marketing hype!

While investigating the efficiency of portable electric heaters, Firelands’ Energy Advisors have seen ads for electric quartz heaters stating to use the same energy as a coffee maker, and expensive electric space heaters claiming to revolutionize the way you heat your home and family.

Some portable electric heater products advertise as much as 50 percent energy savings, but how energy efficient is it really? Beware of marketing claims of heater manufacturers who say they have a new “space age” heater that is more energy efficient or “new technology,” claiming you will see “huge savings month after month” on your energy bills.

“ALL electric heaters have the same 100 percent efficiency. Consumers need to remember that watts are watts, no matter how manufacturers market their products! A 1,500-watt ceramic heater uses the same amount of electricity to operate as a 1,500-watt quartz heater,” states Energy Advisor Andrea Gravenhorst.

No matter what the electric heater looks like, whatever its size or shape or color, whether it costs $25 or $350 — it is no more and no less efficient than any other electric heater. The ONLY difference between one electric heater and another is the electric capacity rating (watts) on the heater’s data plate. The BTUs of heat output are directly related to the number of watts of electricity going into the heater.

Many of these portable infrared, quartz, oil-filled and ceramic electric heaters can provide minor energy savings in certain situations — such as when you need to heat only one room, but not the entire house. These units are also ideal to heat rooms that are not connected to central heating systems, such as additions, garages, basements and workshops. Whether ceramic, quartz or oil-filled – the efficiency is basically the same as any standard plug-in electric space heater. Firelands does not recommend any of these products if your goal is significant energy savings.

Each kilowatt (1,000 watts) of electricity contains 3,413 BTUs worth of heat energy. All electric heaters convert electricity into heat with the same 100 percent efficiency – no heat is lost in the process and no heat is wasted.

Comparing two different heaters in a store, both 1,500 watts; one has a plastic case and costs $30 and the other has a beautiful wood case and costs $350. Remember, BOTH heaters will deliver EXACTLY the same amount of heat (5,120 BTUs per hour), and both heaters will cost exactly the same to run (about 10 cents per hour at Firelands’ current winter rates).

So if you want to buy a portable heater to help keep you comfortable this winter, you can buy one for less than $100 or you can buy one for as much as $500 to do the same heating job. One will look like a portable heater and the other will be a beautiful piece of furniture – but both will provide the same heating output and cost the same amount to run. The purchase decision is yours to make.

How do portable electric heaters compare to natural gas or propane heat? As a general rule, electric resistance heaters cost more to run than a natural gas furnace. They cost slightly more to operate than fuel oil and propane furnaces. For maximum energy efficiency, you should investigate geothermal or air-source heat pump units that can heat (and cool) the whole house very inexpensively.

Many homeowners endure rising fuel costs year after year with gas, oil and propane and continue to look for ways to reduce their energy bills. If homeowners would add an electric air-source heat pump to their existing natural gas, oil or propane furnace they could reduce their energy costs by up to 30 to 40 percent. A heat pump or geothermal system will provide your family with significant savings and more comfort.

Firelands’ Energy Advisors have created a general operating cost formula to calculate energy use:

Volts x Amps = Watts / 1000 = kilowatts (kW) x hours per day = kWh per day x 30 days = kWh per month x $0.1038 (Firelands’ average rate) = average cost per month

Portable electric heaters generally use 1,500 watts (high setting) or 900 watts (low setting).

Here is a helpful formula to estimate the energy use of any appliance:

Wattage / 1,000 = kilowatts (kW) x hours used per day = kilowatt hours (kWh) per day x days per month = kWh use per month x Firelands’ average electric rate ($0.1038) = estimated cost per month

You usually can find the wattage of most appliances stamped on the bottom or back maximum power drawn by the appliance. Many of these heaters have thermostats which allow for the regulation of temperature; this way you can avoid wasting energy.

If you’re interested in saving energy and money, Firelands Electric has interactive tools and energy calculators available on our ‘Energy Efficiency’ page.  These helpful calculators can help you reduce your energy use and save energy dollars.  Click here to start saving today!


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