Portable heaters are energy hogs. How to keep the house warm without them? | Energy

As outside temperatures drop, many people turn to small heaters to stay warm in cold or drafty homes and offices. Do we really need to use these electrical appliances to be comfortable in closed spaces?

“Not if we can help it,” says Anne Evans, executive director of Elevate, a United States (US) nonprofit group fighting for expanded access to clean, affordable energy.

It is true that portable heaters are an affordable source of heat and are especially popular among those without an efficient heating system. However, these devices can consume a lot of energy and pose fire hazards if not used properly.

Experts say that focusing not only on thermal insulation (windows and sealed doors), but also improving the general efficiency of the heating system are the most effective ways to heat the home and save on energy costs. However, there are other efficient ways to provide extra warmth in the winter.

Here’s what you need to know:

How much does a portable heater cost?

Portable heaters typically use between 750 and 1500 watts, which translates to six to 12 kilowatt-hours of electricity for eight hours of use, according to experts at the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a nonprofit organization.

By comparison, electric blankets typically use 50 to 200 watts, or 0.4 to 1.6 kilowatt-hours of electricity.

“Sometimes we’re talking about a third, a quarter, a tenth,” says Stefano Schiavone, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley and a member of the American Society of Heating. Refrigeration Engineers and Air Conditioning.

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Alternative heat sources

Stefano Schiavone recommends trying an electric blanket or foot warmer. These heating devices are generally more energy efficient and safer than smaller heaters, says a University of California professor.

According to Schiavone, appliances that consume large amounts of energy may be associated with an increased risk of fire or burns.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that portable heaters, including electric fan heaters, are involved in an average of 1,700 fires annually from 2017 to 2019, resulting in 70 deaths and 160 injuries annually.

“When we have devices that use less energy, they’re inherently less dangerous,” Schiavone said.

However, the professor says it’s important to be careful with any heating devices that come into direct contact with the body. As for electric blankets, Schiavone says you should avoid using them to warm someone who isn’t very mobile, or who has limited heat sensitivity, because they may overheat.

If you really need to use heaters

There are certain situations where using a portable heater makes sense. According to the Department of Energy, these small devices may be more interesting for those who want to heat a corner of the house. Such devices can add warmth to spaces occupied by people who are more sensitive to cold, rather than heating the entire home.

“Portable heaters are good for quickly heating small spaces if the home heating system can’t heat the space efficiently,” says Chris Regan, program leader for heater testing at Portal. Consumer ReportsIn the reply sent Email.

However, because heaters are generally not energy efficient, using them can increase electricity use and increase household energy costs, Chris Regan said.

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“If consumers want to reduce energy costs by using a heater, they need to turn down the thermostat on their home heating system,” said Chris Regan. The expert says that it is not recommended to use these devices in spaces with drafts.

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