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We’re in for expensive gas bills this winter. Whenever I so much as think about turning up the thermostat, I can hear my dad’s voice telling me to put on another sweater instead. But when sweaters don’t suffice, I turn to my trusty, cheap, easy-to-use space heater to cut costs on my central heating. But how much money do space heaters really save? Let’s run some numbers to see whether space heaters are really the most cost-effective option for you this winter.
The true costs of space heaters this winter
Space heaters are certainly cheaper than cranking up your central heat—assuming you only need the warmth in one room at a time. But if you’re running space heaters in multiple rooms at the same time, your electric bill might take a serious hit.
According to CNET, it costs about 20 cents per hour to run an average space heater (1,500 watts). If you run it for eight hours, that adds up to about $1.60 per day. That comes out to a little under $50 per month—not too crazy.
However, that $50 is assuming you run just one space heater for about eight hours. Many Americans are running their heaters throughout the night or keep them running in rooms they’re not in at the time. This leads to consequences far more serious than a hefty electric bill: According to the U.S. Department of Energy, portable heaters are responsible for about 25,000 fires in the United States each year, resulting in about 300 deaths and around 6,000 emergency room visits. Despite fire-hazard concerns, many space heater users are running them for far longer than they’re designed to be used.
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In most regions of the country, the cost of the electricity it takes to heat a home exceeds the cost of gas heating to do the same job. The Energy Information Administration reports in its 2022-23 Winter Fuels Outlook report that gas-heating households in the Northeast and Midwest are projected to pay $1,000-$1,100 for the season, while those in the West and South will shell out between $700-$800. For electric heating, costs are expected to hit $1,400-$1,700 in all regions but the South, where they will come in at around $1,250.
As AirAce Heating and Cooling explains, one space heater will save you a few bucks if you only want to heat one room for a short period of time, but they’re “not a permanent solution” to cut costs across your home.
The bottom line
Space heaters are a quick fix, not a main source of heating. Once you need heat in more than one room, you’re better off turning up your thermostat instead of turning on multiple space heaters. Here’s more on how to heat your home without accidentally burning it down.
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