At TS Heat & Air, one question we are frequently asked by customers is whether it makes more sense to run your furnace all the time or use an electric space heater instead? Generally speaking, running your furnace is the better option as furnaces are far more energy efficient than space heaters. Nonetheless, the answer to this question isn’t always as simple as it first seems. To understand why this is, it is necessary to take into account your specific heating goals and also to do a more direct comparison of the energy costs associated with each type of heating.
What Is Your Goal?
When customers ask us whether a space heater or furnace is better, the very first thing we do is find out what goal they’re trying to achieve. Are you looking to heat your entire home or are you attempting to save money by using the space heater to heat one room instead of using your furnace to heat your entire house?
Using multiple space heaters to heat your entire home generally never makes sense and especially not if you also have a furnace or other primary heat source. On the other hand, a space heater could be a more energy-efficient option when you’re only heating one space. For instance, if you only ever use one room in your house during the day, you may be able to reduce your energy costs by running a space heater in that room instead of heating up the entire home with your furnace. The same is also true if you want to keep your bedroom warmer at night.
How Much Energy a Furnace Uses Versus a Space Heater
According to the US Department of Energy, heating an entire home with space heaters, baseboard heaters or other similar electronic heat sources will result in approximately 43% more energy use than heating the same building with a gas furnace. This number could actually be much higher as the comparison was made based on an 80% AFUE (Annual Fuel Utilization Efficiency) furnace, which is the minimum efficiency required by law.
Comparing the costs of heating up the entire home with your furnace versus running one space heater is a bit more difficult. Nonetheless, it is fairly easy to figure out how much a space heater uses in a month and then compare the added electricity costs to your current heating bills.
The typical space heater uses 1,500 watts of electricity per hour or 1.5 kWh. This means that it would use 36 kWh per day if you ran it 24 hours a day. Let’s say you’re paying 10 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity, which is slightly under the national average. At these rates, running the space heater 24 hours a day for 30 days would raise your monthly electricity bill by $108.
On the other hand, running the heater for only 8 hours at a time, such as while you’re sleeping, would only cost you a bit over $30. This is typically much less than you’d end up paying if you left your furnace running throughout the night. In this situation, using the space heater definitely makes more sense.
Alternatives to Space Heaters
Although space heaters can make more sense in some situations, there are still a number of other options that can achieve the same effect while using less energy. One option is to install a ductless mini-split system in the room you would normally use a space heater. These systems have the advantage of providing both heating and air conditioning from the same unit. They are also much more energy efficient than a furnace as long as the weather outside isn’t too cold. Still, the efficiency decreases quite a bit as the weather becomes colder, and most mini-splits won’t function at all in below-zero temperatures.
Another option is to install an HVAC zone-control system. These systems use a series of dampers in your ductwork that allows you to independently control the temperature for each room or zone in your house. With a zoning system, you could set it so that your furnace is only heating your bedroom at night instead of the entire house. In this case, the furnace would only have to run occasionally to produce enough heat to keep your bedroom at the set temperature instead of heating the entire home.
If you’re looking for solutions to ensure your home stays warm all winter, TS Heat & Air is ready to help. We have been providing professional HVAC services to customers in Oklahoma City for nearly 40 years, and our highly trained technicians have the experience to tackle any heating or cooling issues you may be having. We also specialize in indoor air quality and air purification. If you have any questions, contact us today and one of our experts will be glad to help.