A space heater is a wonderful thing to have on a cold day, and a good one will heat up a small space with delightful effectiveness.
But are space heaters efficient as well as effectively? How much electricity does a space heater use, and how much does it actually cost to run one?
Let’s look at these questions in a bit more detail, and also look at some ways to make your space heater more efficient and less expensive to use, in this guide to how much electricity space heaters use.
- A Space Heater costs about 16-20 cents an hour to run, based on a typical 1.500 watt heater and the current national average price of electricity in the United States
- The cost of running a space heater can vary considerably depending on where in the US you are, and what time of day you are running it
- For a more accurate calculation, you can use a simple formula (as detailed below) to determine the space heater’s kWh (kilowatt hour) consumption, and consult your local utility company for current rates per kWh.
- While the hourly rate may seem low, it can quickly add up, and space heaters, if used too much or unwisely, can be fairly expensive
- There are several ways to use a space heater more efficiently and less expensively, as outlined below
Does An Electric Space Heater Use a Lot of Electricity?
Space heaters can be very effective at quickly heating smaller spaces, and are a great thing to have to supplement your home’s central heating system, but in fact they are not the most energy efficient appliances, and if used too much can end up being a bit expensive.
Specifically, the average space heater uses 1,500 watts of electricity. Different models may use more or less, but most of them seem to be right at or around this level.
Ok, great, but what does that really mean? After all, you might not really be wondering how much electricity a space heater uses, but instead just how much it costs to run a space heater.
How Much Does a Space Heater Cost to Use?
If we assume the average of 1,500 watts of power, we can quite easily convert this into kWh, or kilowatt hours, which is the measure of how much electricity the appliance is using per hour, and what your utility company will use to determine your electric bill.
Energy Usage (in watts) multiplied by time (in hours) and divided by 1,000 -equals- kWh (kilowatt hours)
So if you use a space heater for, say, two hours, we can simply multiply the heater’s electrical rating – 1,500 watts – by 2 (hours), giving us 3,000 watts. Then we divide this by 1,000 to arrive at the correct kWh or kilowatt hours figure: 3,000 / 1,000 equals 3 kilowatt hours.
A kilowatt hour costs about 16 cents – based on the US Energy Information Administration’s most recent estimates of the national average cost – and so your two hours of toastiness will cost you about 32 cents.
Although this is, again, based on the most recent data, I should mention that many other sources quote a higher figure of about 20 cents an hour to run an average electric space heater.
If we go on to calculate a monthly cost for your electric space heater, based on two hours of use a day, it would cost maybe around 10-12 dollars a month on average. Of course many people use their space heaters far more than this, and their costs during cold months can be significantly higher.
- Keep in mind that all of this is based on a national average, and the price of a kilowatt hour will vary dramatically in different states and different parts of the country, and also vary at different times of the day.
You can use the above formula to determine exact kWh consumption and then consult your local utility company for their specific price for a kilowatt hour of electricity to make more exact and useful calculations.
So, Are Space Heaters Expensive to Run?
This is a good question, and a bit of a tricky one as well – see, the hourly cost of running a space heater can be quite small, or at least seem quite small – only about 16-20 cents on average, but in fact this can really add up over time.
And so a space heater, if used too much or unwisely, can actually end up being pretty expensive, and people often report their utility bills increasing by 50 to 100 dollars a month, or even more with a lot of use.
Many experts reckon it is more efficient and less expensive to use central heating, but in fact a combination of space heater and central heat can be the best, and most cost effective, approach, and of course a space heater might make a lot more sense if you are only heating a very small area.
How Can You Save Money with a Space Heater?
If you use a space heater a lot, it can indeed become a very expensive appliance, but there are a few basic things you can keep in mind and do to keep costs down, and heat your home, yourself and your family, as effectively and efficiently as possible.
- Use Space Heaters and Central Heating in Concert
It makes great sense to only heat the rooms that are being occupied, and so you can turn off the central heat in unused rooms, and turn it down overall, to save money. Then, by using space heaters judiciously for small areas, just when you are there and need them, you can end up significantly reducing energy bills.
- Don’t Use A Space Heater to Heat a Whole Room
Space heaters are great for small areas, and are especially effective in closed spaces like bedrooms or offices, but have to work too hard to warm up larger areas, and will end up being an expensive solution – better to use central heat for large spaces.
- Never Heat Unused Rooms
This also applies to central heat or any heating system, but is particularly true for space heaters, which are less efficient and can be more expensive – again, especially in larger rooms.
- Use a Separate Thermometer
Space heaters will often have built-in thermostats, which will monitor temperature and even turn the unit off when a desired temperature is reached. These inbuilt thermostats are often quite inaccurate and unreliable, though, and it is better to use a physically separate thermometer and turn the heater down or off when appropriate.
Conclusion: Do Space Heaters Use a Lot of Electricity?
We’ve looked at this very question in some detail above, but to sum it up, yes and no…
Used on a limited basis – for a short time and in an appropriately small space – space heaters can be affordable, efficient and very effective, and they can be a great supplement to central air, and if used smartly in this way can save you money.
But if you try to use space heaters as a primary heating source, especially for long periods, or in too large or open of spaces, they can end up being quite expensive to run, and central heat is almost always a better solution – more effective and efficient and less expensive.
By following a few basic guidelines, as detailed just above, you can use a space heater in a very efficient way, and they can be not just affordable to use but can actually end up saving you money on your utility bill.