Space heaters are seen in many homes across the globe. They give consumers heat and comfort at a low price, or do they?

Although electric heaters are inexpensive to buy, you may see your electric bill jump. This is because space heaters take electricity from the wall and convert it directly to heat. Even the best space heaters take a lot of electricity to do this, and it would cost a lot less and provide a lot more to use natural gas or oil instead.

You have to weigh some pros and cons when you consider buying a portable (plug-in) electric heater. The portable electric heater is a good solution for warming a garage or a single room. But it’s not a long-term solution for heating an entire house.

There are a few things you should consider before buying a space heater such as the advantages, disadvantages, and how many rooms you want to be heated.


The advantages of space heaters are:

  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Portable
  • Heats quickly
  • Small and compact

Space heaters cost less upfront than buying a new heating system, and they are easy to set up and use. They are portable, able to be taken anywhere, and they don’t take up much room. Space heaters also heat quickly, which is preferable to waiting for the entire house to warm up.

Space heaters are good for people who know how to take care of them and won’t use them for unintended purposes. If your goal is to get something small for a few rooms, a space heater may be for you. Just be aware of the dangers they can pose.


The disadvantages of space heaters are:

  • Can cause house fires
  • Could burn curious children or pets
  • Limited to one small space
  • Need attention
  • Gas space heaters produce carbon monoxide

Dangers of Space Heaters

There are dangers in using space heaters. According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters cause 43 percent of house fires and 85 percent of deaths associated with them. They should never be left unattended, and you should never leave your children or pets alone with one. Some even have the potential to produce carbon monoxide. Space heaters should never be left on overnight. The key to using one is to care for it properly and not overuse it.

Aside from safety concerns, space heaters need constant attention and are limited to heating one small space. Not only this, but the cost of using an electric heater is way higher in the long run than having a proper heating system installed in your home.

Main Problems with Space Heaters

Cost: Electric space heaters use very high electric currents to heat the wires and then blow air across them to create warm air. Electric heat is very costly. A typical 6000 BTU unit (which is only enough for a small room) costs about a quarter for every hour it operates or between $100-$150 per month.

This is a lot compared to a central heating system for the whole house, which would only use about the same $150 to heat the entire home, so it is cheaper to run central heat than space heaters. Anyone with two or more space heaters is spending more to run these than having a central heating system and the accompanying utility charges. 

The cost to operate a 1,500-watt unit for an hour is simple to compute: it is 1.5 times your electricity cost in cents per kilowatt-hour. At national average rates—12¢ kWh for electricity— that heater would cost 18¢ per hour to run—and quickly cost more than its purchase price. This makes electric space heaters inefficient.

Safety: Space heaters can help warm a small area or one person but are a leading cause of house fires. There are requirements to keep objects three to six feet away from the unit (check manufacturer for the exact recommendation). This could even mean the carpet on the floor. Space heaters are only safe in large open rooms but are only designed to warm small areas. This makes the design and application of space heaters contradict each other. A space heater could also cause an electric fire in the circuits of your house.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, these tips should be followed to enhance safety when space heaters are being used to heat your home:

  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory.
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet (1 meter) away from anything that can burn, including people.
  • Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection.
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface.
  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over.
  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic. Never block an exit.
  • Keep children away from the space heater.
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed.

Should I Buy a Space Heater?

It depends on your situation. If you only want to heat a couple of rooms, using a space heater would be fine, but heating an entire house would not. This method is inefficient and costly, not to mention unsafe. To determine if you should buy a space heater, you should check the wattage ratings to find one that is the right size. This and other things can be found in the specifications section when searching for space heaters online.

After seeing the many issues involved with space heaters and the potential harm they may cause, you may consider investing in central heat instead. For recommendations on a central heating system, call Freedom Heating and Cooling at (205) 444-4444 or read our article on different types of heating systems to find the right one for your home.