Choosing A Space Heater For Your Home

A guideline to selecting the right space heater for your home, family and needs.

Space heaters, portable or permanently installed, can do wonders for a chilly room and an over priced utility bill. Powered by electricity, propane, kerosene, or other fuel, and used with care and per instructions, a space heater can make a large difference. With a variety of heaters on the market, use this guide to narrow your selection and make the correct choice for your home.

Space heaters provide heat in one of two ways. Radiant heaters heat a particular object, not the air in the room. Convection heaters heat the air around them. Both have their advantages and specific uses.

Radiant heaters, usually small and portable, work off of a fuel source that heats an element such as a quartz tube, ceramic core, reflective source or halogen bulb. As the element is heated it reflects heat in a specific direction much like sunlight will warm a specific section of a room. Radiant heaters are great for heating a small portion of a room, a chair, or rug that someone is sitting on or under a desk or table. Small and efficient, radiant heaters are generally less that $100 depending upon size.

Convection heaters include a fan that circulates air over a heating element. As the warm air circulates, convection heaters can heat an entire room and are great for a large room or when people are moving about within a room. Heating elements vary in convection heaters, as with radiant heaters, but convection heaters may include a bath of oil or water - the most efficient type. A heating element cycles on and off to keep the water or oil warm as a fan pumps the heat into the room. Convection heaters require slightly more maintenance and care and can cost a bit more, again, depending upon their size.

Safety is always an issue with space heaters, no matter what type used. Look for the CSA mark on all heaters to be certain it complies with regulated safety standards. Always follow the manufacturer's instructions when installing or using the heater. Give the heater space to work where they cannot be knocked over and away from flammable materials such as bedding, curtains or rugs. Never leave a space heater unattended, especially with small children or pets in the area, and double check for working smoke detectors just in case. Keeping the unit clean and using to heat space, not clothing or bedding, will guarantee the heater's usefulness and safety.

In addition, before purchasing, consider these safety issues for specific heaters.

Electric space heaters need to be used outside of a bathroom, unless the manufacturer states otherwise, as the humidity can cause a shock hazard. Consider spending a few extra dollars for a model with a tip-over switch that will shut off the unit if it tips over and an element guard to prevent objects or fingers from touching the hot element.

If purchasing a fuel burning space heater, consider adding a carbon monoxide detector in the room with the heater. Use this type of heater in well-ventilated areas to prevent problems.

Kerosene heaters will have a constant or regulated flame that needs to be maintained to keep it clean and burning efficiently. Never substituted any other fuel source for the kerosene and check with your local fire department to be certain this type of heater is permitted in your community.

Permanently installed heaters should be inspected by a qualified service person annually as well as cleaned, dusted and vacuumed regularly.

With a little attention and caution, space heaters can save money on utility bills as well as maintain the comfort and morale of your family. Take into consider these tips and set a budget for yourself before buying to get the most from your heater.

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