Whether you’ve just moved into a new home or are tired of high energy bills, you may be looking for an alternative heating source. Furnaces tend to be the most popularly used throughout the country. However, space heaters are becoming more popular as new technology gets released.

What Is a Furnace?

A furnace is a heating appliance that works to circulate heat throughout your home during the cold winter months. All furnaces will rely on electricity and potentially another fuel source to run. These include propane, natural gas, and oil. When a thermostat signals to your furnace that your home is below your desired temperature setting, it will turn on the burner. This burner will burn your fuel of choice to create heat that is distributed throughout your home via ducts.

What Is a Space Heater?

A space heater is an individual heating unit that plugs directly into any household outlet. There are various types of space heaters on the market. The most popular for in-home use are convection and infrared systems. Convection systems utilize electricity to heat up an element inside of the space heater. Then, a blower fan pulls air in over the heating element and redistributes the warmed air throughout the room.

Infrared space heaters work a little differently. They emit heat to objects that are in the room. Unlike convection space heaters, infrared heaters never heat up the air. Rather, they directly heat up an object that is sensed. Infrared space heaters tend to be more energy-efficient than convection space heaters.

Upfront Costs

The first factor that you’ll want to consider is the upfront cost of purchasing each type of heating system. A furnace will cost anywhere from $1,500 to $5,000. The price varies depending on its heating capacity, energy efficiency, and so forth. Additionally, a forced-air furnace is going to need ductwork to distribute warm air to the rooms throughout your home. If your home doesn’t have existing ductwork, it can cost anywhere from $2,400 to $6,600 to have installed.

Space heaters can run anywhere from $30 to $350. The upfront price is going to highly depend on the unit’s heating capacity, energy efficiency, features, and so forth. You should realize that most space heaters are not rated to heat entire homes. You’ll likely need to purchase multiple space heaters to provide adequate heat for your whole home.

Operating Expenses

To know the best heating option for your home, it’s vital to look at the projected ongoing operating expenses. We’re going to evaluate the potential cost of running a natural gas-burning furnace compared to a space heater for an entire winter season. The average household requires 100,000,000 BTUs of heat throughout the winter.

A natural gas furnace will operate anywhere between 80% and 98% efficiency depending on the model and its ratings. The average cost per therm of natural gas is .951 cents. Taking this information into account, we can determine that a furnace will cost about $1,220 to run for a typical winter season. On the other hand, a space heater can operate at nearly 100% efficiency. With the average kilowatt-hour costing around 19.8 cents, we can deduct that a space heater will cost about $5,880 over an entire winter season.

Comparing Total Costs

It’s obvious that a furnace is a much larger upfront investment than a space heater. In fact, you can buy multiple space heaters and still not equal anywhere near the upfront cost of a furnace installation. However, when it comes to annual operating expenses, a furnace is four times cheaper than running a space heater.

In fact, you can likely pay off the entire upfront cost of the furnace in energy savings on your first year as opposed to using a space heater. When it comes to the long-term outlook of heating your home over the next decade, a furnace is the clear choice for optimal energy savings.

You Can Use Both For Optimal Energy Usage

While it’s very clear that a furnace is the most energy-efficient way to heat your home throughout the winter months, that doesn’t mean that you can’t supplement it with a space heater. When you’re looking to heat up a small room or section of your home, a space heater can be more efficient as compared to a furnace.

For example, consider that you work from home and spend much of your daytime hours in your home office. You have the option of setting your thermostat to a comfortable temperature and letting your furnace heat up all the rooms of your home to your desired temperature. Or, you turn your thermostat setting down and utilize a space heater to heat up just your office space.

In this case, a space heater is going to use much less energy to heat up your office space. Having a space heater in your home on top of having a furnace helps to give you the option of optimizing your energy savings when select situations, like the one above, arise.

Important Space Heater Safety

It’s been estimated that just over 80% of all fire-related home deaths are a result of space heater misuse. If you plan on supplementing your winter heat with a space heater or two, it’s imperative that you fully understand how to operate them in a safe manner. Space heaters are very prone to overheating and catching on fire when used incorrectly.

A must-follow rule for space heaters is to pick a level spot on a non-flammable surface to position your space heater. Make sure that the cord is plugged directly into an outlet and not an extension cord or power strip. Be sure that the cord of your space heater remains out of the way and is not covered, which could cause overheating. The space heater should have a five-foot area around it that is free from any flammable objects like curtains or rugs.

You should only be running a space heater when you’re in the room. It’s never a good idea to let it run overnight or when you’re not at home because you’re unable to respond to any malfunction that may occur. When purchasing a new space heater, be sure to get one with various safety features.

Some of the most popular include pet sense, overheat protection, and tip-over protection. Pet sense simply turns the unit off if it senses that your pet or child is within a three-foot radius of the unit. Overheat protection senses when the internal components of the heater are overheating and automatically shuts the unit off. Tip-over protection immediately shuts the space heater off in the event that it senses that it’s been tipped over.

Reliable Heating Services

Bel-Aire Heating & Cooling offers reliable heating services for the Portage, MI region. You can also rely on us for all of your cooling, air quality, mini-split, geothermal, energy audit, and commercial HVAC needs. Our specials include financing! Contact us today to get the professional assistance that you need!

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