Keeping your home warm in the wintertime shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. There are various home heating options on the market today that you have to choose from. Two of the ones talked about the most seem to be the furnace and the space heater. Knowing the difference between the two can help you to decide how to heat your home this upcoming winter season.

What Is a Furnace?

The forced-air furnace is the most common heating system utilized in homes throughout the United States. This heating system connects to ducting that is run throughout the walls and floors of the residence. A furnace runs based on the settings from a thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the room temperature is below the desired setting, it will signal the furnace to kick on.

Inside the furnace, a burner is lit and burns fuel to create heat. Furnaces can run on electricity, oil, propane, and natural gas. Oil and natural gas are the most common. As your furnace burns fuel, the heat it creates moves into the heat exchanger and is circulated throughout your home.

What Is a Space Heater?

A space heater is an individualized unit that is rated to heat a specific amount of square footage. Space heaters that are safe to utilize inside your home will rely on electricity to produce heat. There are two main types of space heaters: infrared and convection.

Convection space heaters blow air over a heated surface and out into the room. This process works to heat up the overall temperature of an area. Space heaters also employ thermostats. The space heater will typically run until its thermostat senses that it has reached the desired set temperature.

An infrared space heater, on the other hand, converts electricity into radiant heat. With infrared heat, the heat is directly transferred from the space heater to an object without heating the air in between the two. Both convection and infrared space heaters are effective at heating up the square footage that they are rated for.

A Note on Initial Cost

One big factor that many will take into consideration when determining what type of heating to utilize is the initial purchase price. Furnaces are quite costly, ranging between an average of $2,000 to $5,000. The actual price of a new furnace is going to depend on its heating capacity, fuel efficiency, and fuel type. Additionally, if you don’t currently have ducting installed in your home, adding ducting can get very expensive.

Space heaters will have a significantly lower initial cost. These will run anywhere between $40 and $300, depending on a number of factors. These factors include heating capacity, type of space heater, and so forth. It’s important to note that it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to safely heat your entire home with just one space heater. Rather, you’ll need to invest in multiple space heaters to effectively heat up all of the rooms in your home.

Running Costs

While space heaters can be much less expensive to buy, they can cost a bundle to run consistently. To help compare how much it’s going to cost to run each type of heating unit, it’s imperative that we first break each one down into their energy usages. Space heaters utilize electricity while most furnaces utilize natural gas. We’re going to compare these two types of fuel to keep things simple.

The average home requires about 100,000,000 BTUs of heat each winter season. Assuming an operating efficiency of 100% for a modern space heater and a kilowatt-hour cost of 19.8ยข (nationwide average), it will cost about $58 per million BTUs of heat produced. Doing the math of 100,000,000 BTUs multiplied by $58 comes to $5,800 in heating costs for a typical winter season with space heaters.

Let’s assume you have a modern furnace with an efficiency of about 78%. Natural gas costs about $.951 per thermal unit. Doing the math, a furnace powered by natural gas will cost about $12.2 per million BTUs. With the multiplication of 100,000,000 BTUs, that ends up costing the average homeowner around $1,220 to run their furnace. On average, a furnace is going to be about four times less expensive to run than space heaters.

Total Cost Assessment

After assessing the purchase prices and the running costs of both furnaces and space heaters, it becomes abundantly clear that a furnace is the best option. It can be costly to have one installed, but it will pay for itself in energy savings in just its first year of operation. It’s essential to note that the figures we discussed above are generalizations, and the exact figures will vary depending on many other factors like the type of fuel your furnace uses, energy costs in your locale, and so forth.

You Can Use Both

While it may seem like a black-and-white decision, it doesn’t have to be. There are times when using a space heater can actually be to your financial advantage. For example, let’s say that you work from home and spend most of your day in your home office. Instead of having the thermostat for your entire home set at a comfortable 70 degrees, you can plug a space heater in to warm your immediate area.

Using a space heater throughout the day is a great way to warm up just your home office and keep you comfortable. At the same time, you can turn the thermostat for your whole home down a few degrees to save on energy bills. Additionally, you may find that your family spends most of their time in your living room during the evenings. You can apply the same logic of using a space heater to keep your living room at a comfortable temperature while turning down the thermostat for the rest of your home.

Space Heater Safe Operation Tips

If you decide to purchase a space heater or two to help supplement heat for your home in the wintertime, it’s very important that you utilize them safely. Space heaters are well known to be a fire hazard when not used appropriately. Make sure that you only purchase a space heater that is fueled by electricity. Other fuels like propane can cause the expulsion of dangerous fumes into your home.

You should always have fire detectors in the areas of your home where you’ll be utilizing your space heaters. Make sure that you place your space heaters in an area where there are no flammable objects within a 5-foot radius. You never want to place a space heater on a stool, desk, or another piece of furniture. They’re designed to be placed on the floor in an area where they won’t be knocked over. You can invest in tip-over technology, which shuts your space heater off whenever it senses that the device has been tipped over. This will prevent overheating and a potential fire.

Trusted Heating Services

Our team at Davis & Green provides trusted heating and cooling installation, repair, and maintenance services for the entire Richmond, VA area, and we back our work with 35 years of experience. We also provide a full range of plumbing and electrical services. Whether you need professional assistance for an existing home or business or with new construction, contact our office today to set up an appointment.

Davis & Green

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