You’ve just moved into an awesome new apartment (yay!) and are feeling pretty good about the fact that you scored a new place where the rent is not only reasonable but also includes heat! (That’s one less bill for you to worry about, right?) But now that cold temps have begun to set in, you’re finding to your dismay, that you’re constantly looking for a heavier sweater, and sleeping in flannel PJs and socks! Your new apartment is drafty and cold! If you had control of that thermostat, you’d undoubtedly turn it up a few degrees (at least), but unfortunately, you don’t have that option because the landlord controls the temperature! Your only option — besides living with a chronic case of goosebumps — is to get a space heater (or two) to make life in your new digs a little more livable, shall we say.
Decisions, Decisions …
It’s not like you just walk into your local big box store and pick up a space heater. There are different types and different sizes, and you’ll want to get the one that’s just right for your space.
The first thing to know is that there are basically two different types of space heaters — radiant and convection, and they work very differently from each other …
- Radiant heaters warm objects (including you) by radiating heat, as their name implies.
- Convection heaters, on the other hand, warm the air in a room, and will eventually warm the entire room, provided you buy one that’s appropriate for the size of the room.
(Technically, there’s a third type — a combination of the two above, but they tend not to be as efficient as either of the choices above.)
In short, if you’re looking to warm just a certain area — say, your favorite chair where you curl up each evening to watch TV or read, then a radiant heater will work just fine. But if you want to heat the whole room, then a convection heater is definitely the best choice for you. Choose one with an integrated fan, which will help distribute the warmed air more efficiently. (Plus, as a bonus, you can turn off the heat and use just the fan during the summer for a little help with cooling your room when you’re in it.)
There are different types and styles for both types of space heaters ranging from table-top radiant heaters to larger, free-standing convection units for warming an entire room. Some look like mini radiators and are filled with oil or water, while others — such as ceramic convection heaters — pull in cold air, warm it, and then release the warmed air back into the room.
Pricing on space heaters can be as low as $30 and go up to well over $100, and bear in mind that if you’re paying your own electric bill, they’ll add to that, although most are fairly efficient. In very general terms, supposing you use the heater every day for an average of 6 to 8 hours per day, you can expect it to add between $10 and $20 per month to your electric bill.
Sizing Your Space Heater
There’s a basic formula for choosing the right sized space heater. Obviously, the first thing you’ll want to do is measure your room to find out how many square feet you want to heat. Let’s say that the room in question is 10′ x 15′, which is equal to 150 square feet.
How many square feet a convection space heater will heat is determined by its wattage. Here’s the formula:
Divide the number of watts on the heater by 10 and the resulting number will be the number of square feet the space heater is capable of warming. For your 150 sq. foot room, therefore, you’ll need a 1500 watt heater (1500 watts divided by 10 = 150 square feet of coverage).
Important Space Heater Safety Tips
Consumer Reports recommends that you look for a space heater that includes a sensor which will trigger the unit to shut down if it starts overheating. There are also freestanding models with a switch that shuts off the heater if it tips over, which is always a possibility if you’ve got a curious cat! You should also make sure that the heater you choose bears the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or ETL (Intertek) label to ensure that it meets all voluntary U.S. safety standards. It’s also a good idea to periodically check the unit’s cord to make sure it isn’t frayed or otherwise damaged, and don’t use an extension cord with a space heater — ever!
One last point: Always follow manufacturer’s instructions about how far from the wall or other object your heater should be positioned and never ever put anything on top of the heater, since it could easily cause a fire in fairly short order.
Now you’re armed with the info you need, and are ready to get yourself a safe and effective space heater so you can stop padding around in heavy socks and a sweater whenever you’re at home!