Which Is More Efficient – Space Heater Vs Central Heat?

When you live in areas where cold winters are natural aspects of life, being familiar with the common ways to warm up your living space during the winter months is not a surprise. The two renowned heating options are the space heater and central heat system.

But have you ever wondered which one of these methods is more efficient? When we consider efficiency, we have to look at how they function to heat your home and the energy efficiency or how they save on your bills. If you are one of us that have to heat the home continuously during winter, then discussing the effectiveness of the heating system is not an option.

To answer the obvious question on which is more efficient space heater or central heat: Quick one – the space heater seems to be a preferable option for homeowners who need to heat only a contained area. And the space heater is more suitable for an entire large house.

With that being said; let’s discuss the two heating methods, when to use one type over the other, prove the most efficient, and how to increase their efficiency.

Central Heat System

central heating system

More than 50 percent of the energy consumed in homes goes to heating and cooling. Most homes control their room temperature using the central heating system. In fact, amidst the two, it’s the most popular in the U.S. It’s commonly powered by gas and electricity. But, some regions fuel their central heating unit with oil, burning coal, or wood.

However, the majority of households in the U.S. use electricity to run the central heating system. But since electricity is quite expensive, then it is the least economical choice. Also, if you are left with using natural gas or coal to generate electricity, it means you have wasted 70 percent of the energy during the conversion.

Instead of being used, the energy dissipates through parts of the house – this cannot be considered efficient. Even more than the expenses, the high carbon footprint the system leaves is not eco-friendly.

To conserve energy on the central heat, run it directly with gas, oil, or coal. You are sure to have efficiency rates of over 60 percent on any — especially the gas-fired system with a turnaround of between 85 and 97 percent efficiency.

Space Heaters

Concerning the sizes of both units, the space heater is quite smaller and very portable. It is a heating device without a transfer duct but still runs on the same type of energy as the central heaters.

From the various types of space heaters, some models may need a combustion mechanism to function or simply utilize electricity. Combustion heaters have a burning process that produces dangerous gases into the air. It’s the least eco-friendly type of space heater and can result in serious fire hazards.

If you have to use the combustion-powered space heaters, we can only advise you to install fire detectors in the areas where you place them. Also, avoid using extension cords with your 1500 watts space heaters; that’s too much load on one socket. And go for the space heaters that can automatically turn off in the cases of accidents.

The electric space heaters have the most effective rates. There are convection and radiant types of heaters that fall under the same price range. The convection works by warming up the air the room and are good options for studio apartments.

On the other hand, the radiant type emits infrared radiation to heat objects along the line of sight. This type is efficient because it does not continually release heat into the whole space without the need to tip the central thermostat. Radiant heat systems are excellent options for areas like the dining table or if you to move around the room.

Here’s one video that might be useful to you:

Space heaters vs Central heat?

It’s easy to conclude that using the space heater over the central heat system helps to bring down the energy cost. Of course, the space heaters seem quite capable, but truth be told, they are not always a practical option. It all depends on the situation.

Too many factors come into play when deciding on either the space heater or central heat, some include:

  • The size of the space you want to be warmed up.
  • The type of central heater
  • The kind of space heater
  • The room temperature you want to achieve
  • The outside temperature
  • And lots more.

If the plan is to warm up only one or two rooms in the room, then the space heater may be the less expensive and preferred choice. According to data from the U.S. Department of Energy, this is because the space heater focuses the energy on heating objects and occupants in the space rather than wasting it on the entire house. So it efficiently uses lesser energy if you have few people in the room who wouldn’t be moving around so much.

But if you have to warm up an entire house, putting the space heater in every room and turning them on at the same time will use up so much energy and cost you more. In this case, the central heat system becomes a better option.

The type and quality of the space heater or the central heater matters to the level of efficiency. Newer models are designed to save more energy than older ones. So when comparing both heating units, you can see that it depends on lots of factors and also what you are looking for!

Even as we compare, you should also consider how one can complement the other. For instance, if your old central heating system is no longer producing warmth as it should, and you have checked it for possible issues, then it might need a replacement or the support of the space heater to ensure efficiency.


How to increase the efficiency of your heater?

To increase the efficiency of your heating unit and keep the electric bill down during winter, you cannot rely alone on the choice or quality of the heater. You also need to make some conscious adjustments.

digital thermostat at house

For the central heat system, using a thermostat will help to keep the bills down. You can set the temperature down to a slightly uncomfortable level then use other means like extra clothes and socks with heavy layers or warm beverages to make yourself feel warmer. Use blankets or snuggle up with a loved one to share body heat and utilize a fireplace if you have one.

Heating your house with a heating unit is only part of what keeps you warm — another factor to maintain the efficiency on top to adjust the state of your home. Regardless of your heating style, a significant point to consider is the insulation. Quality insulation can take off more than 20 percent on your energy consumption and also present your heating unit as very efficient.

Seal and insulate ducts, cover cracks and holes in walls, especially in places like the garage, basements or attic. Use doors and windows that are capable of keeping heat inside and shut them to ensure you close them while the device runs. Bad insulations make your unit work harder and as a result, cause the energy bill to go up.

Turning off the radiator and closing the doors of the empty rooms that don’t need heat will also save costs. If you use the space heater, ensure to read the manual carefully, and follow the necessary safety instructions in setting it up and using it. Also, keep children and pets away.

Before winter comes, you should do all these to make sure the heat from the unit stays in the room and is not escaping through these cracks or gaps. Also check the heaters if they need cleaning, repairs (probably a cracked belt or loose connections), or full even replacements, or simply call a technician to do the checking for you.


Conclusion – Space Heater Or Central Heat

The central heat unit is a general part of the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system (HVAC). It is powered by a furnace and capable of heating up either a room or the entire house. On the other hand, the space heater is a portable mobile device capable of generating heat in selected places.

The main difference between both units is that the space heater can be taken anywhere and assigned to specific sections in the house, while the central system is integrated into the house.

As we have explained in our discussion, the answer to “which is more efficient, space heater or central heat? It depends on how much of the home you aim to place your focus. It is more suited to warm up a section of the house with a space heater. But if you plan to increase the temperature of the entire home, running several space heaters is not a practical solution – instead, you should use the central heat system.

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