To Space Heat or Not, That is the Question!

December 30, 2022

Winter is upon us, and because our Minneapolis winters are beyond chilly, making sure our homes are warm and cozy is a priority for most. Winter's many festive occasions also bring family and friends to our homes, and no one wants their guests shivering around the dinner table.

Yet, heating is not a cut-and-dry matter. Different options impact our comfort, budgets, and safety in different ways.

In Minnesota, heating is the second leading cause of all residential fires after cooking incidents, so safety must be factored into the equation when you are evaluating your heating options.

A fire is reported about every 40 minutes in Minnesota. Most fires happen in people's homes, and most are caused by cooking and heating. The latest Minnesota Fire Department report states that "Minnesotans continue to be in the greatest danger from fire in their own homes," and the Department recommends that efforts in the areas of cooking, heating, and appliances be considered "top priority."

There are as many reasons for using space heaters as models on the market. Perhaps the heating system you installed is old, no longer meets your heating demands, or is inefficient and expensive. Naturally, houses outgrow heating systems; families get bigger, and since the pandemic, more of us are working from home, our heating needs may have changed. Space heaters are often used to boost existing systems or to cut down on heating bills. They are versatile and can be moved to where people are gathered to boost heat without needing to have the whole system on all the time.

The problem is that they can be very dangerous. To give an example, even though the fire department responded to far more incidents involving fireplaces or chimneys, the damage in dollar loss caused by space heater fires was almost the same. Before deciding to deploy space heaters in your home this winter, consider alternatives that may be safer and more efficient.

First, look at the big picture situation of your home's heating and energy systems before boosting with space heaters. Consider how old or new the system is, how efficient it is and evaluate how well it meets your heating needs - hot water included.As always, we recommend permanently installed electrical heaters as they are the safest method of heating your home.

A critical aspect to consider is your home's insulation. If you are feeling the nip at night, perhaps it's more to do with your house not being adequately insulated leading to your precious heat escaping through doors, windows, and roofing, wasting energy and money. Improving your home's insulation can make a huge difference to your utility bill and sense of comfort.

A good idea is to get an energy audit carried out. This will evaluate exactly how your energy system is performing, detect potential energy inefficiencies and resolve any issues before they become more serious.

Heating systems have become more sophisticated over time, so having an expert evaluate your home heating situation and recommend how to heat your home more efficiently can ensure the chill stays outside.

Space heaters may be a cheaper short-term option to buy and require no installation, but depending on their output, they can end up expensive and inefficient to run. Often, they only heat the immediate space around them and if they run for too long risk overheating, which is dangerous.

Remember, if manufacturers noted that you had to spend $800-$2000 dollars on running specific wiring to safely operate space heaters, they would be out of business.

If you do use space heaters, it is essential to take precautions to reduce fire or burn risk. Ensure your current electrical installation can cope with the additional electrical load on the circuit. It is best to have a trusted electrician do this for you. When purchasing space heaters, people consider price, output, and type and read many product reviews but often fail to calculate the overall absorption capacity of their home's electrical installation. If you add high-demand appliances onto an electrical system that is already pushed to its limits, wiring can overheat, and fire risk increases.

Getting your electrician to install enough wall outlets where you plan to use your space heaters is vital, as it is extremely dangerous to plug them into power strips. They must always be plugged into a wall socket. If your home is like the majority of homes and you are finding it hard to find unused outlets, then we highly recommend you have an electrician come and check your installation before using space heaters. An expert eye is always best, as you cannot have space heaters close to other wiring, appliances, or anything that could ignite or where it could easily be knocked over.

A qualified electrician can advise you on the safest models and power outputs for your heating needs based on the particularities of your home; after all, every home is different, and not all space heaters are created equally.

Stay warm this winter! Contact a trusted electrician to ensure your installation is load-capable and that you have taken effective fire prevention and detection measures.

If you are looking for expert, licensed electricians to help you electric heater installation, give us a call at Randy's Electric at 763-560-5600. Our team of electricians are highly trained and prepared to help with whatever electrical need you have. From home wiring to safety services to ceiling fan installations, we can do it for you.If you need additional help or would like to schedule an appointment, contact us online.