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Old 10-07-2008, 06:24 AM   #1
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low cost space heater?

Hi, I'm new to the forum. I was wondering if anyone could give me advice on what would be a low cost space heater for this winter. My wife gets much colder than I do so I was thinking that we could lower the heat this winter if I got her a space heater but I'm concerned that I might actually end up paying more than keeping the boiler (oil heat) higher for the whole house (we only have one zone heat). I live in CT where we pay very high electric rates 22-$.26/kWh. Has anyone used their Kill-a-Watt device to see how much their space heater costs them over a month of use? I've read that oil filled heaters might be the most economical should I give one of those a try.
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Old 10-07-2008, 06:37 AM   #2
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The oil filled electric radiators work well, but it usually takes them at least an hour to start putting out a decent amount of heat. Have you considered a heated throw for her to use while snuggled on the couch? Its like an electric blanket, but not as huge as one for a bed. You won't be paying to heat the whole house, or the whole room with a space heater. You'll just be paying to heat her Also, in the winter I usually leave the thermostat down low and I use a heated mattress pad on my bed at night, and wear sweaters durring the day. I usually keep the heat at ~ 55F. If you put the heat just where you need it you can save on the heating bill.

-Jay
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Old 10-07-2008, 06:41 AM   #3
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Electric space heaters should be pretty accurately labeled with their energy usage, so it's probably not necessary to measure actual usage...just read the package.
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Old 10-07-2008, 07:13 AM   #4
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The oil heaters just heat up and cool down slowly- its a more even heat, but they give no more BTU per watt than a cheapy electric type that blows hot air.

If you have any south facing windows, you can gets lots of free heat on a sunny cold day...
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Old 10-08-2008, 01:59 PM   #5
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Monitor kerosene heaters are not what you would call cheap, but they are great heaters and very efficient. I live in a 14X70 mobile home and have a 22,000 BTU Monitor that heats the whole house all winter with its thermostat set at 68-70 on about 100-150 gallons of kerosene per winter. I live around Charlotte, NC so we don't have real rough winters. The heater doesn't take up a lot of room either the dimensions on mine are about 14" D X 21" W X 25" H. and it is thermostatically controlled. They vent to the outside of the house so there is not a kerosene smell and they have a small electric blower that circulates the heat. I think the blower on mine only uses about 60 watts of power. I'm not sure what the price on them is now, but when I bought mine in '96 I think I paid $925. for it. If you bought one of them you could use it all of the time and it would cut your electrical usage way down. When I bought mine they also made a 40,000 BTU unit and probably still do. You can fill them using the small tank like a portable kerosene heater has or you can do what I did and run it off of an outside source (I use a 55 gallon drum) to store the kerosene. Just do a Google search on Monitor kerosene heater and you'll be able to find out more information about them.
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Old 10-20-2008, 08:32 PM   #6
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Hi, I'm new to the forum. I was wondering if anyone could give me advice on what would be a low cost space heater for this winter.
Electric space heaters pretty much all use the same principle to heat. i.e. They turn electrical energy into heat via resistance. As a result, such space heaters are almost all equally efficient/inefficient energy wise.

So what you get for differences in price, is total capacity (how fast can it put out heat by using a lot of power?), and features. For example some units have fancier digital thermostats (that help you get exactly the temp you are looking for), some units have ceramic heat storage (which doesn't put out anymore total heat, but allows the unit to be more even in the heat it puts out into the room), etc. But overall, even a cheap $16 Walmart special will heat as efficiently (power usage wise) as a fancy $100+ unit.

As to the cost of running them, there is no real need to use a kill-o-watt as almost all space heaters have their actual power usage listed on the package and/or the tag on the heater itself. So just look up what power they use, figure out what percentage of the time the unit will be "on", and multiply by your cost of electricity. For example, if you are using the "low" setting on your heater, that "low" setting is 750 watts (a common number for the low setting on my heaters), the unit (in the room you are using it in) cycles on for about 1/3 of the time, and your electrical cost is $0.26/kwh, than the unit would cost you: 0.75 * 1/3 * $0.26 or around 6.5 cents/hour you have it "on".

NOTE: How much a space heater cycles on varies a LOT with the makeup of the room, and also with how insulated things are. So the above is just an example of how to run the numbers, your numbers could easily be higher or lower.

NOTE: Most "electronics" (including computers, TVs, lights, etc) produce (in addition to anything "useful" they do) "waste heat" almost as "efficiently" (watt for watt) as an electronic space heater. So in the winter don't sweat running an extra electric device or two, as you will also get heat in the room as a result!

NOTE: If your room is a little damp in the winter, consider getting a portable "dehumidifier". Yes, they are bigger than space heaters, but they also produce "waste heat". And in the case of a dehumidifier, they not only dry out the air (sometimes useful, especially if/when things are a little wet/clammy), but they actually make more efficient "space heaters" than real space heaters! The reason for this, is that the dehumidifier both has it's normal "waste heat" (just like the space heater generates heat) _and_ also has the heat that is produced as a side-effect of condensing water out of the air. So with a dehumidifier you get heat from two sources for your electrical input, whereas a real "space heater" only gives you one of those sources of heat.

BTW: Yes, I do use a space heater some in the winter (in our bedroom), although we use our dehumidifier more (for the reason stated above), because it's an alternative to heating the whole house. So even when the space heater is more expensive for unit of heat out, you may still "win" by minimizing the places you have to heat.

However, there are a number of other "tricks" that should be considered, if you are trying to save money on winter heat. Here's a partial list (all of which we do here, at least some of the time):

Seal the windows very tightly, and if you have storm windows make sure they are sealed as well. It only takes a slight "draft" to lose a LOT of heat from the room. And if your weather stripping is old and/or not working well, consider replacing it with new from the hardware store.

If your storm windows are like mine, they probably don't seal nearly as tightly as the main window. So I've found that a little tape around edge of the storm window (before you seal up the main window) can work wonders at cutting down on the air drafts the storm windows let into the main window area.

Consider those plastic "extra windows" that you can put on in the winter. Even with properly latched windows (and storm windows) with good weather stripping (and tape around the storm windows), the extra layer that the temp plastic does can make a big difference (especially if it is really cold out).

Caulk is cheap! Get a caulking gun and one or more tubes of clear flexible silicone sealer caulk. Then squeeze the chalk into any outside wall that you can feel any air from. Because those little "drafts" can add up to big losses of heat in the winter!

If you have the choice between turning up the heat, or cooking in the kitchen, cook in the kitchen. For example, put a nice turkey in the oven. Yes, you will still be paying for the energy, but not only will you get a nice home cooked meal (at a fraction of the cost of eating out), but virtually all that heat (used for cooking) will eventually leak into the house (heating up your home). So you get two things (the meal and heating the home) for the same energy cost...

Reflectix (this stuff: http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/...ctId=100012574 ) is available at many hardware stores), and is really handy stuff for makeshift winterizing of a room. In the winter, I'll set sheets of the stuff next to outside walls anywhere I can. For example, our bed headboard is right up against an outside wall, so naturally some of that stuff behind the headboard. Ditto for behind the dresser and shelves we have against the wall. And because the stuff is so soft and (unlike fiberglass) easy on the lungs and skin, you can actually put the stuff between your bed mattress and box-springs. And why would you do that, you ask? Because it will cause the bed to naturally be a little warmer (without affecting the comfort of the bed), by reflecting some of your body heat back to you (instead of having that heat dissipate into the room)!

Especially if your bathroom is connected to your master bedroom, consider leaving any bath water in the tub for at least an hour or two after you are done washing. This will let some of the heat from the wash water go into your bedroom and warm it up, instead of wasting that heat down the drain.

Consider opening your curtains during the day when the sun is out, and closing them at night. Even in the winter, you can use the "greenhouse effect" to get solar heat from the sun coming into the room through a window. But that only works if you don't block that solar energy with the shades. OTOH the reverse is true at night, and you actually want the shades closed (at night) to cut down on heat escaping the room via the window.

Consider insulating any wall outlets (or switches) on outside walls. It's amazing how much cold air can leak around those electrical boxes built into the wall, and kits to insulate them (which often involve unscrewing the faceplate, installing a foam cutout, and screwing the faceplate back on) are easy/cheap to get. Also, consider plugging in those "child safety plugs" into any outlet (on an outside wall) that you aren't currently using. The child plug will serve to lower the airflow around that outlet, and thereby cut down on heat escaping (via the wall outlet) from the room.

With body heat, two works better then one. i.e. Curling up next to your wife will tend to keep you both warm.

And finally, good blankets (to keep your body heat in) are helpful as well. In my experience, nothing is more irritating in the winter, then not having a big enough blanket. IMHO a large comforter is well worth the money. And if you are an allergy sufferer (as I am), you can actually buy comforters that use allergen barrier cloth as their outermost layer. Yes, they are expensive (I think I spent around $300 when I bought my king-sized anti-allergen comforter several years ago), but they will (if taken care of) last for years.
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Old 10-20-2008, 09:08 PM   #7
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One thing you may not realize, but raising the humidity level in a room will make it seem warmer than it really is. In the winter low humidity coupled with heating the area often causes problems with static electricity. In the winter I usually run a humidifier. It eliminates static problems, I don't get my winter nosebleeds, and it allows me to set the thermostat 5 degrees lower.
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Old 10-20-2008, 09:38 PM   #8
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One thing you may not realize, but raising the humidity level in a room will make it seem warmer than it really is.
True up to a point.

However, too much humidity can have its own problems too. For example, when the humidity is too high in the winter you get condensation (and possibly mold growth) on those (often colder) outer walls. And if the humidity level is high enough, it can feel really "clammy" and uncomfortable. Also, if you happen to be an allergy suffer (I am), it's helpful to know that many indoor allergens (especially "dust mites") are much better controlled when the humidity level is lower (ideally around 40% or less).

And FWIW my personal experience is that the primary thing that seems to dry out the air (in the winter) is gas central heat (as the burning gas flames dry out the air, in addition to heating things up). As a result, when the "waste heat" sources around our house are being effective (at adding heat), we find we often have a "too much humidity" problem even in the winter (hence our desire to use our dehumidifier as a "space heater" in the winter). In fact, in the winter you do not have the AC lowing the humidity (as it often does in the summer), so it's actually possible for a house to get more humid in the winter than the summer (unless you have something else, for example gas heat, drying out the air).

Besides which, one of my other suggestions (i.e. letting the water in the bathtub cool down naturally), not only does a very good job of capturing heat that would otherwise be wasted, it also works as a fairly effective "humidifier" as a side effect. So to the extent I actually want to raise the humidity level (and I agree that in the winter it's a balancing act as to what the right humidity level target should be), why not do it with the heat from leftover water (vs running a separate humidifier)?
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Old 10-21-2008, 05:58 AM   #9
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DracoFelis, those are some very good points, and a few ideas I had never thought of. Mind if I disassemble a few of them?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DracoFelis View Post
overall, even a cheap $16 Walmart special will heat as efficiently (power usage wise) as a fancy $100+ unit.
I always thought this was true, for the reasons you stated.

I'd also add that if you check WalMart in the spring, you'll probably find those $16 units for $3, and the $100 units for $16.

I bought a few last spring and left them in my attic, time to bring them down. I was thinking I'd use a small one in the car in the morning to pre-heat the interior before work, then I don't have to use extra gas trying to heat the car up. Right now I can't EOC first thing in the morning because wife is cold.

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So in the winter don't sweat running an extra electric device or two, as you will also get heat in the room as a result!
This is especially true of incandescent light bulbs, which make most of their energy into heat.

Quote:
NOTE: If your room is a little damp in the winter, consider getting a portable "dehumidifier". Yes, they are bigger than space heaters, but they also produce "waste heat".
I'll have to agree with Jay on this one. I run dehumidifiers in the summer because the New England air is chock full of water, but in the winter the indoor air is bone-dry (possibly due to oil being burned for heat, as you suggest about gas). The more humid air can feel warmer at a given temperature. More importantly, in the winter with colds and flu and such going around, it's important not to let your nose/throat/mouth dry out; the mucous membranes dry and then the germs get in more easily. Since I've been paying attention to humidity and irrigating my throat by drinking more water, my winters have been much less sick.

Humidifiers make as much (or more) heat as dehumidifiers. Vaporizers do the same thing as humidifiers but they do it with more heat, esentially combining a space heater with a humidifier (but some make lots of concentrated steam that could cause mold if it is directed at a surface). You could probably just leave a glass of water on top of your heater for a similar effect (of course then you'd have to worry about spilling the water).

Quote:
And in the case of a dehumidifier, they not only dry out the air (sometimes useful, especially if/when things are a little wet/clammy), but they actually make more efficient "space heaters" than real space heaters! The reason for this, is that the dehumidifier both has it's normal "waste heat" (just like the space heater generates heat) _and_ also has the heat that is produced as a side-effect of condensing water out of the air.
I'm not so sure about this. I didn't run my dehumidifier this summer, but I remember it producing cooler air, and I assumed that it must radiate its waste heat out the back somewhere, since the condensed water isn't warm.

Quote:
So with a dehumidifier you get heat from two sources for your electrical input, whereas a real "space heater" only gives you one of those sources of heat.
The extra source doesn't result in free heat. For the same wattage input, you'd get more heat generated from the resistance of heater, since it's not doing the work of extracting the water from the air. The heat that it gets specifically from condensing water (vs. the waste heat from spent electricity) is heat that was already in the air; the condensed water is cooler than it was when it was part of the air.

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So even when the space heater is more expensive for unit of heat out, you may still "win" by minimizing the places you have to heat.
Spending 5,000 watt hours at 50% efficiency beats spending 50,000 watt hours at 75% efficiency. As long as you don't have pets or children, you are free to heat the people instead of the whole environment.

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Chalk is cheap!
Chalk is for writing on a blackboard. Caulk is for sealing gaps.

Quote:
Get a chalking gun and one or more tubes of clear flexible silicone sealer chalk.
Caulking guns can be found at dollar stores these days. The dollar store caulking guns I've used work surprisingly well.

Silicone caulk is not cheap. Latex caulk is cheap and ought to do the job fine, but it's not as nice of a material to work with. It does have less odor than silicone but it isn't as sticky, isn't clear (though it is paintable), doesn't stay as flexible, and doesn't remove as nicely.

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If you have the choice between turning up the heat, or cooking in the kitchen, cook in the kitchen.


The only time this fails is if you have to run the kitchen exhaust fan.

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consider leaving any bath water in the tub for at least an hour or two after you are done washing.
This is a great idea, I never thought of it -- though I take showers, not baths.

Similarly, leave the pot of cooking water out in the kitchen instead of pouring it down the drain immediately.

Quote:
Even in the winter, you can use the "greenhouse effect" to get solar heat from the sun coming into the room through a window. But that only works if you don't block that solar energy with the shades.
Also, curtains are better than shades because they insulate. Even when you're leveraging the greenhouse effect, they insulate the drafty edges.

Quote:
And finally, good blankets (to keep your body heat in) are helpful as well. In my experience, nothing is more irritating in the winter, then not having a big enough blanket.
Again, heating the individual instead of the environment. A pile of blankets works nicely for me, instead of one extra-thick blanket/comforter. I like the extra weight, and I can easily adjust the thickness by peeling off layers, even if I'm asleep (well, I assume that I partially wake up to adjust it, and then just don't remember it).

Also, having the blanket too big for the bed helps make sure you don't end up at the drafty edge of the blanket. Either you have a lot hanging over the bed, or you can tuck it in between the mattress and box spring, making the bed act like a sleeping bag and making sure that the edge never comes up to let a draft in.
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Old 10-21-2008, 06:31 AM   #10
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Wal-Mart is great at the end of the season. I bought a heated mattress pad on clearance @ WallyWorld ~ 2 years ago for $20. It works great. I heat the bed, and not the whole room. Much more energy efficient. Most often I'll turn it on 10 minutes before going to bed, warm the bed up, then turn it off and go to sleep. Once the bed is warmed up it tends to stay warm the whole night.

I agree with HC. Here on the east coast winters are very dry, and summers are extremely humid. While a byproduct of dehumidifying air is heat I agree with HC that its not the most efficient way to do this. For that matter why not leave the freezer door open when you want to heat the house? Its the same principle. You're running a compressor with Freon in it. Because of the laws of Thermodynamics being as they are nothing is 100% effficient so the net effect of leaving the freezer open is heating.

I agree, don't overdo it to the point of creating the ideal environment for mold growth, but if I don't humidify the air in the winter my skin gets dry, cracked, and will sometimes bleed. If I don't humidify in the winter daily nosebleeds are just about guaranteed.

Mom always did more baking in the winter than in the summer. Her logic being why heat up the kitchen just to cool it down again with the a/c?

-Jay
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