Does Using a Portable Heater Save Money?

The winter is coming, and we all know what that means. The heating bills are going up and up – especially if you’re using fixed, central heating.

Therefore, many people try to find other heating solutions to reduce the cost of their bills. Portable heaters are an excellent option, and there are a lot of different types to choose from. But does using a portable heater save money?

Using a portable heater can hugely reduce your heating bills because they heat quickly and efficiently. The drawback is that they can usually only heat a single area, not the entire household. But, being portable, you can carry them around from room to room if needed.

There are numerous types of portable heaters. You can choose from gas or electricity-powered heaters. Some use fans to disperse warm air quickly, and others use convector heaters that heat up slower but more evenly, making the warmth last longer.

We’ll discuss all the different types of portable heaters to determine which option is the best for you, both for keeping warm and saving some money.

How Does A Portable Heater Work?

Whatever the type of portable heater is designed to heat a specific area efficiently, be it a room, a garage, an office, or a lounge.

However, different types use different methods of heating. Some are stronger and faster, while some are designed only for smaller areas. Some use more power (hence, the cost of heating is higher), while some are extremely energy efficient.

Before we get into the types of portable heaters, you should know one thing when buying a heater. Saving money with a portable heater does not come from buying the cheapest model. Sometimes, the models that cost more are much more energy-efficient and will ultimately save you a ton of money. 

It would be best to look at the running cost per hour compared to the heater’s power (heat) output. For instance, a 2kW heater that costs around $1 an hour to run is more efficient than a 500W heater, costing half a dollar an hour. More power usually means more cost, but you should be looking at the power/cost ratio to determine real efficiency.

Gas-powered Heaters

A lot of people opt for gas heaters because, well, gas is cheaper than electricity. Depending on your whereabouts, gas can be as much as five times more affordable than electricity. However, that doesn’t mean that it is more efficient for heating your living area.

There are two main types of portable gas heaters. There are radiant gas heaters and portable gas stoves. Both have their advantages, but one significant setback with these kinds of heaters is portability.

Gas Heaters

Gas-powered heaters work in a specific way, no matter the type. They burn the gas, emitting heat in the process, but they need an exhaust pipe because of the burning process, so they are a lot harder to move them around. 

If we are talking about efficiency, electric heaters are 100% efficient in turning energy into heat. No energy gets wasted whatsoever, no matter what kind of an electric heater we are talking about.

On the other hand, gas heaters tend to leak fumes and a small amount of heat. Even the most efficient models can’t conserve 100% of their energy and turn it into heat.

Some of it always gets lost in the process of burning and exhaust. So, what is the difference between a radiant gas heater and a portable gas stove?

Radiant Heaters

A radiant heater is usually smaller and heats a specific area, like your bedside or a cubicle in the office. They typically don’t have enough power to heat a larger room but are cheap to run if you need to heat a specific spot.

Gas stoves, on the other hand, tend to be more robust and robust. As much as this is advantageous for them when it comes to their heating power, it is also a drawback to portability. They are bigger, heavier, and need an exhaust line, so moving them around from room to room is not that simple. 

Pros & Cons Of Gas Heaters

Typically, they look like a mini fireplace and are very cozy to be around, only they don’t burn wood, but gas instead. Let’s look at the pros and cons of using a gas heater instead of an electric one.

  • Gas is cheaper. As we mentioned, the discrepancy between a kWh cost when using gas/electricity can be as large as five times the amount.
  • Less energy-efficient: Electric heaters tend to be a lot more efficient than gas. One can argue that gas heaters are more pleasing to the eye, but that doesn’t eliminate the safety hazards they bring to the table.
  • Not as mobile: If you want a portable heater, gas heaters can work for you, but they are not simple to move around.
  • Leaks can happen: Also, the safety hazard is obvious when it comes to using gas. Leaks can occur, and gas heaters usually don’t have as many safety measures as electric heaters do nowadays.
  • Fossil fuel burns: Additionally, burning fossil fuels is far more damaging to the environment because they are non-renewable. Electricity is renewable to a degree, so these types of heaters are better ecology-wise.
Electric Heater

Portable Electric Heaters

There are four main types of portable electric heaters on the market. They use different systems to achieve the same thing – turning electricity into heat.

1. Fan Heaters

The first and probably the most common type is the fan heater. Fan heaters use power to heat the air quickly and disperse it into the living space using fans. The same principle is used in, for instance, hairdryers or AC units.

They are highly portable and very lightweight, which is a significant advantage because you can carry them easily from room to room, depending on where you are at that moment.

However, although they can heat a room pretty quickly, it cools down quickly when you turn them off, too. Plus, the fan will make at least some noise, which can be a nuisance.

2. Convection Heater

If you want the heat to last longer, a convector heater is a better option for you. Convection heaters don’t disperse warm air through the room but instead heat the air around them first.

Because of the density difference between hot and cold air, the air around them will cycle and go upwards, leaving cold air around the heater again, which will then be heated again.

The process continues until the room is heated evenly. It takes longer to heat a room this way, but it will be heated more thoroughly. Hence, the heat will last longer. It is an excellent option for living rooms, where you spend more time.

3. Oil-filled Heaters

Similarly, long-lasting heaters are oil-filled radiators. These heaters don’t burn oil to produce heat but rather heat it using electricity. They take some time to heat up, but oil conserves heat for quite some time, which keeps the appliance warm long after you turn it off. 

That makes these kinds of radiators very energy efficient. But, they are much heavier than other types of portable electric heaters.

To add to it, they can present a safety hazard because of their nature and the system they use, especially if you have children or pets running around.

4. Infrared Halogen Heaters

Finally, the cheapest version of an electric heater to run is the infrared halogen heaters. These heaters work very quickly and are cheap to run.

They use lamps filled with halogen gas that heats up almost instantly after being plugged in. The heat radiates into the space around the heater.

Halogen heaters are frequently used in bars or hallways because they heat the air in the room and the objects surrounding them.

That is why they feel so comfortable on your skin. However, halogen heaters can be quite dangerous and are known to cause fires when malfunctioning.

That being said, it is the cheapest option to go with, but you should never leave a halogen heater unsupervised or plugged in while you are asleep.

Pros & Cons Of Electric Heaters

There are many pros to using portable electric heaters. They are easy to use and install yourself, saving you money on installation prices.

  • Very efficient: Also, they are incredibly efficient and turn all of the consumed energy into heat. Even though electricity is a bit more expensive than gas, you can regulate how much energy you consume simply by turning them on and off. If you use central heating, that option isn’t as readily available for you.
  • High electric costs: The apparent con for these appliances is the high cost of electricity, but you can avoid it by being more careful and aware of energy consumption.
  • They come with safety features: Safety was one of the main issues before, but nowadays, electric heaters have significant safety measures to prevent accidents.

    For instance, they have built-in thermostats to prevent overheating, and a lot of them have an instant turn-off option when knocked over, etc.

Do Portable Heaters Use A Lot Of Electricity?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. It takes a lot of power to turn electricity into heat. According to the United States Department of Energy, a portable electric heater can use as much power as a coffee maker or an oven.

That might sound low, but note that those aren’t appliances that run for a very long time. Heaters sometimes work for hours non-stop, so it is easy to see how the bills can quickly climb up. 

That doesn’t mean your bills will be higher, and there are many reasons why that is the case. If you use electric heaters logically and carefully, you will feel a significant price drop compared to central gas heating.

Note that all of the energy used for heating goes straight into the living area – nothing gets wasted. So, if you turn the heater on and off reasonably and only when you need it, you will consume a lower energy amount.

How To Determine How Much Electricity You’re Using

If you want to determine how much an electric heater costs you exactly, it is simple to calculate it. Check the wattage (power) of your electric heater (usually written on the packing).

Multiply that number with the number of hours you plan to use the heater daily, and then divide it by a thousand. Finally, multiply the number you got by the rate per kWh that your electricity provider charges (check the number on your electric bills).

That will give you the exact price your electric heater is costing you daily. Multiply that with the number of days in a month, and you’ll get a rough estimate of the monthly charge for your heater. Compare that to your gas heating bills to determine if it’s efficient enough for you.

You can also use this wattage calculator here.

Is It Cheaper To Have A Portable Heater?

There are many different ways to determine if portable electric heating is a good option for you. Of course, the calculation we presented in the previous paragraph might be the best way to precisely determine if it is cheaper or not.

However, there are some other aspects you need to consider, especially if the calculation isn’t possible for you.

Maybe you are unsure how many hours a day you’ll need the heater working. Also, you might not be home as much on some days as opposed to others. The weather will also influence heating needs, so it is hard to rely on that calculation only.

How Large Your Space Is

So, to determine if a portable heater is cheaper for you, take a look at some of the other factors. First of all, the larger space is, the higher the heating cost with a portable electric heater.

If you wish to heat the entire house, central gas heating is probably a better option. However, a lot of energy gets wasted on exhaust, leaks, and pipelines to bring the heat into your home. That means you pay for energy you don’t even receive.

How Much Time Is Spent Home

Second, determine how much time you spend at home. If you are out for most of the day, central heating might be a waste of money, as it requires much more time to heat your home. Also, you don’t have the option to heat only the rooms you are in for most of your day.

Therefore, the best answer we can give you on whether portable heaters are cheaper than, for instance, central heating, is that it is circumstantial and depends on the situation.

The size of the space you need to heat, the time you need the area to be heated, and in the end, your awareness of energy consumption and heating rationally all come into play.

If you only need a smaller space heated for a certain period of the day, then a portable electric heater is the right choice for you. Just remember to turn it off when you don’t need it, both for energy-saving and safety purposes.

However, if you need ample space to be continuously heated, it can be three times more expensive to use electricity instead of central gas heating. If you want to save money on heating, you need to be careful and rational.

What Is The Most Cost-efficient Portable Heater?

As you have probably figured out already, many factors come into play when determining a portable heater’s efficiency. The heat/cost ratio is the key – the cost of the appliance itself and its energy consumption level. That being said, different heaters are the better choice in different situations.

But, when you look at it overall, we can recommend a highly effective portable heater for you, considering all the factors. The Lasko 754200 Ceramic Portable Heater is fantastic for smaller living spaces and rooms where you spend most of your time.

It uses fan-forced hot air to heat the space quickly you need to heat up. The ceramic material is also very energy efficient and radiates heat itself. But, the great thing about this heater is that, even though it uses fans to disperse heat, it has three quiet setting modes, so the fan’s sound won’t bother you at all.

One more great feature is the adjustable thermostat, which will allow you to adjust the temperature to the degree that suits you the most. It also provides you with peace of mind because it prevents overheating and other safety hazards.

The light housing makes the heater very portable, so you’ll have no trouble carrying it from room to room if you need it. The body has built-in cool-touch features, which means it will not get hot, even when running for more extended periods. 

The adjustment of heating is also straightforward. It only has two dials – one to determine the fan’s strength (ventilation only, low heating, and high heating) and one working as a thermostat (to determine the temperature you wish for).

There are other terrific options out there, but to conclude – the only way to save money with a portable heater is to be rational and take all the factors we mentioned. If you do, you can keep a lot of money come winter, but if you don’t, it can be just as big of a waste of money, too.

Conclusion

Smaller space heaters are honestly the way to go. They are convenient and can save you a ton of money depending on how you use them. Make sure to take this advice all into consideration whenever you are trying to use your space heater for what needs you specifically have, and you can ensure that lots of energy will be saved in the process.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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