Staying Warm Safely
Now that the temperature is starting to drop and there’s a chill in the air, people will start dragging out their space heaters and cranking up the thermostat. Sure, you can go out and buy a brand new primary heating system for your house, but let’s be realistic, who can afford such a high ticket item in these economic times? We are all hoping next year will be better, but for now something a little more affordable seems like the right way to go. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, there are a couple basic categories of heaters that fit the bill. They do differ in how they heat a room, so I thought I’d shed some light on the subject for those of us in the dark (and the cold!) Follow along closely…there are a lot of 2’s in this story.
The first category of space heaters, and the most common, is known as convection heating. Basically, this is a space heater that relies on the circulation of heated air around a room. Convection is the traditional kind of heater that most people think about when they think of a space heater. Within the category of convection heating, there are 2 types - combustion and electric heaters.
Combustion heaters also typically come in 2 kinds, vented and unvented. I won’t go into detail about the unvented type because they have been banned for use inside a home; they tend to increase the levels of carbon monoxide and other toxins beyond the recommended levels. A vented combustion space heater is generally mounted to a wall and has vents that lead outside of the home. It works by using a fuel (usually kerosene or propane) to heat up the air and then blow it into the house. Because it is vented, carbon monoxide levels remain safe for breathing. Just remember, you’ll need to keep the vents clean.
The second type of convection heater is electric. Basically, you plug it in and air is drawn in and pulled over and around a heated element and then dispersed throughout the room. Remember those “old school” space heaters where you could see through the front and there were those red hot, snake-like elements inside? That is exactly the kind of space heater I’m talking about. Generally, electric heaters are safer than combustion heaters, but be sure to find one with an automatic shut-off in case it is ever turned over.
The second category of heating system to consider is radiant space heating. With this type of heat, there is no air drawn in and forced out to be circulated around the room. Actually, there are no moving parts at all. Instead, radiant heating technology generates warmth that emanates outward, warming objects and people slowly and steadily, as opposed to warming the air directly. This type of heater is usually a more efficient choice when you want to heat a room for a short period of time or only want to heat a defined area, such as the space under your home or office desk.
No matter what kind of space heater you decide on, above all, remember that safety comes first! The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 25,000 fires are started by space heaters a year. Make sure you do your research about the specific type and brand you are considering. Try to learn about any safety issues the product has experienced in the past and maybe even read a few in-depth user reviews. Good luck and stay safe, warm and cozy!