Customers in Las Vegas frequently ask us if a space heater is a good alternative to a furnace to keep their homes warm. Many believe that a space heater uses less energy than a gas furnace. However, that is not necessarily true.
When evaluating the pros and cons of using a furnace versus a space heater, you need to consider the cost of electricity and gas in your area, the energy efficiency of your space heater, and the size of the area you want to heat.
Comparing the Cost of Space Heaters Versus Furnaces
Gas energy is measured as therms, whereas electricity is measured by kilowatt-hours. The first step in comparing space heater and furnace energy costs is finding a benchmark that can compare both energy types.
The accepted way of doing this is to calculate gas and electric energy using British Thermal Units (BTUs). This allows you to determine the cost of 1 million BTUs of heating energy. On average, a home will need between 50 million and 150 million BTUs to heat it each winter. This gives you a baseline to judge the cost efficiency of central heaters and space heaters.
Assuming that your space heater is of the highest quality and has a 100% efficiency rating, is it the cheapest way to heat your house? If the average cost of electricity in Las Vegas is 12.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, it is going to cost around $36 for a million BTUs of heat.
That sounds good until you look at the cost of natural gas in Las Vegas. As with most other utilities, natural gas is a lot less expensive in Las Vegas than in other states. Las Vegas consistently ranks in the bottom 10 when it comes to gas prices in the United States. On average, you will pay $13.70 per thousand cubic feet. This makes natural gas and the use of a furnace considerably less expensive than attempting to heat your home with a space heater. However, this is subject to change if natural gas supplies increase in price.
Circumstances Where a Space Heater May Be Advantageous
There are some circumstances where using a space heater can be financially advantageous. For example, if you want to heat one room of your house that is not connected to ductwork, then a space heater will be efficient.
If you plan to spend most of your day in one room of your home, you may not want to spend money to keep the rest of your home warm. However, it makes more financial sense to use your central gas furnace in most other scenarios. At Polar Air & Heating, Inc., our technicians can help you ensure that your furnace runs at peak efficiency, which will save energy.
Space Heater Safety
Space heaters are involved in hundreds of home fires annually. According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters play a role in up to 43% of home heating-related fires. Sadly, 85% of deaths associated with home heating-related fires involve space heaters.
As startling as these numbers are, modern space heaters are the safest they have ever been. Still, they have a heating element that can be the catalyst for a fire. If you are going to use a space heater, do not go cheap. You want a space heater with built-in safety features, like a thermal shut-off that will power down the unit if it gets too hot or tips over.
Many space heater-related fires are caused by people setting their space heater on a wooden workbench or shelf. Some have set it on top of their bed or rug. The wood, dust, and fibers of a bed, desk, or rug are the perfect fuel for a fire.
If you are going to use a space heater, it should be on the smoothest and flattest surface possible. The unit should be equipped with a tip-over switch, making it hard to tilt it. You should be in the room where the heater is in use so that you can react quickly. You are likely to smell any heating issues before they become a problem.
Common sense would dictate that you keep the unit away from water, out of your kitchen and bathroom, and nowhere near flammable objects.
Many space heater fires start because people leave their space heater alone in a room. Their pets or kids knock it over or accidentally put fabric on it. A space heater draws a lot of current. This makes it an electrical hazard, especially if there are children around.
Is a gas furnace dangerous? When used properly and maintained, they are not dangerous. Gas furnaces are built with the highest safety standards in mind. You will find a gas furnace in most houses because of how safe and efficient they are.
As with any gas appliance, a furnace can become dangerous if the proper steps are not taken to mitigate potential dangers. Regular maintenance is the key to keeping your heater safe and efficient. At Polar Air & Heating, Inc., our technicians take pride in helping our customers keep their furnaces running longer and working at their best.
Heating maintenance prevents your furnace from losing energy efficiency. It minimizes the number of repairs your unit will need and also keeps your warranty valid longer.
Each time a technician goes to your home for annual furnace maintenance, they evaluate the unit for possible hazards. They will check the heat exchanger for corrosion and review the structural integrity of the gas lines. Part of annual maintenance includes checking the gas pressure and ensuring that the safety mechanisms in your appliance are operating at 100%. If our technicians find anything in your furnace that might be unsafe, they will notify you right away.
You should be careful with an aging furnace. At some point, the heat exchanger could crack, allowing toxic gases to enter your home. This happens because of corrosion caused by age. Most furnaces have a 15-year shelf life. Our technicians can tell you if they believe that your furnace has gotten too old to continue to run safely.
The Final Verdict of Furnaces Versus Space Heaters
A space heater could be an acceptable temporary solution in certain circumstances, such as heating just one room. You will need to use extreme caution and never leave the space heater alone.
However, if you are looking for an inexpensive, safe, and reliable solution to heat your whole house during Las Vegas winters, then a gas furnace is the way to go. They are less expensive to operate, provide even heating, and are safe to operate all winter long.
Work With Top HVAC Professionals
At Polar Air & Heating, Inc., we want the best for our customers, so we go the extra mile to address their individual needs. Regardless of the scope of your job, our team can take care of it in a professional manner. Whether you need HVAC repairs, installation, or maintenance, our technicians can produce results that will stand the test of time.
We take pride in our work. Our technicians will protect your property and clean up their work area when they are done working. We are the only name you need to trust for maintenance, indoor air quality, commercial HVAC, and new construction. Contact Polar Air & Heating, Inc. today to learn more or schedule an appointment.