All About Space Heater Efficiency & Types of Space Heaters

Sometimes, whole-house or office heat just isn’t enough to beat the cold. If you’ve found yourself shivering at home or in the office, you’ve probably considered getting a space heater. In addition to concerns about space heater efficiency, many people worry about safety, especially in areas with high traffic or children.

Fear not – space heaters, when used properly, offer great advantages, both in heating and saving money. By using your space heater efficiently and remembering a few tips, you’ll be able to save money and stay warm.

In this blog post we’ll explore the pros and cons of space heaters, the different types of space heaters, and the situations for which a space heater is appropriate.

Do Space Heaters Work?

Yes! Space heaters work well as a supplemental heat source for homes and offices. This does not mean that you should rely on space heaters as a primary heat source; however, if you have a particularly drafty room in your home or part of your office building, a space heater will work hard to keep that area warm.

The heat productivity and cost efficiency of your space heater depends entirely on how you use it. If you’re only wanting to supplement heat in one room or small area, the benefits of a space heater are well worth it. However, if your whole house or business heat just isn’t cutting it and you’ve got one in every room, well…that’s when the space heater efficiency drops significantly.

When They Do Work

  • Supplemental Heat: Space heaters are designed to be a supplemental heat source. For this purpose, any type of space heater – whether gas, electric, or kerosene – will work well. If you need supplemental heat for employees in your place of business, infrared heaters or smaller, more compact electric heaters make a great option.
  • Single-Room Heating: Space heaters also work great for heating only the space you’re currently occupying. This works well if you’re wanting to leave the thermostat turned down to limit whole-house heat costs, or someone else likes the house a little colder than you do. This isn’t much more expensive if you limit space heater use to when you’re physically present in the room. Wearing layers can also help keep your heating output needs lower.

Choosing the right-sized space heater will greatly help you cost-to-heat ratio. If you’re only needing to heat a small area when you’re occupying it, a small infrared or portable electric heater will be your best bet. If you’re needing supplemental heat in an entire room, a gas or medium-sized electric heater makes the most sense. Kerosene heaters work well for large, well-ventilated areas, such as a garage or shop area.

When They Don’t Work

  • Whole House Heat + Space Heater = Not Enough: If you notice that you’re using a space heater and still running your whole-house heat full-blast, perhaps consider a different method. If it’s too chilly to turn down your thermostat and only supplement with the space heater, a mini-split heat pump system or other alternative like a wall unit might be something to consider.
  • Complete Heat Source: Space heaters are not designed to be your only source of heat. Continuously running one as the sole heat source puts a lot of strain on your wallet. Whether you’re using an electric model that creates higher power costs, or a kerosene or gas model that can be dangerous in unventilated areas, space heaters are impractical as a complete heat source.

Types of Space HeatersEmpire Comfort Systems BF-30W 30,000 BTU Blue Flame Vent-Free Gas Heater

There are two types of space heaters that we carry at Total Home Supply: vent-free blue flame heaters, and vent-free infrared heaters (also known as radiant heaters).

  • Vent-free blue flame heaters: Vent-free blue flame heaters use natural gas or liquid propane as a fuel source and work by heating the air in the room. Because these types of heaters heat the air in a room (as opposed to the objects in the room), blue flame heaters are best used in insulated spaces. As a bonus, the heater’s flames offer a nice ambiance to make you feel extra cozy.

Our pick: Empire Comfort Systems Blue Flame Vent Free Gas Heater

  • Vent-free infrared/radiant heaters: Infrared heaters, also known as radiant heaters, also use either natural gas or liquid propane as a fuel source. The difference between these heaters and blue flame heaters is the type of heat they produce. Infrared heaters produce radiant heat, which is also the type of heat generated by the sun or a burning fire. This type of heat directly heats the objects in the room rather than the air itself, meaning you’ll warm up almost immediately.Heatstar HSSVFRD20 20000 BTU Vent Free Infrared/Radiant Heater

Our pick: Heatstar HSSVFRD20 20000 BTU Vent Free Infrared/Radiant Heater with Thermostat and Blower

Of course, there are other types of space heaters on the market. These include:

  • Electric space heaters: Electric space heaters come in a wide variety of styles, from ceramic tower style space heaters, which oscillate to distribute warm air throughout the room, to fan-style space heaters, which utilize a fan to blow out warm air. There are also electric space heaters that utilize infrared heat to deliver immediate warmth.
  • Kerosene space heaters: Kerosene space heaters offer very powerful heating without relying on electricity, making them ideal for use in power outages. There are a couple of downsides to these types of heaters, though. Kerosene is more expensive than other types of fuel, which may inhibit some folks from purchasing these types of heaters. Furthermore, kerosene space heaters should only be used in ventilated areas due to the amount of gases they produce.
  • Infrared heating panels: These types of electric space heaters lay flat against a wall and deliver quality, radiant heat. Thanks to their contemporary look, infrared heating panels are aesthetically appealing for many homeowners — in fact, some heating panels feature artistic prints or mirror-like finishes, blending decor and function!

The type of space you need to heat will factor largely into which model you’ll end up choosing. If it’s in a busy area or you have kiddos running around, you’ll probably want a model that’s cool to the touch and has automatic shut-off.

If you’re looking for a space heater for your office, a compact heater that fits under your desk is likely your best bet. Slightly larger spaces or rooms require a larger heater to make a difference without tacking too much extra onto your heating bill.

How Space Heaters Work

All space heaters work differently, depending on the type you purchase. For example, a blue flame space heater works by heating the air in a room. When the heater turns on, it will start by heating the wall where it is installed, eventually making its way up to heat the room from the floor to the ceiling. This process can take longer than the infrared heating process.

Conversely, infrared heaters produce radiant heat to directly heat the objects (or people) in the room. These types of heaters produce infrared waves, which release heat energy as soon as they reach you. You then absorb this heat and feel the immediate effects.

Can You Sleep with a Space Heater On?

Technically yes, you can sleep with a space heater on, provided that it is equipped with automatic shut-off and tip-over detection technology. However, due to the risk of fire, it is still not wise to leave space heaters running unattended, including while you sleep.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Ventilation: Whether you’re burning natural gas or propane, unvented gas space heaters off-gas, much like the kerosene heaters, so the space you’re heating needs to remain well-ventilated. Unvented space heaters are not recommended for overnight or long-term use.
  • Unvented vs. Vented: Unvented gas heaters don’t vent exhaust outside, so they’re rated as more efficient when it comes to heat vs. cost. They’re also prone to add moisture to the air, so keep this in mind if you’re sensitive to high-moisture content or live in an already humid climate. Ventless heaters are rated for up to 30,000 BTUs, which means their use should be limited to smaller rooms and spaces for a few hours at a time. Vented heaters are slightly less heat efficient as they exhaust, but are better for less-ventilated living areas.

Do Space Heaters Use A Lot of Electricity?

Unfortunately, space heaters use a lot of electricity to run. The cost of electricity varies by state, and if you’re overly relying on your space heater to get you through the winter months, you can expect to pay for it. To stay warm without paying an arm and a leg for electricity, it’s best to use an electric space heater only when you need it. Note: Total Home Supply only carries gas space heaters and does not sell electric space heaters.

Is It Cheaper to Run the Heat or a Space Heater?

Overall, it is cheaper to run the main heating system in a home than to use a space heater. A space heater is meant to be used as a secondary, supplemental heat source, not as the sole source of heat. That being said, you may be able to save some money by pairing a space heater with your primary heating system. If you turn down the thermostat in your home and supplement with a space heater, it’s possible to see your heating bill decrease.


Space heaters can be a very effective and cost-efficient way to stay a little bit warmer in your home or business. Space heaters are generally designed with the intent to heat only the area you’re currently inhabiting, and are great for room-to-room use in places with multiple inhabitants, as room temperature preferences vary from person to person.

By keeping in mind the size of the area or room you need heated, the type of heat you’re looking for, and the fact that space heaters are designed to only be a supplemental source of heat, you can prevent high energy bills and keep your family or employees happy and toasty. Browse our heaters and you’ll be well on your way to a warmer winter.



Mickey Luongo

Mickey is the resident heating and air conditioning expert with over 15 years of experience in the industry.


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