Money & The Economy

The Best Space Heaters to Keep Heating Costs Under Control

Even though winter is still weeks away, we need to brace now for a rude surprise coming soon. I’m talking about winter heating bills. Natural gas and heating fuel prices are surging.

The most efficient and easiest way to keep your home’s winter heating bills under control is to set the main source of heat very low then strategically supplement with efficient electric space heaters. You can rely on this method during the day as well as at night.

My husband and I have operated our respective businesses from our home for more than five years. Our offices occupy the lower level of our home. During the cold months, in order to get the office at a comfortable 68 F to 70 F using our forced air furnace, the rest of the house gets a lot warmer-especially the upper level, where it gets downright hot. That’s totally unacceptable because those parts of the house are not occupied during our workdays. So here’s what we do:

We program the house thermostat to 60 F for work hours on weekdays. Then we rely on a space heater in the lower level, which operates with an appliance timer to come on in time to make the office warm and comfortable at about 68 F. This office area is about 400 sq. ft., and this one heater does a remarkable job of keeping the temperature even throughout the entire space, making the office perfectly comfortable.

At night, the house thermostat goes down to 55 F and we set a space heater in the bedroom to 65 F. That plus quality bedding and a down comforter keep us warm and comfy; not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

We use and are super happy with a micathermic space heater. It is remarkably quiet. I find it annoying and disruptive to hear a heater fan cycle on and off, so this one feature may be the biggest reason we are such fans.

There are a number of different types of space heaters, ranging in cost from about $30 to $150, depending where you shop.


The heating element on a micathermic heater is covered in thin sheets of mica. It produces both convection heat and radiant heat, which gives immediate warmth. A nice gentle kind of heat, not a blast of hot air. It provides us a constant source of warmth, not constant warming up to hot then shutting off until it gets cold again.


The general way that a convection space heater works is that it relies on the circulation of air within the room to heat the room. The fan blows air over a heating element and then it is recirculated into the room. Convection heaters push hot air up to the ceiling, which results in energy loss. Because of the fan, this type of heater can be noisy, however still.


The best inexpensive parabolic heater uses a computer-designed parabolic reflector to focus heat, like a satellite dish concentrates TV signals. That makes it feel three times warmer than 1,500-watt heaters, yet uses a third less energy. Because it warms you directly, you feel the heat almost instantly without it first having to heat the entire room.


Infrared heaters offer the lowest wattage per heat provided, which makes this type of space heaters the cheapest to run. Portable infrared heaters work like the sun, producing infrared light waves, not warmed air. An infrared heater will heat you, your dog, your chair, the carpet and the walls, not the air around you.
It’s like the difference between being directly in the sunlight versus sitting in the shade. You feel warm in the sun because the light that hits your clothes and skin keeps you warm. Infrared warms objects and surfaces, which then radiate warmth back into the room.


This type of heater operates using energy-efficient halogen lamps. They provide radiant heat, which means that they heat up the objects that are around them but not the air. A halogen heater does not operate with a fan, which should be good news for people who suffer from dust allergies.


For more information, including specific recommendations by brand and source for all of these types of space heaters, go to

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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