Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Are Space Heaters Cost Effective?

Here's a helpful item from Saturday's Commercial Appeal...

Elaine Zimmerman: Brush up on your high-school math to compare utility costs
Saturday, December 11, 2010

Willet: I am trying to reduce my heating bills this winter. Are space heaters less costly than using central heat?

Elaine: Space heaters can be more cost efficient if they are turned on and off throughout the day. But if they are left on all day they can be as costly as central heat or even more costly. The only accurate way to know is to compare the power usage of your space heaters with that of your central heating system. This requires you know how to read and estimate the cost of the power for each.

Whether you have gas or electric central heating, your meter is accessible to you and you can learn how to read it and estimate the cost of your power.

I suggest you locate your most current power bill. Then proceed outside to your meter with your bill and a pen. Electric meters measure kilowatt hours (kWh) and gas meters measure hundred cubic feet (CCF). Some meters have four dials while others have five, but the method of reading them is the same.

To obtain an accurate meter reading, follow these instructions provided by Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division. "Your meter measurements beginning with the dial on the far right first, reading the dials from right to left. Write down the last number the hand on the dial has passed. The numbers should be recorded from right to left. (Some dial hands turn clockwise; others turn counter-clockwise. The direction of each dial can be determined by the direction of its ascending numbers, 0-9).

If a hand is exactly on a number and you don't know if it has passed or not, look at the dial to its immediate right to see if the hand has passed 0. If the dial on the right has not passed 0, write down the number the dial on its immediate left has just passed. If the dial on the right has passed 0, write down the number the hand on its immediate left is pointing to.

To determine out how much electricity you have used, subtract the number you have just read from the last reading on your bill. That's how many kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity or hundred cubic feet (CCF) of gas you have used since the previous reading."

Now use your space heaters or central heat for a few days each. Record the power readings for each and write them on your bill.

Here is where all those high school math classes are going to come into good use. If your central heat and space heaters both use electricity, it will be simply a matter of comparing the readings for each. But if your space heaters use electricity and your central heating system uses gas, you will need to compare the cost of the usage of each. Since both are billed at different rates, you will need your previous bill to determine which is the most cost efficient for your home.

Questions? Write Elaine at

Also, don't forget our space heater safety tips!

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...