Each year, space heaters are the cause behind more than 25,000 home fires and over 300 fatalities, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Some space heaters release carbon monoxide that can be deadly as well. We all know it: using a space heater is a huge risk to your family simply to eliminate chilly spots in your home. So why do so many continue to use them? Probably because they are not aware of better space heater alternatives.
First things first: check your heating system
If you have chilly spots in your home, before investigating other space heater alternatives, check out these simple fixes to your heating system.
Closed registers: Have you moved into a new space since last winter? If so, you may not realize that some dampers are close, which effectively eliminates heat flow to that room. Check to make sure all heat registers are open. You might not need space heater alternatives after all!
Blocked heat sources: Likewise, make sure you’re not blocking heat registers, radiators or hot water baseboards with furniture that can impede air flow.
Closed dampers: Just like fireplace flues, some ductwork has dampers that can be opened and closed to adjust the airflow. If you find dampers on your ducts, make sure the handle is set in the “winter” position with the handle parallel to the duct line.
Clogged furnace filter: How long has it been since you changed your furnace filter? If you don’t have your heating system serviced every year and you’re wondering what a furnace filter is, there’s a good chance your chilly spots can be warmed up with this easy space heater alternative. With hot air forced heat, your furnace has a filter that removes dust and debris from heated air so it doesn’t damage your equipment. When that filter gets clogged, your air flow is diminished, and therefore your heating is diminished. Get a new filter right away, or call your HVAC service company to change it for you.
Related article: Fall Furnace Maintenance: How to Change Your Furnace’s Air Filter
Leaky ducts: Especially if you have an older system, or a new furnace with old ducts, those ducts could have leaks or holes that prevent the warm air from making it to certain rooms. Instead, it’s escaping into your walls and ceilings where it’s not doing anyone any good. This is one of the simplest space heater alternatives: have your ducts checked and repaired if needed.
Neglected furnace maintenance: Many of the causes of furnace problems can be prevented with regularly-scheduled cleaning and maintenance. If you haven’t done that yet this fall, call in an HVAC service expert to keep your system in top shape, banish those cold spots, and eliminate the need for space heater alternatives.
Related article: Furnace Troubleshooting: 8 Signs Your Furnace Needs Maintenance
Space heater alternatives with little or no cost
Even when your heating system is well-maintained and working as designed, there are a few inexpensive things you can do to add more heat or prevent heat loss.
Bake! Running the oven for an hour to bake a pie can make a surprising difference in a chilly space. Obviously you can’t do this every day, but it can help if you only have a problem on very cold days. Plus, you get to eat pie! This is the tastiest space heater alternative.
Reduce drafts: In an old building, you can lose lots of heat through leaky windows and poorly insulated walls and floors. If you’re not up for a big renovation project, you can do some small weather-proofing projects to really warm things up. Try weatherstripping or caulking around windows, lined drapes, window insulation sheets, carpets or those cute “draft excluders” that block air from coming in under doors and windows. These might be all the space heater alternatives you really need.
Add a duct booster fan: If you have forced air heat and a problem room that never gets enough warm air coming from the registers, an in-line duct booster fan can be the answer. This blower fan is designed to be mounted inside a standard-sized metal duct and automatically turns on when the furnace runs to increase the air flow through that duct.
Add room-to-room vent fans: This is one of the most useful space heater alternatives if you have a fireplace that makes it very warm in one room, but way too cool elsewhere. Room-to-room fans, also called “through the wall vent fans,” help to improve the distribution of heat throughout your space. An intake blower is installed in the wall of the warm room, with a diffuser that distributes the air to an adjacent cooler room. You can also use these to move cool air during the summer.
Bigger investment space heater alternatives
Obviously, these are bigger projects with a larger investment. But the payoff can be even bigger when your space is truly comfortable and you no longer need space heater alternatives.
Install new windows: If you have old, single-paned windows in your home, replacing them with double-paned insulated windows can make all the difference in a drafty space.
Add radiant floor heat or wall/ceiling panels: If it’s just need space heater alternatives in one room that’s too cold, adding radiant heat can be a wonderful solution. This is one of the most popular space heater alternatives: imaging walking on warmed floors on a cold day! Our clients who have radiant floor heat just LOVE it. Radiant heat can be installed under tile, carpet, laminate or engineered wood floors. However, if you’re not ready to tear up your floors, you can mount radiant heat panels on walls and ceilings as well without undertaking a major construction project.
Replace your A/C with a VRF system: You may be wondering if that’s a typo. How can replacing your air conditioning system help with a heating problem? It’s no mistake. This new technology is capable of providing not only cooling, but also heat, and even both simultaneously to different areas within the space. Not only will you gain the ability to individually control the temperature in different areas of your home, but you gain supplemental heating in the cooler months as well. VFR systems are also very quiet and energy efficient. While it’s the most expensive option, it’s also the best of the space heater alternatives in terms of comfort.
Related article: Residential Air Conditioning: What is a VRF System?
Furnace maintenance often eliminates the need for space heaters
Why shop for space heater alternatives when you can get end the problem for good? It bears repeating: your furnace needs a good cleaning and inspection by an HVAC professional at least once per year to keep it in good operating condition. Ideally, you should do it before starting up the system in the fall. It may only take a phone call to get to the bottom of your HVAC problems, and prevent what may be a small issue now from turning into a big, expensive ordeal later on.
How much is poor HVAC maintenance costing you? Find out with our free guide to Calculating the Hidden Costs of Poor HVAC Maintenance.