How Much Does It Cost to Run a Space Heater? – Review Geek

How Much Does It Cost to Run a Space Heater? – Review Geek

A space heater sitting on a wooden floor.
Pixel-Shot /

Running a space heater costs a lot of money. That said, these products can reduce your utility bill if you use them wisely.

When cold weather comes around, people often rely on space heaters to keep their homes nice and cozy. But these products use a ton of electricity. And with some extremely simple math, you can figure out exactly how space heaters will impact your electric bill.

Space Heaters Use a Ton of Electricity

Space heaters come in all shapes and sizes. Still, every space heater is rated in watts. This rating is usually accompanied by a simple suggestion—for adequate heating, you need 10 watts of power for every square foot of a room. If your living room is exactly 150 square feet, for instance, you should use a 1,500 watt space heater.

Why is this important? Well, a space heater’s wattage is always listed in the packaging (usually in bright bold colors). We can take this number to quickly find a space heater’s hourly energy consumption in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Don’t worry, the math is very simple.

To find a space heater’s energy consumption in kWh, simply divide its wattage by 1,000. If a space heater runs at 800 watts, it uses 0.80 kWh of electricity each hour. A 1,500-watt space heater eats away at 1.50 kWh each hour, and so on.

Electricity rates vary by region, but you can do a Google Search for the average cost per kWh in your region. To keep things simple, I’m going to do some math using the average cost of electricity in the United States—about $0.16 per kWh as of October 2022.

At the price of $0.16 per kWh, a 1,500-watt space heater costs about $0.24 for every hour of operation. So, if you run this space heater for 10 hours, you’ll pay $2.40. That number climbs to $5.76 after a full 24 hours of continuous use.

Obviously, this is a ton of money. Someone who uses a 1,500-watt space heater for 10 hours a day will end up burning about $74 each month, depending on electricity rates in their area. And that’s just for one space heater. The number can double or quadruple if someone owns multiple space heaters.

P3 P4400 Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor

Calculate the electricity usage of any device with the Kill A Watt monitor. It can even tell you how much money you spend running a device for an hour, a day, a week, a month, or a year.

Still, Space Heaters Can Save You Money

Someone turning a knob on a space heater.
Vitstyle /

Space heaters use a ton of electricity. They are a poor option for heating your home, and in fact, you’re better off with central heating or forced air heating (as natural gas is cheaper than electricity). But here’s the problem; central heating or forced air heating can cost several hundred dollars each month. You’re still getting burned by your utility bill.

If you want to save serious money on heating, you need to reduce your energy usage. And space heaters can help by reducing the need for whole-home heating.

Instead of trying to heat your entire home, focus on the rooms where you spend the most time. Place a space heater in your bedroom or living room, and only turn it on when needed. Yes, some parts of your home will be cold, but you’ll save a ton of money.

Now, heat doesn’t like to stay in one place. If you place a space heater in your bedroom, the heat it produces will slowly get sucked into adjoining rooms. So, I suggest using draft stoppers on your doors. You may also want to add weatherstripping to your windows, especially if they’re old or poorly installed. (Heat rises, so you may want to avoid using space heaters in rooms with high ceilings.)

Bear in mind that you can use space heaters in combination with central or forced air heating. Place your thermostat to a low number, like 65 degrees Fahrenheit, and use space heaters to keep specific rooms at a more manageable temperature.

What About IR Heaters and Oil-Filled Radiators?

An oil-filled radiator standing next to an indoor bench.
ReaLiaa /

There seems to be a lot of confusion about infrared heaters and oil-filled radiators. People assume that these products use less electricity than a typical space heater, which is technically untrue. If an IR heater or a radiator runs at 1,500 watts, it uses the same amount of electricity as a 1,500-watt space heater!

That said, in some circumstances, an infrared heater or electric radiator can save you money. It just depends on how you use them.

Instead of dumping energy into your room, infrared rely on something called radiant heat, which is directional. Basically, IR heaters produce infrared light, which warms any surface that it touches (including your skin). If you want to stay cozy in a big living room, for example, you can use a low-wattage IR heater instead of a high-wattage space heater.

Oil-filled radiators take a while to warm up, and they can get pretty bulky. But they retain and slowly dissipate heat for several hours without a constant flow of electricity. If you need to keep a room relatively warm for a long stretch of time, an oil-filled space heater might be a more cost-effective option than a traditional space heater, as the temperature will slowly fluctuate between warm and cold.

Radiators are also much safer than space heaters. They’re a solid option if you have children or pets. Just bear in mind that an oil-filled radiator, like any heating device, can cause burns or lead to house fires if used incorrectly.

Dr Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater, 1500-Watt

This portable IR space heater directs warmth toward surfaces, including your skin. Plus, it includes a remote and thermostat. It’s a good option for staying warm in a large room, where a standard space heater may be too wasteful.

Should You Use a Space Heater?

A close-up view of a space heater's control panel.
Michael Dechev /

There’s nothing wrong with using a space heater. And, in fact, space heaters can save you a ton of money on your utility bill. But you shouldn’t use them to heat your entire home. Instead, focus on warming certain rooms and reducing your overall energy usage.

This logic also applies to home cooling, which can be quite costly. Running the A/C to keep your entire house at 72 degrees Fahrenheit, or whatever you prefer, is more expensive than using window units or fans to cool the most important areas of your home.

That said, extreme temperatures can be dangerous. When things get too hot or too cold, you may need to burn some extra money to protect yourself and your home. Don’t let frugality get in the way of your safety.

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