Nowadays, it is not only more economical but more environmentally friendly to use less energy in our day-to-day lives. The Department of Energy reports over 50 percent of energy used in American homes goes towards air conditioning (heating and cooling). As winter sets in this year, it's worth considering whether space heaters or central heaters are more efficient to use in your home. On the whole, unless you have compelling reasons to heat your whole house (or smart and efficient technology that allows you to heat only certain parts), it doesn't take a master's degree to guess that space heaters are usually the better option. There are two different methods space heaters use to produce heat. Electric space heaters rely on ceramic or nichrome heating elements combined with a fan to circulate heated air. They often employ energy efficient heat pumps. Gas heaters use propane, liquified petroleum gas, or butane. They lack heat pumps and often rely on combustion to heat air. Unfortunately, they can be serious fire hazards, and may emit toxic levels of carbon monoxide in unventilated areas. Accordingly they're often used only as outdoor heaters.
Space heaters are most effectively used to heat one room at a time, such as a bedroom for the night. They will deliver warmth much more quickly as well as at a fraction of the cost of central heating. Because they run on less electricity, this means they're much more environmentally friendly.
Space heaters seem to be most effective in smaller homes and in apartments or town homes because there's simply less air to be warmed. They can be easily turned off when not needed, or when occupants are gone from the home entirely, increasing savings even more. However, it is necessary to be very careful what you place a space heater nearby, as they can prove to be fire hazards.
The most environmentally friendly and energy-efficient electrical heaters are those with a radiant heat method instead of convective. These emit heat directly towards an object or a person, instead of continuously emitting heat into an entire room. This is ideal when you're not moving around a room, like when working at your desk or sleeping in bed.
Keep in mind that placing space heaters in every room throughout your house and having them run continuously is not the green option for saving energy. Sometimes, central heating can actually be more efficient, but this is usually only with newer models using modern technologies such as geothermal heating.
It should be remembered, however, that directly heating your home (or parts of it) is only a part of keeping warm. It's equally important to have proper insulation, which can lower your energy needs by as much as 20 percent. Weatherizing your home is the best step to take to ensure a heating loss problem doesn't even begin. Making sure windows and doors are closed all the way so warm air doesn't leak out is also a vital step. Finally, if a large temperature increase isn't needed, then sometimes simply putting on more layers is the best and greenest option.