Turn Up the Thermostat or Turn On a Space Heater?

Turn Up the Thermostat or Turn On a Space Heater?

Laurie McGinley
Nov 22, 2011

If I had to venture a guess, I would have said that it was better to space heat one room than turn up the heat in the entire home. That is, before I calculated the cost of various heating fuels. Find out how you can decide to space heat or whole house heat this winter.

Have you considered lowering your thermostat in the winter and only heating the rooms you use most? It is worth looking at fuel choices before you decide to space heat your home. In my case, we heat our apartment with Natural Gas and we would use electric resistance space heaters.

The Pellet Fuels Institute has a handy calculator that illuminates the cost of various heating fuels by pricing them per million British Thermal Units (MBTUs). It is pre loaded with national averages for fuel costs. I used these costs that are more typical in Minnesota:

FuelCost per unitCost per MBTU
Natural Gas$1.00/ cubic feet of gas$12.50
LP Gas$2.75/ gallon$38.60
Fuel Oil$3.50/ gallon$32.51

Electricity is almost twice as expensive as natural gas per million BTUs to heat my house. According to the US EPA coal produced electricity emits four times the amount of carbon into the atmosphere as natural gas.

If electricity generated by coal costs twice as much and produces four times the amount of carbon dioxide, I am going to guess that it is better to forego electric resistance space heating and stick with natural gas. Does space heating make more sense where you live?

(Image: Oliver Sved/Shutterstock)

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