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Lose the Space Heater, Gain a Heat Pump


how_a_heat_pump_worksIf you’re like most Americans, you have a space heater around the house somewhere. How careful are you while it’s in use? Did you know that space heaters are responsible for one-third of all heating-related deaths in an average year?

Firefighters say they are often used carelessly. People turn them on in bedrooms and leave them on all night. There might be a chair nearby, with clothes tossed on it. Or the wiring could be faulty.

New technology is safer, cheaper to operate

Space heaters have had their day. Now there is a new generation of heating appliances that are not only safer but more economical to operate. These are heat pumps. They work as air conditioners when you need cooling, and then reverse the process to pump out heat when the temperature drops. Because they use electricity only for operating the fan and the pump, they use very little power.

While a heat pump is more expensive to buy than the average space heater, you will save enough in a few years to make it a good investment. Electric space heaters, as you know if you’ve used one for any length of time, are one of the least efficient, most expensive ways to heat a room. If you envision needing heat in a certain area on a regular basis— say, in one of the bedrooms, a home office or playroom— you might want to consider a self-contained PTAC or heat pump.

As Mitsubishi says of its heat pump, ‘Even cold air contains some heat.’ The company has a heat pump that works in temperatures as low as minus-15 degrees. (It’s also a fine air conditioner.) Another one, made by Gree (http://www.comfortup.com/gree-etac-15-000-btu-heat-pump-230v-5kw-heat-9-8-eer-residential-commercial-use), costs less than $1,000 and will heat and cool a 750-square-foot room. It’s also effective as a dehumidifier.

So why don’t more folks trade in their space heaters? It’s possible they’re not aware of how far the technology has advanced— or they may be swayed by the low prices of space heaters available at chain stores like the Home Depot. Just remember: There is no free lunch. If you plan to use your space heater again this winter as the primary heating source for some room in your home, you owe it to yourself to check out the alternatives.

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