If your furnace isn’t quite doing the trick keeping your home warm this winter, you have more choices than cranking up the thermostat or just shivering through the season. Wise use of alternative and supplemental heat sources can help keep your toesies toasty.
Be careful, though: while these can be great sources of warmth, they also bring with them their own fire and burn hazards. Understand how to use them safely to have a warm and cozy winter.
Space heaters are an easy, portable option for heating a small area of a cold house. Using a space heater safely is largely a matter of common sense — never leave them unattended, keep them away from flammable items like clothing and curtains, put them on a hard and level surface — but you must be vigilant, especially if you have pets or small children running around.
- Most space heaters are light and portable, so you can tote them from room to room. This makes them a good option for heating just the areas of your home that you’re using.
- Many models contain a fan that you can use without turning on the heating element, meaning one unit can cool you down in the summer and warm you up in the winter.
- Space heaters can get very hot, without any noticeable warning for little fingers to stay away.
- Fires caused by space heaters do more property damage and loss than any other type of home heating fire. Although they’re involved in only 2 percent of all household heating fires, they’re associated with 45 percent of all fatal home heating fires.
If you’re shopping for a new space heater, look for a model that automatically shuts off if the unit tips over.
Gone are the days of electric fireplaces with fake-looking logs and a low-watt bulb providing a “glow” of hot embers; today, electric fireplaces have realistic logs and flame effects. You can find electric fireplaces to fit any décor, and electric replacement log sets can quickly turn your fuel-burning, fume-spewing gas or wood fireplace into a source of safe, reliable zone heating.
- Electric fireplaces cost about 12 cents per hour to operate, versus 20 cents per hour for gas fireplaces.
- They offer an alternative to standard wood or gas fireplaces without the fire and burn risks.
- They bring ambience to an otherwise dull room, and they offer a cozy feel without the commitment or maintenance of a gas or wood-burning fireplace.
- Like every appliance, electric fireplaces have the potential to overload overused outlets.
- They’re intended to heat only one room at a time
- You can’t roast marshmallows over an electric fire.
A gas fireplace offers similar aesthetic benefits to a wood-burning one but without the extra hassle.
- Unlike with a wood-burning fireplace, you don’t have to exert the effort to build a fire and light the logs. You can have a lovely, inviting fire at the push of a button.
- On many models, flame height can be adjusted easily, so you can change the fire from a roaring conflagration to a warm glow in a matter of seconds.
- You don’t have to wait for the fire to go out or pour water over it as you would with a wood-burning fireplace. The fire will extinguish as easily as it started, which means it’s safe to walk away from the fireplace immediately after it’s been turned off.
- The screen of a glass-fronted gas fireplace gets hot quickly and cools slowly, creating a burn hazard.
- Your home must be connected to a gas line or propane tank in order for the fireplace to function.
- The cost of a gas fire rises with the cost of propane and natural gas.
- Pilot lights and incoming gas pose potential dangers from fumes.
Other heat sources
These aren’t your only sources of heat, but they are some of the most popular. You could warm yourself by a wood-burning fireplace or wood stove, plug in an infrared heater, snuggle under an electric blanket or more. The free ebook “The Cure for the Common Cold Room: A Safe & Smart Home Heating Guide” outlines more heating options, as well as how to conserve energy to get the most from your heating dollars.