Whether you're trying to keep heating costs down, warm up a drafty room, or prepare for a weather emergency, supplemental heating units can be the solution.
The units come in several varieties — electric, kerosene, natural gas, or propane — and can be capable of heating up to several hundred square feet or more. Each kind of heating unit has its own benefits and advantages.
Some units are designed to be portable while others are not, says Jason Seaton, national sales manager for ProCom Heating Inc., which manufactures heating appliances.
Electric heaters, including some kerosene heaters, can easily be moved around your home as needed. Natural gas and propane units must be mounted either to a wall or to the floor, but they produce much more heat, Seaton says.
"With electrical heaters, they'll put out 5,000 BTUs," he says. "With a gas unit, you can get up to 30,000 BTUs, which will heat 1,000 square feet." Kerosene heaters generally produce about 20,000 BTUs.
Gas units are not meant to be portable, Seaton says. "These heaters have to be hooked up to gas lines running underneath the floor and in the wall, so they're meant to be installed," he says.
Two examples are the 30,000-BTU RedStone Dual Fuel Gas Infrared Heater and the 30,000-BTU RedStone Dual Fuel Vent-Free Blue Flame Heater, which are sold at Tractor Supply.
"They come with a base with two feet so you can screw it into the floor — there's no clearance issue with a carpet or hardwood floor — or you can mount it to the wall," he says.
These particular models can burn either natural gas or liquid propane, which is an advancement from years past when supplemental heaters fueled by gas burned either natural gas or liquid propane.
But ProCom invented a single valve that can burn either fuel in the same unit, Seaton says.
"They are dual fuel," he says. "You can switch them back and forth. If someone lives in rural area and they use propane but natural gas will be piped in, in a few years, they can switch over and still use the same unit."
Despite the BTUs that supplemental heaters can produce, they are not meant to be your home's primary heating source, Seaton says. They are, however, perfect for keeping your heating costs in check, he says.
"You will have people who don't use certain rooms and they'll turn down the central thermostat and close the vents in those rooms and use one of these to heat a (common living area) to conserve fuel and cut down their electric or gas bill," he says.
Whatever supplemental heating source you choose, safety precautions should always be taken, agree Seaton and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission:
- Never leave an electrical space heater on when you go to sleep or leave the area.
- Place heaters at least three feet away from objects such as bedding, furniture, and drapes.
- Place portable heaters on the floor. Never place heaters on furniture, because they may fall, dislodging or breaking parts in the heater, which could result in a fire or shock hazard.
- In using liquid propane, use at least a 100-pound cylinder on an outside wall with a two-stage regulator with LP gas, Seaton says. "That's the minimum requirement, which we include on our packaging."
Like the other precautions, the propane guidelines are there for a reason and should always be followed, he says.
Carol Davis is editor of Out Here.