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November 30, 2006


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Does anyone have comments on the safety of various kinds of space heaters? I used to use a cheap little space heater I bought at K-mart, but after a year or so, I turned it on, and it burned out in a shower of sparks. This made me nervous about trying with another one!

Three rules we have about using space heaters:

1. Buy the ones that shut off if they tip over.

2. Never run without an adult in the room (shut it off if you leave the room.)

3. Never run it when sleeping (when we have people visiting us, we crank it up for a bit before going to sleep then shut it off. The room is fine for the rest of the night.

I second the comments by Barry....when I was a teenager, our neighbors house burned down because of a space heater left on overnight by accident. Thus, we will never use one in our house. But I suppose if you are careful and buy the kinds that shut off, they would probably save a little money on your heating bill.

Willing to risk an electric blanket?

No more electric blankets in our house. My wife was using one last year when it caught on fire while she was laying on it. We have a space heater we used to use in an old apartment that had horrible heat in a few rooms, but don't use it anymore for the various risks associated with them. Instead, in our basement (which is finished and occasionally used) we installed electric baseboard heaters in the spare bedroom and living area down there. Very cheap, very safe and can be controlled via thermostat. Most of the time they stay on 55 in the winter, just enough so it rarely turns on yet keeps the temp reasonable so you can quickly warm it up down there when needed.

You can pick up a 1500 watt 6' long baseboard heater for around $35 at Home Depot, which is cheaper than most space heaters. Of course, you can't just buy one and plug it into the wall, it will take a little extra work to install it, but the process is fairly easy with the right tools (or a friend who has the right tools).

One of these easiest ways to fix your heating (and cooling) expenses is to change your central air filter. A lot of people in newer construction change them regularly because they have a lot more dust in the air, but I a lot of people forget about doing this after a while. A clogged filter will reduce the air flow, which makes the central air unit stay on longer because the air it is pushing is not getting spread throughout the house, which means the temperature in the house is not being affected as much by the central air system. The longer the central air unit is on, the more it is going to cost you, and the greater wear-n-tear it has on the unit.

I buy a big box and change them once a month. You don't really need the fancy filters. And I bought mine on sale for half off... and the box had 15 filters. Spending $2-3 a month on filters could potentially save you much more each month, and a lot if not changing it led to having to service the unit.

In addition, if you have your filters changed, and the air can flow more freely, consider leaving the central air fan on continuously. This will circulate the air, keeping the temperature more even, and may reduce the running time of your central air unit, since you likely have your thermostat on the first floor, if you have a two-story home. No sense in running the central air because it is cooler than the thermostat setting downstairs, but it is warmer than the thermostat setting upstairs...

Also, in the colder months, take advantage of sunlight in your southern windows. When it is 40-60 degrees out, my house will actually warm up 3-4 degrees higher than the thermostat setting just from doing this.

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