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As the cold season draws nearer, keeping the house comfortable becomes more and more of a balancing act. It can feel like you are paying a premium in gas and electricity just to keep warm at night. For the average home, heating makes up the majority of your monthly utility costs, and budget-conscious homeowners will do whatever they can to save some money during the winter. One common idea is to use a few electric space heaters rather than cranking up the thermostat. However, electric heaters can also consume large quantities of energy.

In order to determine the best course of action for your home, you have to look at a couple of key factors. The bottom line is that a space heater will never beat a properly sized furnace in terms of efficiently heating your home; however, there are certain scenarios where other solutions may be viable.

Heating a Room

If you work from home and you just need to keep your office comfortable during the day, a space heater may be the best answer. Because electric heating coils are typically at least 50% less efficient than natural gas, the rule of thumb is that the room should be less than one third of the total square footage of the home. Heating with space heaters in a smaller, confined space is a great alternative, just make sure to run the heat for the whole house a few times each day to keep the structure from freezing.

Heating a Small House

For houses smaller than 2000 square feet, no space heater will match the efficiency of your furnace. However, there is another alternative called a heat pump. During the milder periods of the winter, heat pumps run a heat that is up to forty percent more efficient than gas. Otherwise, the best solution will be to insulate the home and upgrade your windows.

Heating a Large House

Larger houses will operate most efficiently with a quality gas system, but there is still a great way to create more efficient comfort–zoning. By installing zone control, your furnace can be told to heat only the parts of the home where people are present. A high efficiency furnace that can control its energy use will give you a direct decrease in efficiency based on the percentage of the home currently being conditioned.