What is the Most Efficient Heater?

Ken Black

An efficient heater can be a very useful tool, especially in colder climates where heating is essential to both comfort and health over the colder winter months. However, heating can also be a very costly process. By nature, the fuel needed to run a heater is temporary and can only be used once. To counteract these costs, finding the most efficient heater is very important.

A propane tank.
A propane tank.

Heaters usually come in one of a few options. In most cases, they are either powered by natural gas, electricity, fuel oil, or propane. Wood is also used to a much lesser degree than all of the others. The type of heater one has depends on the infrastructure and services that may be offered in the local area. For example, in rural areas, natural gas, at least through fixed lines, may not be available.

A space heater.
A space heater.

Generally speaking, an efficient heater is measured in terms of heat produced per unit of currency, such as the US Dollar (USD). Dollar for dollar, the best choice appears to be natural gas, which produces more British thermal units (BTUs) than any other form of heating. However, this is dependent on a number of different factors, including the cost of natural gas versus other fuel sources.

Natural gas is not available in all neighborhoods.
Natural gas is not available in all neighborhoods.

An efficient heater can also be one that loses the least amount of heat. The less heat that is lost, the more the heat can be put to its original and most beneficial use. In order to truly find the most efficient heater, it is necessary to decide on the fuel source, then look at several brands and models to determine which is the best for you.

While a space heater is one of the most inefficient heaters, even they can have their place. Generally speaking, a space heater is meant to heat a defined area. It can be an efficient heater in the sense that it does not heat other portions of that building for which heat may not be required. Still, looking at it from the perspective of BTUs produced versus dollars spent, space heaters are remarkably inefficient.

While many may be tempted to blame large heating bills on their heater, even the most efficient heater will fail in some instances. If the ducts are not properly maintained, or if the air filter is not changed every several months, these heaters will underperform. Often, these are simple steps that can be used to increase the overall efficiency of energy use in the home.

Propane heaters come in a variety of sizes.
Propane heaters come in a variety of sizes.

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Discussion Comments


@vogueknit17, I have that problem in my current apartment. I am living here while I volunteer for a year, which means that I have very little control over the utilities- I can request to have them fixed, but whether or not they are is beyond my control. Space heaters, as well as warm blankets, have saved my life a few times this winter already.


Space heaters can be nice if you have a poor radiator, which is something you can't always fix. They can be especially efficient portable heaters, so that you can take them from one room to another if you need heat in a specific place.

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