Your Lamp or Space Heater Could be Making Your House Colder

An incandescent bulb in the wrong place or a space heater can make a home uncomfortable for its occupants. Are you making these mistakes?

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There’s a note written on the space heater in the image above. It’s humorous though it describes how some people cope with months of cold weather. (Please don’t take Kevin’s space heater away.)

Proximity to Your Thermostat
If you have central heating, you shouldn’t underestimate the effect of using a space heater in the same area as the thermostat. It doesn’t occur to many people that the space heater raises the temperature of the space which the thermostat is measuring so the thermostat stops calling for heating in the ENTIRE house thinking that the set point of the thermostat has been met.

You’ve probably noticed that one thermostat in a central location isn’t the best way to control heating and cooling in our homes. You may have one or more rooms that are often noticeably warmer or cooler than the set point (the temperature you’ve set) on your thermostat. This happens for a number of reasons: poor insulation, poor airflow, air leaks, etc.

If there’s a heating source in the space where your thermostat is located, the temperature difference in your other rooms can be even greater. Let’s say you have a room that’s often three degrees colder in the winter than the space in which your thermostat is located. Let’s also say the space heater in the room where your thermostat is located causes the thermostat to register a temperature that’s five degrees warmer than the rest of the house.

That room that was three degrees colder is now eight degrees colder. A difference between 70 degrees and 62 degrees. That’s a pretty big difference, especially if you’re cold natured.

Think About Your Routines
It’s alright to use a space heater close to the thermostat when members of the household are gathered for a task of a known duration (like watching a movie) though you should stop using the space heater before your family disperses. You should allow enough time for the thermostat to register the true temperature of your home so it can call for heating or cooling in the spaces to which your family members will go, like bedrooms and bathrooms.

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Don’t Trust That Bulb
Incandescent bulbs produce more heat than light. If you’ve got a lamp with an incandescent bulb right by your thermostat (more common than you might guess), please give some thought to replacing that incandescent bulb with an LED bulb. You can also use a compact-fluorescent bulb though you probably won’t get the same lifetime, dimmable option and quiet operation you get from LED bulbs.

When the bulb of a lamp close to the thermostat effects the temperature reading of the thermostat, you don’t get the same benefit as the space heater. The incandescent bulb may radiate enough heat to warm the thermostat though it doesn’t radiate enough heat to warm you too. Replacing an incandescent bulb in that situation may help you notice a temperature difference in ALL rooms.

In Conclusion
Ideally, you wouldn’t need to use space heaters in your home because your heating and cooling systems are designed, installed, tested + balanced and maintained to keep you healthy through efficient operation throughout the year – working in concert with the passive systems in your home like proper insulation and air sealing. Comfort in our homes is impacted by more than just temperature. That’s why it’s important to carefully design and test both passive and active systems in our homes.

Please don’t ignore signs like everyone wanting to use a space heater or humidity problems. Any time you’re buying significant third-party devices to supplement your heating and cooling systems, there’s almost always a much more effective way to solve your problem(s).

As always, if you’ve got a comment or question, please share it below. Thanks!

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First image by Kevin Simpson and second image by Elizabeth used under a creative commons license.

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