Why Electric Heaters Won't Slash Bills
------- just some facts ........

With the prices of natural gas, heating oil, and propane ... how folks are going to afford to heat their homes this winter season is of real concern to everyone.

This is also the season when companies run full page ads promising that their "special heaters"will help save big bucks on energy bills. No matter what the catchy name is (and there are many), basically these are all just glorified space heaters ... and they work the same way. They plug into an outlet and shoot hot air in one direction. And with the claims they make, those heaters can cost hundreds of dollars yet give off as much heat as ceramic heaters which can be purchased at hardware stores ... usually for a lot less. The real deal is that many companies are charging hundreds of dollars for something that can be purchased for much less.

There is no magic to Electric Space Heaters. If they plug into a house electrical circuit, they all have several things in common:

They are all 100 - percent efficient at turning electricity into heat

• They all convert one watt of electricity into 3.413 British thermal units of heat

• Higher wattage heaters produce more heat

•Plug-in space heaters are limited to 1,500 watts, or 5,120 BTUs

Regardless of the claims a manufacturer makes about their plug-in electric space heater, they are _all limited to the facts above.

Try to avoid using supplemental space heaters, including, electric, kerosene or propane models. Not only are they expensive to operate, they can also be very dangerous.

Electric space heaters are generally inexpensive to buy but can increase your electric bill dramatically if you don't watch it. Nearly all electric space heaters produce the same amount of heat, so the differences lie in safety features, convenience features, reliability, and the way the heat is directed. Space heaters are a fairly inefficient way to convert electricity to heat, and they can also run up the electric bill.

Basically, they're good for keeping one room warm at a time, but that means you still have to keep the heat up for the rest of the house ... and don't forget to factor in the cost of electricity to run the heater.

It does not matter whether the heater uses electric resistance coils or quartz lights shining on a "cured copper element" or "ceramic quartz tubes" to produce the heat. The wattage consumed by an electric space heater determines how much heat it can produce.

A 1,500 watt heater will produce the same amount of heat regardless of its cost or other features. A $40 heater will be as efficient and effective as a $400 heater. Some ideas seem to stretch the amount of heat an electric heater can produce -- like including a high mass ceramic disk or tubes filled with water or oil in the heater.

Some of the electricity consumed by the heater is used to heat this higher mass so that after the heating element shuts off, heat from the now heated mass continues to radiate from the heater. This does not make the heater more efficient, since electricity was used initially to heat the mass, but it does make the heat feel like it lasts longer.

Some heaters bury the heating element deep in the heater and include a fan that blows air across the element so that heated air comes out one part of the heater while the rest of the heater remains cool to the touch. Others place the heating elements behind a metal screen for more direct transfer of the heat. In this last case, the metal screen can get quite hot.

All new plug_in electric space heaters are equipped with a sensor that shuts off the heating element in the event the heater is tipped over onto its back or side. The bottom line with any electric heater is that the less wattage the heater consumes, the less it will cost to operate. But also keep in mind, the less wattage it consumes, the less heat it will produce as well.

A pretty good rule of thumb is - if the manufacturer's advertising claim sounds just too good to be true, it probably is!

Finally, and most importantly ... be safe if using a space heater. Electric space heaters cause an average of 3,000 fires each year in the U.S., often because of improper use, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

If using an electric space heater; please remember the following:

Operate heater away from combustible materials. Do not place heaters where towels or the like could fall on the appliance and trigger a fire.

Avoid using extension cords unless absolutely necessary. If you must use an extension cord with your electric heater, make sure it is marked with a power rating at least as high as that of the heater itself Keep the cord stretched out.

Do not permit the cord to become buried under carpeting or rugs. Do not place anything on top of the cord.

Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture or other like objects. Never use heaters to dry wearing apparel or shoes.

Brought to you by Middleton Municipal Electric Department

For more information call the Energy New England Hotline at: 1-888-772-4242