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Green Basics

Space Heaters

A Space Heater Can Be the Sole Source of Heat in a Small, Well-Insulated House

Heat without a whole-house distribution system

Space heaters are usually categorized by the type of fuel they burn. Options include cordwood, wood pellets, and corn (all forms of biomass), natural gas, kerosene, and electricity.

Because space heaters have no way of carrying heat to distant rooms, they work best in houses with open floor plans and those that allow convective air currents to circulate heat. However, the more airtight and well insulated the house, the less distribution matters. Very tight homes with thick insulation are more likely to have uniform temperatures from room to room than leaky houses.

In rooms that are used only occasionally, it may be more economical to install a space heater and use it only when needed rather than keeping the room warm all the time with a central system.

Space heaters come in a variety of styles, price ranges and sizes. In areas where power outages are common, it makes sense to look for a model that works without electricity.

Biomass. Homeowners can choose between stoves that burn cordwood, wood pellets, or corn.

Newer wood stoves burn fuel more efficiently and produce dramatically lower particulate emissions than older models. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency limits particulate emissions in residential-size wood stoves to 7.5 grams/hour in non-catalytic models and 4.1 grams/hour in catalytic models. Some models emit significantly less.

Even with rising prices, wood delivers more heat per energy dollar than fossil fuels. But it requires a commitment of time and labor, and only well-seasoned wood should be burned in a stove. Dense hardwoods like oak, hickory and beech have the most heat potential.

In some very tight houses, it may be worth installing a dedicated duct to supply outdoor combustion air directly to the wood stove. Not all wood stoves are designed for ducted…

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