What's Cheaper? Space Heater vs. Central Heat

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ORLANDO, Fla.,None - Many of you are going to pay for this record cold on your next power bill, but could you save money by using a space heater rather than central heat.

WFTV meteorologist Brian Monahan set up an experiment to find out.

With early afternoon temperatures in Orlando just near 50 degrees Tuesday, Monahan, using a room in a condo for his test, shut off the central heat, and let the temperature drop down to 60 degrees to see how long it'll take a space heater, which loses less energy than central heating, to warm things up.

It took 28 minutes to get to 72 degrees; that's about 10 cents on the power bill. But when Monahan turned on the condo's heater, instead of just a half hour to heat the same small room it took 48 minutes, or almost 60 cents.

"The forced air system cools the whole conditioned space," said Walt Bealke, Greens Energy Services.

In the test of the one-bedroom condo, running the space heater for a full eight hours would cost around $2; running central heat would cost around $6.

"To operate the central air system is going to be about three times, more than three times, what the space heater is," Bealke said.

On cold nights, a space heater will save you money, but it is important to be very careful with how and where you place them; space heaters cause more fires than other heating devices.

Fire officials say space heaters accounted for one-third of all home heating fires in the U.S. from 2004 to 2008. They also caused 82-percent of all deaths. Officials say space heaters need to be three feet away from combustible objects.