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How Much Does a Space Heater Cost to Run?

Last Updated on May 25, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Space heaters provide convenient and energy-efficient supplemental warmth for drafty rooms. But operating these devices daily does consume electricity and impact bills. How much can you expect to pay in total?

This comprehensive guide provides a detailed breakdown of the key factors that determine space heater costs, tips for maximizing efficiency, how to calculate personalized projections, comparisons to central HVAC systems, safety best practices, and smart usage habits to balance comfort and affordability. Let’s start by examining hourly, daily, and monthly operation costs.

How Much Does a Space Heater Cost to Run?

On average, running a standard 1,500-watt electric space heater will cost $0.18 to $0.30 per hour in electricity, based on average residential rates of $0.12 to $0.20 per kWh.

This equates to $1.44 to $2.40 per day or $43 to $72 per month assuming 8 hours of daily use. Actual costs vary based on local energy rates, heater wattage, specific models, usage patterns, and home insulation.

  • Hourly cost: $0.18 – $0.30 per hour on average for a standard 1,500 watt heater.
  • Daily cost: $1.44 – $2.40 per day based on 8 hours of daily use.
  • Monthly cost: $43 – $72 per month assuming 8 hours of daily use.

Inspire Clean Energy states that the average 1,500-watt space heater costs around $0.20 per hour to run. They provide an example scenario where running a space heater in a basement home office for 8 hours a day would cost $1.60 per day, which translates to approximately $33.60 per month.

The article emphasizes that the actual cost depends on individual usage patterns and suggests taking measures to minimize the need for constant space heater usage.

SantAnna Energy Services compares the cost of running a space heater to central heating, noting that in states with higher average monthly heating bills, such as Illinois ($168), Michigan ($106), or Ohio ($106), it would be less expensive to run a 1,500-watt space heater for 12 hours every day of the week.

However, they caution that running multiple space heaters could dramatically increase electricity bills, with three space heaters on low for 12 hours costing around $131.40 per month at the average U.S. kilowatt-hour (kWh) rate.

Perch Energy provides a space heater electricity use and cost calculator, estimating the cost of running different types of space heaters at various wattages. For example, a 750-watt coil heater would cost $0.120 per hour or $18.00 per month on average, while a 1,500-watt coil heater would cost $0.240 per hour or $36.00 per month.

The article also offers tips for safely using space heaters to minimize risks and reduce electricity costs.

These costs serve as reasonable national averages but can fluctuate based on:

  • Regional Electricity Rates – From $0.10 to $0.34 per kWh depending on location.
  • Heater Wattage – Higher 3,000+ watt models use more power.
  • Daily Usage Hours – More extended run times increase consumption.
  • Room Size – Larger spaces may require longer operation to maintain temperature.
  • Home Insulation – Poor insulation results in greater heat loss and heating needs.

Now let’s closely examine the factors that influence space heater costs for consumers.

Factors Influencing Space Heater Electricity Costs

Heater Wattage Power Setting

  • Standard heaters range from 400W up to 1,500W on low settings and up to 3,000W+ on high settings.
  • Higher wattages lead to increased electrical consumption and costs but faster heating.

Local Electricity Rates Per kWh

  • Average residential electricity rates range from $0.12/kWh in cheap markets up to $0.34/kWh in expensive areas like Hawaii and Alaska.

Daily and Seasonal Usage Durations

  • Sporadic users see lower costs than daily users. Extended winter usage of 8+ hours daily greatly increases costs over periodic fall/spring use.

Room Size and Home Insulation

  • Heating larger, drafty rooms requires longer run times and adds to costs. Improving home insulation helps cut consumption.

Heater Efficiency Rating

  • Advanced infrared and mica thermal space heaters can provide zone heating at up to 50% less energy usage than conventional fan-forced options.

Now let’s calculate projected costs using real-world examples.

Calculating Electric Cost Estimates

Variables Needed:

  • Heater wattage rating
  • Electricity rate per kWh from recent bills
  • Estimated daily and monthly usage hours

You might also like our articles on the cost of a 50-gallon water heater, blanket, or oven.

Cost Formula:

(Heater wattage ÷ 1,000) x (Electricity rate per kWh) x (Estimated hours of use)

Example 1:

  • 1,500W heater
  • $0.15/kWh electricity rate
  • 8 hours of use per day


  • Hourly: (1,500W ÷ 1,000) x $0.15/kWh = $0.225 per hour
  • Daily: $0.225 x 8 hrs = $1.80 per day
  • Monthly: $1.80 x 30 days = $54 per month

Example 2:

  • 750W heater
  • $0.20/kWh electricity rate
  • 4 hours of use per day


  • Hourly: (750W ÷ 1,000) x $0.20/kWh = $0.15 per hour
  • Daily: $0.15 x 4 hrs = $0.60 per day
  • Monthly: $0.60 x 30 days = $18 per month

This formula allows estimating your personalized projected costs. Now let’s look at how space heaters compare to central HVAC systems.

Space Heater vs Central HVAC System

Space Heater RunningSpace Heaters

  • Only heat-occupied spaces temporarily = lower costs
  • Portable flexibility allows targeted heating
  • No ductwork required

Central HVAC

  • Heats the entire home continuously = higher costs
  • Duct loss can reduce heating efficiency
  • Provides whole home comfort and consistency

A typical home with a central gas furnace costs $50 to $150 per month depending on the climate. Combining with zone space heating offers maximum efficiency.

Safety Practices with Space Heaters

  • Never leave units unattended or operate overnight due to fire risks.
  • Maintain clear area around heater free of drapes, furniture, clothes.
  • Plug directly into wall outlets, not extension cords or power strips.
  • Use units with auto shut-off if tipped over.
  • Check frequently for blocked vents causing overheating.
  • Let cool fully before changing settings or moving.

Proper usage and positioning is key to safely realizing their heating benefits.

Smart Space Heater Usage Tips

  • Size appropriately for room – higher wattages heat faster but cost more if oversized.
  • Adjust thermostat lower when away – reduce central furnace usage.
  • Run for shorter periods while occupied rather than all day.
  • Use timers or smart plugs to automatically shut down on schedules.
  • Close doors and use drapes in unused rooms – contain heat to occupied spaces.
  • Have tenants pay utility bill increases in rentals to encourage efficient usage.

With some easy habits, costs stay reasonable while providing supplemental comfort.

Final Words

While operating costs for space heaters average $0.20 to $0.30 per hour of use, careful wattage selection, timers, thermostats, room isolation, and energy-efficient models can yield significant savings.

By providing cozy heat only where and when needed, space heaters use less energy than centrally heating vacant rooms. With smart usage habits, they provide affordable comfort without drastically boosting electricity bills. Just be sure to follow safety precautions and never leave units unattended.

Space Heater Cost FAQs

Is it expensive to run a space heater all day?

Running a 1,500W space heater continuously 24 hours would cost around $3.50 per day at average electricity rates. Extended all day usage would add $100+ per month to bills. Limiting operation to only occupied hours saves significantly on electricity costs.

What is the cheapest type of heater to run?

At standard residential energy rates, infrared and oil-filled electric space heaters are generally the most affordable models to operate per hour. Their radiant heating method distributes warmth through objects rather than air, enabling great efficiency for lower energy costs in smaller rooms.

Is it safe to leave a space heater on overnight?

It’s not recommended to leave portable space heaters running overnight unattended due to potential fire risks if knocked over. However, some fixed thermostat-controlled electric heaters have built-in tip-over and overheat safety shut-offs that allow continuous 24/7 operation if positioned properly in low-risk areas per the manufacturer guidelines.

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