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How Much Does an Electric Space Heater Cost to Run?

A man unpacks a box with a domestic electric heater

If you have shivered through a cold winter under a pile of blankets and still came out the other side miserable, you might have considered getting an electric space heater to help stave off the winter shivers. Space heaters are great for warming a space up quickly and effectively, but they are known for being expensive to operate. How much does it cost to run an electric space heater every day?

The specific cost of running any space heater will depend on the wattage, the amount of time it spends running, and the cost of electricity. That means that the numbers could look very different in different places. However, there are some basic numbers you can use to get a rough estimate. Or you can gather some information and get the exact price it will take to run any space heater. Here’s how.

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Typical Electric Heater Costs

The exact cost to run an electric heater is going to be slightly different for everyone, but there are some numbers that people use to get a rough estimate. The average space heater will cost $1.60 per day to operate if you turn it on for 8 hours per day. That is based on a blanket cost of $0.20 per hour to run. That cost is based on an average of electricity prices and space heater wattage across the United States

space heater in the office
Image Credit: Dmitry Galaganov, Shutterstock

Basic Space Heater Cost Info

Average Wattage 1500 W
Billable Power Used 1.5 kWh
Cost Per Hour $0.20
Cost Per Day $1.60
Hours Run Per Day 8 hours

All of these numbers are a great starting point, but they don’t necessarily tell the whole story. There are space heaters that are much smaller than 1500 W and much larger. Some people’s power is twice as much as the average American’s. Some people only run their space heaters for 2 hours a day as opposed to 8 hours per day.

If you are extremely particular, you can figure out exactly how much your electric space heater will cost to run per month down to the penny.

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The Cost Factors for Electric Heaters

Calculating the cost to run an electric space heater is actually very easy. There are only two factors that go into the final operating costs for standard electric space heaters. The cost is based on the wattage used and the price of electricity.

1. Wattage

modern electric heater on floor
Image Credit: New Africa, Shutterstock

Check the wattage on your electric space heater. Most space heaters run at 1,500 watts. Some smaller space heaters can use as little as 750 W, while large heaters might use 3000 W. The wattage determines the amount of power used per hour.

A 1500 W space heater will use 1,500 watts over the course of an hour. If you are running any type of space heater that has its power consumption clearly marked, this will not change. It does not matter if you are using an oil-based heater or an infrared heater, or an electric coil blower. The heat output and the final results might be different, but the power consumption will not be.

Using the wattage, you can quickly figure out how much power your space heater is using. If you run your electric space heater for 12 hours per day at 1,500 W, you will consume 18,000 watts of electricity. Power companies sell electricity in kilowatt hours (kWh), and you can get that number by simply dividing your wattage by 1,000. Your 1,500W electric space heater, running for 12 hours per day, will consume 18 kWh of electricity.

(Wattage x time used) / 1000 = kWh consumed

You simply need to take that number and multiply it by your cost per kWh.


2. Price of Electricity

The other factor that will play a role in how much you pay for an electric space heater is the cost of your electricity. Some states such as New York, California, Hawai’i, and Massachusetts have much higher electricity bills than places like Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Utah. Prices for electricity per kilowatt hour in New York are nearly twice that in Tennessee, and that will play a huge role.

The average cost of electricity in the United States is right around $0.12.

Typical Electricity Costs in the USA

Low High Average
Electricity Cost (kWh) $0.10 $0.30 $0.12

You can figure out your exact price for electricity by contacting your utility company. Most companies will have the price posted on your meter if you have a digital meter. Or you can find the price online via the company’s dashboard. When in doubt, give them a call. Power prices are not a secret.

If you run a 1500 W space heater for 12 hours a day with a cost of $0.12 per kWh, you will pay $2.16 per day. That adds up to $65 per month. In a state with high electricity costs, that number could double to $130 per month based on electricity prices.

Fuel Burning Heater
Image Credit: Noordbizz, Pixabay

Average Cost to Run a Space Heater ($0.12/kWh)

Wattage Per Day (12 hours) Per Month (30 days)
750W $1.08 $32.40
1500W $2.16 $64.80
2000W $2.88 $86.40
3000W $4.32 $129.60

Prices will vary based on the size of the space heater, the number of hours used per day and the price of electricity. Small space heaters only used for a few hours a day can be as cheap as $20 a month. Large space heaters running full blast around the clock could cost you $200 per month. Luckily, unlike other costs, there is no guesswork here. You can figure out exactly how much your space heater will cost to run using all the available information.

Space Heater Power Usage Compared to Other Appliances

Knowing the wattage for your electric space heater is well and good, but how does it compare to other standard appliances? Most people don’t know how much power their television consumes on a daily basis. How do space heaters compare? Space heaters use a lot more power than typical household appliances.

Appliance Typical Power Usage
Space Heater 1500 W
Central AC 3000 W
Television 250 W
Refrigerator 200 W
Dishwasher 1800 W (per cycle)
Box Fan 100 W
Ceiling Fan 75 W

The only thing that uses more electricity daily than a space heater is a central air conditioning unit. Space heaters use a lot more power compared to other bulky appliances such as TVs and refrigerators. A space heater, for example, uses six times as much power as a television.

If you are planning on adding a space heater to your home, realize that you are adding the equivalent of six televisions or seven refrigerators to the mix.

Space Heaters
Image Credit: alirad-zare, Unsplash

Size, Time, and Price

If you boil everything down, the general cost of your space heater will come down to size, time, and price. A small heater used for just two hours per day in a state with cheap power will produce a negligible cost that you likely won’t even notice on your final bill. A large space heater running for 12+ hours per day in a state with expensive power costs can run up a tab in the hundreds of dollars per month range.

The time spent running the space heater is one of only two factors you can control. If you want to spend less money on your space heater costs, you will have to run the heater less. You can also buy a heater that uses less electricity per hour, but that is not always a viable option depending on the space that needs to be heated. Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do about electricity costs. Those are fixed by the utility companies.

Small size, short times, and low electricity costs will be way less expensive to operate than large, long, and high.

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Conclusion

The average electric space heater costs about $1.60 per day to operate. That factors out to about $50 per month. That is a sizable bill that you have to account for before plugging in any space heaters. Electric space heaters use a lot more power than other household appliances and that is something that needs to be taken into consideration. If you plan on running a space heater for hours a day during the winter months, you are going to have to pay a noticeable bill at the end of each month. If you only use your space heater sparingly, a few times a season, you likely won’t notice the few extra dollars that it costs to give you a quick warm-up.

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Featured Image Credit:Yevhen Prozhyrko, Shutterstock

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