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November 18, 2005

Space Heater: The Warmination!


This is how you know winter is here: I've brought out the space heater. Thanks to the vagaries of poor air circulation and its placement on the side of the house that faces into the general direction of the wind, my office is typically the coldest room in the house (in cold weather, anyway) sometimes by a double digit temperature differential. Rather than crank up the thermostat and cause the rest of the house to have the same climate as Borneo, I just switch on the space heater and apply its warming currents directly to my shivering ass (sorry to burden you with that image). Mmmmm... let the warmination commence!

Winter also means that my office begins its annual game of electricity musical chairs. As you may be aware, space heaters draw quite a bit of electricity, and so when I add mine to an office already overburdened with electric power suckers, including up to three computers, well, let's just say I take frequent trips to the basement to flip the circuit breaker. Last winter I solved this issue by plugging the space heater into an extension cord plugged into the master bathroom, which is on a different circuit entirely. But you may imagine how popular this solution was with Krissy, whose sense of home esthetic is, shall we say, offended by a fat orange extension cord snaking halfway across the house. This winter I'll try simply unplugging some of the crap I'm not actually using all that much. It's a nutty idea but it just might work.

Posted by john at November 18, 2005 03:27 PM

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Nathan Sharfi | November 18, 2005 04:02 PM

Not that it's guaranteed to help at all, but have you considered getting a flat-panel monitor or two the next time you have $500 (roughly) burning a hole in your pocket?

John H | November 18, 2005 04:02 PM

Two thoughts (and only one of them concerning your shivering ass):

Put on more clothes and save the electricity.


Get a seat warmer that heats you up instead of trying to heat up the entire room.

Also, have you thought about sub-floor radiant heating?

Mary | November 18, 2005 04:22 PM

We moved into a new townhouse in Toronto this September and have been quite smug about how well insulated we are and what profligate heat users our neighbours must be, as we haven't had the furnace switch itself on yet. (Yeah, November was mild, but we have had a few near-freezing nights).

But it looks like today is the day as our midday thermoset setting of 18 degrees (64 F) is about to be breached. The cats are three coiled fluffballs on the duvet, I'm wearing jeans and a long sleeved shirt and pullover, and I'm seriously wondering if anyone makes typing gloves.

Ayse Sercan | November 18, 2005 04:48 PM

Have you considered having an electrician install a dedicated circuit and outlet for the heater in your office? Or installing one yourself; it's pretty straightforward.

computer freak | November 18, 2005 05:31 PM

I agree with Mary, though I would suggest the dedicated circuit for the computers. That way you get nice, clean power for what requires it, and let the heater use the old wiring. Dirty power is bad! Bad bad bad!

John Scalzi | November 18, 2005 05:41 PM

I have in fact thought about getting a dedicated circuit for the computers. I am, however, appallingly lazy.

doubt | November 18, 2005 05:50 PM

I've always strived to simply be pallingly lazy.

Whatever that means.

Brian | November 18, 2005 07:19 PM

The rooms in my current apartment are pretty well insulated from each other. I just purchased a shiny new XFX GeForce 6800GT about a month ago (a powerful video card, for those not in the know). Combine these two and you get my room being at least five degrees warmer than the rest of the apartment when my box is turned on.

I have a space heater; its name is nVidia. :-P

Lisa | November 18, 2005 07:19 PM

D and I had the same fight about his cord fetish. They were all over his office and blowing the circuits and every once in a while he'd get the bright idea to start dragging out the orange cords. I vetoed. Now we've got an 11 month old who thinks cords are the best thing since sippy cups, and the cords have had to get under control. Big job.

The whole world needs to be wireless. The baby proofing industry would go bankrupt.

Sandra McDonald | November 18, 2005 07:35 PM

I'm sitting in a basement office right now with the space heater on. Freezing my ass off! Tomorrow I move the whole shindig to the dining room table. Sitting down while eating meals is highly overrated anyway.

RooK | November 18, 2005 07:48 PM

You should nickname the heater Trogdor!

Amanda Miller | November 18, 2005 08:20 PM

I live in a basement.
The radient space heater came out three days ago.
Additionally, for the last two months, I have been using a heating pad safety pinned by its flannel cover to my desk chair. It worked really well until three days ago when the chill from the cement floor breached the two fake oriental/plastic chair sliderthingy insulation...
Now I'm sitting cross-legged in thick sweats, a sweater, scarf, and super thick backpacking socks wondering if I'll ever be warm again.
I really hate New Jersey.
Anyone need a personal assistant in California?
I'm willing to relocate...

I installed a dedicated outlet in my mom's sewing room after the fourth time she blew the circuits in the three bedrooms using stereo, sewing machine, iron, and sun lamps at the same time...

Mark Costa | November 18, 2005 10:05 PM

You would be pleasantly surprised at how little an electrician might charge you to add a couple of circuits. Way nicer than trips to the basement or large orange cords snaking around under foot.

will shetterly | November 19, 2005 12:48 AM

What Mark Costa and several others said. We had a house in Minneapolis that was built in 1911. It had all the electricity you could've wanted. In 1911. 30 amps and an outlet in every room, except the dining room, 'cause who would need an outlet there? I'm generally a Do It or Avoid It Yourself guy, but we hired an electrician, and it was amazing to watch him go. Jobs that might've taken us all day took him about ten minutes each.

And if you get new wiring for your office, it's a business expense.

Also, I think you can find more efficient heaters than what's on the monitor. But worry about that after you call an electrician.

The Van Man | November 19, 2005 02:54 AM

All electric heaters are 100% efficient, so don't waste your time looking for a more efficient one.

RooK | November 19, 2005 09:41 PM

The Van Man said: All electric heaters are 100% efficient, so don't waste your time looking for a more efficient one.

That's true only if you define your efficiency as "turns electricity into heat". If you instead try to factor in the degree to which a heater conveys that heat to either human occupants of a room or the general volume of air filling the room, I assure you that the efficiency will vary.

John H | November 20, 2005 08:57 AM

Van Man is correct in one respect - when judging electrical appliances, one way you could determine efficiency would be to look at the ratio of work done to heat generated. Since the main purpose of a space heater is to, well, heat up, all heaters are equally efficient.

But not all space heaters are the same - you want one large enough for the room you're in (as RooK pointed out), and preferably one with a thermostat and a blower.

But it also helps to place the heater to best utilize the heat it's generating - in that regard, sitting it on top of your PC monitor is probably the worst place to have it. Put it down on the floor aimed at your feet...

Jo | December 22, 2005 08:04 AM

Hi - I am trying to take the chill out of my basement because it's making my first floor very cold. My boiler goes on constantly and it isn't making that much of a difference. I looked at the oil-filled, radiator style at HD. The box said not to use it in bathrooms or laundry rooms. Since I would put it in the basement, at least ten feet from the washtub, it would not be near a water source. So that removes the "water" issue. However, can you tell me if normal humidity in a basement would cause any safety problems. Could the unit become "electrified" simply from being in normal humidity in the air? Would there be any other safety issues? I left the store without buying a unit and it's still cold here. Thanks a lot.

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