Electric usage

We don’t have a furnace in our home, just a few baseboards which expel heat. It doesn’t get above 60 in the winter, it doesn’t give off enough heat so we use a space heater at times.
My question is If you put the space heater on high does it use less electric than if you put it lower and it turns on and off depending on how warm it gets the room?
I say it uses less electricity by putting it on low, even though at times it shuts off as the room warms. Thanks

It seems you think the turning on and off of the heater is a significant use of electricity. It’s not. Yes, a lower setting is going to use less electricity.

A room will loose heat based on many factors. One of them being the temp difference between inside and out side the room. And to maintain the room temp will require a source of energy, the electric heater. If on low the temp of the room drops several degrees the room will loose less heat. But if it can maintain the temp then the same amount of heat will be lost reguardless of the heater’s setting. It will not make a difference.

A space heater is a machine that turns electricity into heat, at a 1-to-1 ratio. If you get the same amount of heat, it takes the same amount of electricity. If one heater goes 444444444444 while the other one goes 880088008800 or 808080808080, they are using the same amount. If you have two heaters in two identical rooms and they both keep the room temp at exactly 72 degrees, the heaters are using the same amount of electricity. Even if one of them keeps a steady 72 while the other goes up to 73 and back down to 71 and back up to 73 but averages 72, it’s still the same amount. If the average temp is the same, the average heat loss through the walls is the same, and the heat input must be the same, so the electrical usage must be the same.

The only difference would be if one of them keeps the room at a lower average temp than the other. That will save electricity because the heat loss through the walls to the outside would be slower.

Put another way; it’s using less electricity becuase its cycling, where a steady on state would be using more energy.

Vaguely related, but does anyone know a good cost comparison to different methods of heating a home (seems it would be of interest to the OP)?

In between electric, natural gas, propane, kerosene, wood, etc. I thought natural gas was cheaper than electric for the same number of BTU produced.

Obviously wood would be cheapest if you can get it for free (a lot of people will give you wood for free if you cut down and cut up a tree they don’t want) but its labor intensive. And not everyone can get it for free.

Plus there are regional costs. I’d assume natural gas is cheaper in North Dakota, and electric is more expensive in California.

Plus you can insulate better. At my parents house before they replaced the windows, just putting those plastic sheets over the windows went quite a ways in making the rooms warmer.

Natural gas was the cheapest source of heat in most of the US even before fracking. Nowadays, I can’t imagine it’s even close.

I’m not sure I understand the question.

The amount of electrical energy required to heat the house to a desired temperature will be exactly the same whether you heat on high or cycle the heat on low.

Note that while it’s true that it doesn’t matter what the setting on the heater is from a theoretical standpoint, if you have a “demand” charge, it could cost more to run it for less time on high as opposed to longer on low.

The conversion of electricity to heat is of course not 100% efficient - would there be any noticeable difference in efficiency between high and low settings?

Depending on how you regulate the temperature.

On most space heaters ive seen “high” is the highest Stat setting. In which case it will still cycle, just at a higher room temp.

Which is why I said “to a desired temperature.”

Conversion of electricity to heat * is* 100% efficient. Where else would the energy go except heat??

Heat pumps, though, can be more than 100% efficient because it’s not generating heat, it’s moving heat from outside to inside.

Which is why I said “Depending on how you regulate the temperature”.

It’s not clear how they’re regulating the temperature on “high” , maybe they’re comparing using a lower setting against full blast with a window cracked.

The argument becomes less clear if you consider whether you can let the room cool down when it’s not being used. Suppose that it’s only used for an hour at 0700 and then 4 hours from 1800, would it be more cost-effective to keep it at a steady temperature or to heat it only when needed, bearing in mind the time taken to bring the room up to the desired temperature from whatever it had cooled down to.

I have a clever thermostat that turns the heat off in the evening and then switches on in the morning at a time determined by the temperature and the time it will take to get it up to 22 degrees C. What I don’t know is whether it would be better to leave it at 22 all night.

The rate at which heat escapes from your house depends on the temperature differential between the inside of your house and the outside. The greater the differential, the more heat escapes from your house.

You will therefore lose more energy if you leave it at 22 all night. You will save money by letting it cool down and then heating it back up.

Using a smart thermostat that will lower the temperature while you are sleeping and/or while you are away at work will generally save you some money. Exactly how much it will save you depends on a lot of things, like how well insulated your house is, how much you spend on heating per BTU, how big your house is, the surface area vs. volume of your house, etc.

There is one thing you have to watch out for though. If the thermostat changes the temperature too much and you have a heat pump, the extreme temperature difference between the current temperature and the desired temperature can cause the heat pump to go into a high power heating mode, which is significantly less efficient and will cost you more money. Some programmable thermostats have a setting to avoid this.

Suppose the power plant is burning natural gas to generate electricity. Given the thermodynamic efficiency of the steam turbines in the plant, and transmission losses between the plant and your house, about 35-40% of the fuel’s energy makes it to your outlet as electricity, where it gets used by your space heater and turned into heat inside your house.

My house has a natural gas furnace that’s 97% efficient - that is, 97% of the fuels’ energy gets used to heat my house.

Natural gas heating is far cheaper than electric.

Resistive, yes. But, probably not with a heat pump.