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Space Heater vs Heat Pump: How They Differ? 

A heating system in your home isn’t only about keeping your family warm during the winter months. If you live somewhere such as the Midwest where the temperature drops significantly, you could be dealing with frozen pipes and water damage without a heating system. This is why it’s smart to have both a centralized heating and room heating system in your home. 

We’ll talk about two of these varieties of heating systems: Space heater and Heat pump and discuss how they both differ. 

Two Types Of Heating In Your Home

Broadly, the heating system in a household can be categorized into two parts. One involves the entire home while the other is concentrated in specific rooms. 

Centralized Heating System

Central heating systems are systems such as a heat pump, a boiler, or a furnace. The name kind of gives the operation away. A centralized heating system works like the center heater of an entire house or a building or at least a big portion of the building. In a huge apartment building, it may be combined with one or two more heating systems to build an HVAC system. 

Centralised heating system – Image Source

The heating system doesn’t only keep the rooms in the house warm, but also the piping and wirings inside the walls. 

A centralized heating system is usually wired into the walls, under the flooring, or over the ceiling of a building. Radiators or ductwork come into play to facilitate the heat distribution in the entire house. 

If you buy a centralized heating system, you would never be able to install it by yourself, unless you are a professional. 

Room Heating System

A room heating system has a huge variety where some need to be installed by a professional while others simply have to be plugged into the nearest outlet. 

You can call a fireplace a room heater and so are space heaters, radiator heaters, convection heaters, panels, and fan heaters. 

Room Heater

As you would gather from the name, the room heaters are only meant to warm up a single room. The heat spread inside a room doesn’t travel to the rest of the house. In the event you want to warm every room, you will have to buy multiple room heaters for each room. 

Sometimes, even a single room heater can’t heat up a large room. You might have to get two in a single room based on how much heat a single unit generates. 

The Purpose Of Space Heater

Space heaters are room heaters. You usually buy one or two of these units to heat up a single room. 

You are likely to purchase a space heater if the centralized heating system is too expensive to install or the one you did provided inadequate heat. 

Space heaters are available in all kinds of shapes, sizes, output, and heating methods. The primary method of heating for space heaters is either electric or combustion. 

Generally, people opt for electric space heaters as they are safer compared to any method that has to do with fire. 

For the combustion style models, the space heaters could be vented or unvented. There are states that do not allow unvented space heaters, especially if the heating source is natural gas. You want to look into these before you buy space heaters, though if you search online, there won’t be an option to deliver the unsafe type to your zip code anyway. 

The Purpose Of Heat Pump

Heat pumps belong to the list of centralized heating systems. This means they are meant to warm your entire home or the entire building. 

It sources the cool air from outside, transfers it inside the system, and releases it as hot air inside the home. The cool air ping pongs between the fan coil and the compressor working to transfer the heat. These are electronically powered units, so the installation process involves ductwork which should be done by professionals. 

Heat pumps are considered the clean energy alternative to furnaces and similar central heating systems. These do not use fossil fuels, making them much safer for the environment. 

Heat pumps can also cool your home, using the opposite method of warming the air into cooling it. So, the purpose of a heat pump isn’t necessarily always heating. 

Space Heater vs Heat Pump: Comparison

Space heaters and Heat pumps are fundamentally different from one another in that one is meant to heat a single room while the other powers an entire building. 

However, you might be curious about all the other ways the systems could differ. 

Electricity Requirement

A heat pump typically uses 13000 watts of energy to heat up your home. For the space heater, this would be mere 1500 watts. 

However, in reality, a heat pump is easily the most energy-efficient choice. You are using the 13000 watts for an entire house versus using 1500 watts for every room. 

Depending on the number of rooms you have and the size of the room, you will have to buy multiple space heaters so the BTUs add up. 

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. in an hour, while using 1500 watts of energy, a space heater produces 5,120 BTUs. By comparison, a heat pump will produce 36,000 BTUs in an hour using 3 Kilowatt-hour of energy. 

At the same time, there are all kinds of space heaters with electricity use and so, you can opt for the ones which low amount for a small room. 

Energy Efficiency

Heat pumps are energy-efficient not only because of the wattage requirement but also because of the run time. 

Heat pumps use electricity based on requirements. The space heater has to be run all day if you need the room to be warm all day. 

However, if you will only need to warm the room for an hour or two at best, space heaters prove to be more energy efficient. 

The Cost

Heat pumps are at least four times the cost of a single space heater. This is given, considering one is for the entire house and the other is for a room. 

However, even when it comes to the electricity bill, a space heater seems to cost you the most due to the constant generation of electricity rather than a heat pump, which only acts when needed. 

The Lifespan

A space heater can last anywhere between 16 to 20 years. Heat pumps have a slightly shorter lifespan, averaging 15 years. This mostly depends on the location of your house, heat type, and maintenance work. 

The Maintenance

Ideally, you will do maintenance work on your heat pump twice per year. As heat pumps work in both summer and winter, the maintenance needs to be done during the spring and fall period. It is also best left to the hands of professionals rather than attempting it yourself. 

For space heaters, the maintenance is more about what you shouldn’t do rather than requiring any professional care. Clean the filters once in a while and you are good to go. 

You might also have to replace the filters now and then. 

Portability

Space heaters are mostly portable models. They tend to be tiny in size and even the largest can be carried in the back of a car. 

Heat pumps are big units, never to be moved from a single space without professional interference. 

You should probably buy a space heater anyway if you are constantly moving. Otherwise, most apartment systems have some sort of centralized heating system, whether it is a heat pump or a furnace. 

3 Best Space Heaters for your home

#1 Dreo Portable Space Heater, 70°Oscillating Electric Heaters

From Dreo, this 10 inches model has a 70-degree widespread coverage. 

It has 4 modes with a 12-hour timer. You have to plug it into a 120 voltage and it will produce 1500 watts of heat. This ceramic model works with a noiseless fan used to create heat through the forced air method. 

The filter is detachable, making it easy to clean. 

Best features:

  • Adjustable, digitally controllable thermostat
  • Automatic shut off on reaching 122°F to prevent overheating. 
  • ECO mode to save energy. 

#2 Lasko 5790 Oscillating Ceramic Tower Heater 

The ceramic heater is about 22 inches in height. 

There is a thermostat working with the space heater so it never overheats. However, you also have the option of two heating settings, 900 watts and 1500 watts for heat output. 

There is a remote you can use to control the heater. You can also fiddle with the controls directly on the heater. 

The blower technology patented by the company helps spread the heat all throughout the room, rather than in directed areas. 

It relies on heating via the convection method and has a 5-hour timer for overheating. 

Best features:

  • Auto-off timer.
  • Remote control. 
  • 2 output settings. 

#3 Dr Infrared Heater Portable Space Heater

One of the more expensive models, the space heater design is particularly likable due to the old-timey look. 

It comes with removable filters you can clean and replace as and when needed. It has a 1500-watt heat output when connected to a 120-volt power source. The radiant heating method works efficiently with an electronic thermostat. 

Best features:

  • Lifetime filter. 
  • Remote control option. 
  • Noiseless product. 

3 Best Heat Pumps for your home

#1 Goodman 3 Ton 14 Seer Heat Pump System

The Goodman heat pump system weighs about 3 tons and has a Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio of 14. It also comes with a 10-year limited warranty. 

The company sends an installer themselves so you don’t have to look for one. 

Best features:

  • 3-ton heat pump. 
  • Works on 230 volts. 
  • 10-year warranty

#2  MrCool 2 to 3 Ton 18 SEER Variable Speed Universal Central Heat Pump

The 25 feet heat pump continues to provide heat even when the temperature is at -22 degrees. 

There is a DC inverter compressor in the unit which modulates performance based on the weather. The quick-connect fitting system doesn’t require cutting or vacuuming for installation. 

Best features:

  • Easy installation. 
  • Inverter compressor to modify performance. 
  • Quiet system. 

 #3 Senville LETO Series Mini Split Air Conditioner Heat Pump

This one produces  9000 BTU on 120-volts. However, there are multiple other options in size and prices from the company ranging from 12000 BTU to 30,000 BTU. 

This is a modern heat pump with remote control and Alexa enabled, letting you control the temperature as you wish. It’s as much an air conditioner as it is a heat pump. 

Best feature:

  • Digital controls. 
  • 5-year warranty. 
  • Comes with an installation kit. 

Final Words

You should buy a space heater if your house is sufficiently warm and needs heating in a room or two. It’s the kind of purchase for a cabin or a garage. Space heaters can also be your portable heating companion if you move around a lot. 

Heat pumps are for keeping your entire house warm. If you have a permanent address and need a self-sufficient heating and cooling system, a heat pump is the smarter purchase to make.