Take the Heat Off Your Outlets

Take the Heat off Your Outlets
Click on image above for printable poster

Space heaters and fans often claim to save energy, but that claim can often be misleading.  In commercial buildings, space heaters are virtually never a good idea because of the temperature controls that are used.  The worst case scenario of wasting energy through space heating would be when there is simultaneous heating and cooling in the workplace.  If it is summertime and your office building is cooling the air inside to a point that you feel uncomfortable enough to fire up your space heater, you are paying to condition the air twice.

So what are space heaters useful for?  If there is a particular space that needs to be at a higher temperature, a space heater can be useful but only if you can lower the temperature throughout the rest of the building as a result.  Office buildings as well as residential buildings under normal circumstances do not meet any such criteria, and, as a result, are generally not a good idea.

If you think your house does fit this criteria, here is a good tip when purchasing a space heater: Choose a space heater by the watts of electricity it uses.  The number of watts that the heater uses directly corresponds with the amount of heat it can produce.  Space heaters are all 100 percent efficient, so if you are buying a 1,500 watt space heater, the next thing to look at is price because there will be little, if any, difference in the quality of the device.  Safety features are important as well.  Look for the safety features discussed here when buying a space heater.

So why shouldn’t you have coffeepots, microwaves, mini-fridges, or hot plates in your workspace?  First of all, most buildings are not wired to be able to supply that much electricity to each occupant on a regular basis.  Secondly, most buildings have community break areas with all of these items, and they are set up and wired specifically to operate these types of devices.  How much electricity do they actually use?  One coffee maker that runs for 30 minutes a day for a year will use 128 kWh of electricity.  A microwave that is used for a half hour a week will use 22 kWh of electricity in a year.

It may not seem like a lot, but think about the total number of state employees.  If all state employees – approximately 25,000 – used an individual microwave and coffeepot, the total state electricity usage for just those two appliances would be 3,750,000 kWh. At the average rate that is paid out per kWh by commercial buildings, the cost would add up to $262,500 per year!  Talk about some expensive coffee and leftovers.