Space Heaters VS Central Heat: Which is Best? - Backyard Boss
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Space Heaters VS Central Heat: Which is Best?

When it starts to get cold, it’s always a constant debate of whether you should turn your central heat on or dust off the space heater and put it to use. On one chilly night it seems over the top to turn on the central heat, but how cost-effective is it to run the central heating for the whole of winter and when should you use your space heater? Can the use of a space heater actually result in cost-effectiveness and make a meaningful difference in your energy bills?

The matter of fact is that the answer is very circumstantial, there is no easy answer on what a better method of heating is. Depending on the space, outside temperature, insulation, and other factors, a space heater might be a better option, or central heating might be better or a combination of both might be the best option.

Space Heaters VS Central Heat Comparison

Space Heaters ​​​Central Heat
Space Heater
Mounted Electric Heater
  • Portable
  • Inexpensive
  • Ideal for small spaces or temporary heating solutions
  • A whole home solution
  • Expensive to install but saves money in the long run
  • Permanent solution

Central Heating

heating system attached to wall frontal with hardwood floor

Central heat can be different per home it can include a traditional furnace or can be electrical central heating. Central heat is a heating method that is ideal for heating up the whole home or building or large space that you might have. It provides an even flow of heat throughout the space which is usually conducted through air ducts.


The main energy sources used in central heating include electricity, burning coal, wood or oil. Electrical energy is the most expensive to use out of all of these options. The costs associated with central heating generally only include the costs of using the heating as there is usually no initial purchasing or installing costs as they mostly come built into homes or buildings.

The cost to heat up a home with central heat can be quite expensive if the heat is constantly running to try and maintain a certain temperature. This can be due to the space being big which can take time and more energy to heat up.

However, central heat is more effective if you need to heat up the entire space as a space heater would not be effective at all in trying to heat up the whole house.

When to Use It?

Central heating is ideal for when you need to maintain a certain temperature such as in the middle of winter when the whole home should be a minimal temperature, so water pipes and other things don’t freeze. It is also good to use when you require heating all over your home and not just the one room that you might be in.

It is most effective during the winter months and when you need constant heating for your home or office building to maintain a certain temperature. It helps address heating needs for colder weather and is more cost effective then. If you turn on the central heating for one chilly spring night, it would not only be ineffective as it would require more time and energy to heat up the whole house, but it would also be quite costly.

Space Heaters

space heater on top of a working desk with a woman using her laptop

Many people use space heaters as a way to keep warm on chilly nights and to bring some warmth to less toasty areas such as their basement. Space heaters are ideal for use in small areas and for personal heating such as a small room at home or your office cubicle.

A common assumption is that space heaters are more efficient at providing warmth and therefore are more energy-efficient as compared to using central heating. However, this is not necessarily the case. Although space heaters can be very practical to use as a heating solution, there is a time and place to use them effectively in order to reduce your heating costs.


The costs that are associated with using a space heater not only include the cost of running the space heater but also the initial cost of purchasing the space heater. Although this can seem as the more cost-effective alternative, in the long term when more than one room or small space needs to be heated it can be quite costly.

In terms of cost-effectiveness, space heaters are most cost-effective if they are used for heating a small space, or to provide intimate personal heating or when they are used in addition with central heating to provide comfort heat.

Space heaters provide the most cost-effective service when they are used to address heating inadequacies that would be too costly to address with central heating such as rooms with cold drafts or cold spots.

When to Use It?

Opolar Ceramic Space Heater on the corner

In order to maximize effectiveness and cost-efficiency, it is best to use space heaters in combination with central heating to heat up a one or two rooms that you need more warmth in or for instance in the office or chillier areas of the house.

This is ideal as the central heat is used to establish an above freezing temperature and is effective at warming the whole house. But the space heater brings a more comforting warmth to the specific room that you are more frequently using. This saves on the cost of heating up the whole house and the inefficiency of the heat being distributed to rooms that are not in use.

It is also more effective to use a space heater on one of the chilly days or nights when winter is just approaching or is giving way to spring. In those scenarios, it is not effective to turn on the central heating for just one night or a couple of hours. It is also not cost-effective as it requires a lot more energy to run the central heat and reach the required temperature.


Therefore, in comparison, both these methods of heating have different uses and different circumstances where one is more applicable or more effective than the other. It is, however, safe to assume that neither one can be declared better or more effective than the other. It may even be that you require both methods of heating in order to maximize the heating and cut down on the costs as well.