Q: Our family room, with the large patio door, often gets chilly. What types of efficient and safe gas heaters are available? I would like one that has a thermostat to control the heat.
A: Gas heaters are the least expensive to operate and provide the greatest heat and comfort. Even if you have an electric heat pump, a propane-fired space heater can be effective and efficient. It allows you to heat your home in zones (set different temperatures in different rooms) and reduce your utility bills.
Wall-mounted direct-vent gas space heaters are most efficient and safe to operate. Some designs generate their own electricity to operate the wall thermostat. These operate even during electric-power outages when your main furnace or heat pump goes off.
A direct-vent gas heater is easy to install. You locate it against an outside wall. The outdoor combustion air intake and flue gas vent are run through a single opening in the wall. The hole typically ranges from about 3 to 6 inches in diameter. The out door vent cover extends out only about 6 inches from the wall so it is barely noticeable outdoors.
Since no indoor air is used for combustion, the overall efficiency DTC of these heaters is high, up to 84 percent. Chilly drafts inside your home are also minimized. With direct venting, there is very little chance of dangerous flue gases getting into your room air.
One design of direct-vent room heater uses a special device in the burner to generate its own electricity for its controls and wall thermostat. Room air is heated by natural upward flow through the heater. Optional electric blower kits provide greater heat circulation. You can get automatic setback wall thermostats to save even more energy.
With no fans and direct venting, these types of gas heaters operate very quietly, making them ideal for use in a bedroom. The automatic setback thermostat can reduce the room temperature while you sleep and heat it up again right before you wake.
You can write to me for "Utility Bills Update No. 083," listing addresses and telephone numbers of manufacturers of high-efficiency direct-vent gas room heaters, heat outputs capacities, and product information. Please include $1.50 and a self-addressed, business-size envelope.
Write to James Dulley, c/o Baltimore Sun, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244.