To heat a large room using wood can be as cheap as $300 a year. With space heaters, you’ll pay around $54 – $108 a month.
It’s never easy to find a heat source that is well-suited for large rooms. Either you have to pay a lot, or it’s hard to install.
Generally, you can always turn up your central heater’s temperature settings. However, that increases your heating bill significantly. Central heating heats the entire home and, therefore, produces more heat than is needed for a single room.
So, we’re looking at alternative methods
We’re going to check different methods for different situations. I promise, you’ll find at least one method that suits your needs:
- heating methods that require no installation work
- heating methods that require installation work
- heating methods that assume your house is still in planning / construction
Also, we’re checking how to distribute heat in a large room once you settled for a heating method.
Quick answer: A wood-burning stove is the most cost-effective method to heat a large room. Alternatively, use one or two space heaters to supply heat in your large room. If your house is still in construction, consider combining radiant floor heating with a heat pump.
Let’s check each large room-heating method individually and find out the cost and effort to set it up and run it.
How to heat a large room without installation work
The simplest, safest, and most reliable method of heating a large room without installation work is with electric space heaters.
An average space heater consumes 1,500W of power. Accordingly, it produces 1,500W of heat. This amount is sufficient to keep even large rooms well-heated.
For very large rooms, you should consider getting two space heaters.
There are different types of space heaters you could use:
- Regular oil-filled radiators: Heats the air in the entire room. The heat feels very comfortable, matching the feeling of central heating.
- Infrared heaters: Infrared heaters produce heat by radiating infrared heat waves. They radiate the heat in just one direction. Infrared heaters heat the objects they are directed towards. They don’t heat the air. With infrared heaters, you have more control over where the heat goes. This increases their perceived efficiency.
By placing your infrared heater properly, you maximize heat utilization! (the amount of heat that reaches you)
On a theoretical basis, they are, however, not more or less efficient than other types of electric space heaters.
Where to place space heaters in a large room
From a physic’s point of view, the placement of heaters does not matter. According to the laws of thermodynamics, all heat will end up evenly distributed in the entire room if you wait for enough time.
However, in the heating period when your room is still cold and the heaters are slowly getting hotter, there will be a temperature gradient in the room.
It’s similar to sitting next to a fireplace: The immediate surroundings of the fire are warm, however, the large open outdoor space is still cold.
You can use space heater placement to lower the initial temperature gradient.
Oil-filled radiator placement for large rooms
Oil heaters can generally be placed anywhere in the room. They radiate heat relatively evenly around the room. However, a lot of hot air rises upward to the ceiling. If you have a tilted ceiling, it is, therefore, always practical to place your oil-filled radiator below the tilted ceiling, which helps distribute the air. But that’s just a slight theoretical improvement.
With oil-filled radiators, placement is not that important.
Infrared heater placement for large rooms
With infrared heaters, placement is very important, since they output heat in just one direction. Therefore, always make sure that your infrared heater faces either
- into the room or
- into the area where people sit
Never face an infrared heater towards or in parallel to a window. A significant portion of the heat will penetrate through the window and is wasted, which decreases the heating efficiency.
If you have two space heaters, prefer to place them at opposite ends of the room. There are two reasons.
The first reason is that heat is distributed more evenly. By having space heaters in opposite corners of the room, the chance of cold space in your large room decreases.
The second reason is that there’s a chance opposite sides of large rooms use two different electrical circuits. By connecting space heaters to separate circuits, the chance of overloading your home’s circuitry decreases. Most circuits can handle two space heaters simultaneously.
However, in that case, you are operating at the very limit, and running a TV, computer, or any other appliance becomes a game of chance.
If you don’t have enough wall outlets to plug heaters in opposite ends of the large room, consider getting a well-built heavy-duty extension cord for space heaters.
Cost of heating with space heaters
An average 1500W space heater costs $54 to run per month assuming you run 8 hours a day with an average electricity rate of 14 cents per kWh according to the space heater running cost article.
The assumed electricity rate is the US average. However, depending on where you live, your personal electricity rate may vary. You can check your personal electricity rate on your recent electricity bill.
How many space heaters does your room need?
You need one space heater per 150 square feet. Space heaters are very good at adapting to room size since most models have a built-in thermostat.
The thermostat senses the room temperature and adjusts the heat output. At 150 square feet, a space heater usually maxes out its heating capabilities and you will need additional space heaters.
Still, before you buy multiple space heaters, here’s my personal estimate of how many space heaters you need to heat your large room. The estimates are conservative. Buy a space heater, and see how well it heats. And if it’s not heating enough, get an additional heater.
|Room size (sq ft)||Number of heaters||Monthly running cost|
How to heat a large room (with installation work required)
Space heaters are the best choice for heating if you don’t want to put in any work. If, however, you are willing to either hire someone to install additional heaters, or you are willing to do the installation work yourself, here’s what I recommend:
To heat a large room, a wood stove or fireplace with a wood stove insert is the most effective method. Wood stoves output a lot of heat. Also, you have control over the heating cost if you chop firewood yourself. However, you need to install the stove and maintain it.
Heat large rooms using a wood stove
Contrasting other types of heaters which are limited to a maximum electric power consumption, wood stoves are scalable. The more wood you put in, the more heat they produce.
Of course, there’s a size limit. However, most wood stoves are capable to heat large rooms to very comfortable temperatures.
The amount of heat a wood stove produces is controllable using an air valve that controls the airflow into the burning chamber.
You can, therefore, use wood stoves to produce a lot of heat, or you can use them to heat economically.
Consider a wood-burning stove if you can prepare wood yourself
With a wood stove, you have to organize resources yourself. Of course, you can order a truckload of chopped and dried firewood. However, that’s expensive.
The more work you put into preparing your own wood, the cheaper it gets. For example, you can chop wood yourself. You can dry it yourself. And you can even transport it from the forests yourself if you live in a rural area.
I find the sweet spot for minimum cost and effort while getting the most wood is to order a truck of trunks right to your home.
Then, take care of cutting, chopping, and drying yourself. You can save thousands of dollars this way! However, you’ll spend a week or two each year chopping firewood in your free time.
If that’s something for you, wood stoves are great!
Cost of installing and heating with a wood stove
The cost of wood-burning stove installation varies greatly depending on your circumstances.
Here’s a quick table with standard quotes for different work:
Cost of wood stove installation
|Wood stove||$300 – $900|
|(optional) Building a chimney if not present||$1000 – $3000|
|(optional) Install chimney liner for improved efficiency||$700 – $2000|
|(optional) Stove accessories||$50 – $200|
Cost of heating with wood
Heating with wood starts from $0 per year if you have free access to wood and do all the work yourself. And it goes up to $3,000 per year if you order chopped, dried, and stacked wood.
The exact cost of heating with wood depends on your location and the resulting accessibility of wood, how much you heat, how efficient your wood stove is, and how much work you put in yourself.
With a decent EPA-certified wood-burning stove, you can expect yearly wood cost between $910 to $1820. If you cut the wood yourself you can pay as low as $300. This includes wood delivery to your home.
You can reduce your yearly wood heating cost to a fraction of said cost if you put the work in yourself.
Here’s how much you can expect to pay based on how much work you put in:
|Work you do yourself||Yearly heating cost for large rooms|
|Nothing, everything is delivered fully prepared to your house||up to $3,000|
|Stack and dry wood||up to $2,000|
|Chop wood, stack, and dry||up to $1,500|
|Cut large tree trunks, chop, stack, and dry||up to $800|
|Transport wood from the forest, cut, chop, stack, and dry (100% DIY)||between $0 to $300|
This year’s heating cost for our family is around $300 since we get whole tree trunks delivered and process (chop, stack, and dry) the wood ourselves.
As you see, the more work you do, the cheaper heating with wood gets. Which makes it a very cost-effective method of heating large rooms.
Improve fireplace efficiency using fireplace inserts
If you already have an open fireplace, consider getting a fireplace insert. A fireplace insert massively improves your fireplace’s efficiency and heat output.
A fireplace insert transforms a regular fireplace into a very well-suited heater for large rooms.
Fireplaces lose 90% of heat through the chimney. A fireplace insert retains the heat and radiates it into the room, just like a stove.
These inserts cost up to $4,500 to install. However, they usually pay for themselves within 3 years of heating.
Improve your large room’s insulation
Before you install overly powerful heaters in your home, ensure your insulation is well set up. A well-insulated room reduces your heating bill long term. It’s a one-off expense that will pay for itself.
You can check if there’s a government incentive for installing insulation. Usually, it’s in the form of reimbursement or tax write-offs.
The most cost-efficient form of insulation is attic insulation. Attic insulation is cheap because you just need to cover your attic’s floor or the roof with styrofoam or a reflective insulation shield.
A 2 ft. by 50 ft. insulation roll costs around $65, so for most attics, 2-3 rolls, which would be $130 – $195, should be enough to improve insulation significantly.
Heat large rooms using floor heating combined with a heat pump (best for houses in construction)
For houses in construction, consider adding radiant floor heating. It even adds resell value to your house.
Here, you can also check for government incentives. Radiant floor heating combines well with heat pumps. A heat pump has to use less power with floor heating because the heat does not have to be pumped above floor level.
This increases the overall heat efficiency of your home.
Radiant floor heating is well-suited for large rooms since the heat is evenly distributed throughout the room.
However, it’s very expensive to set up and only feasible during house construction. Additionally, I assume that floor heating, if improperly insulated, directs a lot of heat into the walls of the house instead of into the room. This reduces the amount of heat that reaches your living space.
Also, it’s very slow.
I am not a fan of floor heating.
Floor heating installation cost
An average large radiant floor heating installation costs around $2,400.
|Room size (sq ft)||Floor heating installation cost|
I assumed an installation cost of $12 per square foot.
Floor heating running cost
A radiant floor heater’s running cost depends on the source of heat. With a heat pump, you can estimate a monthly heating cost of $54 – $108 for a large room. Without a heat pump, you pay double.
How to distribute heat in large rooms
In general, fans are great for distributing heat in large rooms.
Floor and pedestal fans
To distribute heat in a large room, use a floor fan. Floor fans can move large volumes of air with relatively low noise.
Also, they look good and suit well in most rooms.
You can also use a pedestal fan. However, most pedestal fans are ugly. And due to their smaller blades, they are noisier and have to rotate faster to move the same amount of air.
Wood stove fans
Wood stove fans are fans you place on top of a wood stove. The heat energy rotates the fan blades of the wood stove fan which creates a light airflow and helps distribute the heat a little.
Some people even assume that wood stove fans improve the efficiency of a wood stove. This, however, has no physical ground and is false,
For large rooms, wood stove fans are only a fancy gimmick and not really something that helps distribute the heat
Check my article on why wood stove fans are not worth it.
To heat a large room, use space heaters, a wood stove, or radiant floor heating. The most effective method is wood-burning stoves, since they are very cheap to run and can produce a lot of heat.
Space heaters are convenient since they are portable and heat up a large room quickly. Radiant floor heating is expensive to install and not as efficient. It’s only worth it if you are still constructing your house and you can combine it with a heat pump.
You can find everything summed up in this quick video where I talk about my favorite ways to heat large rooms: