Too hot? Too cold? It’s a familiar situation in many workplaces

Space heaters consume a huge amount of electricity.

Thermal comfort is an important part of employee satisfaction

If you rely on a space heater to keep you warm during the winter — or if you work with someone who does — know this: space heaters consume a huge amount of electricity. A traditional, portable space heater uses anywhere from 700 to 1,700 watts per hour. That's a lot. By comparison, a hair dryer uses 1,200 to 1,600 watts per hour. The difference is, you wouldn't dream of leaving a hair dryer on for an entire workday.

But asking a tenant, a colleague, or a member of your staff to unplug a supplemental heater isn't easy. Heating and cooling in the workplace is a tricky topic, because what's comfortable for one person may be too hot or too cold for someone else.

People's tolerance for temperature is different

In many workplaces, a single thermostat controls heating and cooling. In others — usually in newly constructed, or newly retrofit buildings — temperature is automated, pre-programmed by a building manager.

Automated controls allow building managers to program the HVAC system to turn off when it's not needed, like at the end of the workday when staff go home, or when the energy demand reaches a pre-set threshold. And while automated controls systems can provide energy savings in all kinds of facilities, they can't account for individual comfort.

If you're hooked on a space heater, or if you know someone who is, consider these tips to help avoid the need for supplemental heat:

  • Dress warmly for work
  • Pack a sweater or an extra layer in your bag, something that you can easily slip into
  • Keep a pair of slippers under your desk; they're a great accompaniment to a sweater
  • Go for a vigorous walk on your lunch break to heat up
  • Talk to your building manager about your heating and cooling requirements. They may be open to making adjustments

If you, or a colleague, just can't kick your space heater habit, consider using an energy-efficient alternative heater. Vertical panel heaters, for example, use about 150 watts per hour, while a mat heater uses even less — just 90 watts per hour.