What is Supplemental Heating? 5 Sources to Consider

As temperatures drop in the cold winter months, many homeowners will see their energy bills start to rise. In an attempt to keep things nice and cozy indoors, people tend to crank up their thermostat and rely on their heater – but, unfortunately, this is actually one of the least efficient ways to stay warm. 

Rather than heating up your entire house and driving your energy costs through the roof, why not just keep the area you’re spending time in warm? 

This strategy is known as
zone heating, and it is increasingly being implemented by homeowners who are hoping to lower their winter energy bills without sacrificing comfort. Zone heating uses a variety of sources  to layer different forms of supplemental heat that keep things toasty in a more efficient way. 

Let’s uncover what supplemental heating is, why it’s so beneficial, and the various sources you can employ to maintain a comfortable temperature in your home.


First: what is supplemental heating?

The definition of supplemental heating is “a secondary heat source that is used in conjunction with the main heating to provide more heat than that provided by a primary heating source.”

Primary heating sources, like furnaces or boilers, are not always the most efficient and, especially with older models, tend to spread heat unevenly throughout the home. This can lead to some rooms feeling much colder than others, which can be frustrating for homeowners during the winter months.

Adding a supplemental, secondary heating source, like fireplaces, space heaters, or radiators, is a much more economical solution. With supplemental heating, you can heat specific rooms or zones of your home that are used most often, which will save your primary source from being overworked.

 Stand alone electric fireplace stoves in a collage of two images.

Why do you need supplemental heating?

When finding a warm room in the house can feel like a scavenger hunt during the winter, supplemental heating can save the day. In fact, there are a variety of reasons to consider this option, such as:

  • You want to avoid frozen pipes in poorly heated areas;
  • You completed a new addition to your home and it needs its own heating;
  • Your primary heating system isn’t sufficient during the winter;
  • Your home’s temperature is always inconsistent;


Beyond solving these concerns, here are just a few of the added benefits to utilizing supplemental heating:

  • Less overall energy will be used (or wasted) due to more broad heating;
  • It can provide a backup heat source in the case of an outage;
  • Your energy bills will be significantly lower, because you won’t be overworking your main system;
  • Alternative heating sources are versatile in design, size, and shape with easy installation;
  • You’ll gain added control and flexibility over the temperature of each space where there is a supplemental heating source;


What are the best supplemental heating sources?

Now that you know everything about supplemental heating and the key benefits for your home, let’s take a look at the different sources you can try out this winter.

1. Electric space heaters

Thanks to their compact size and portability, space heaters offer a practical solution for alternative heating at a reasonable price. It isn’t recommended to run them for a long period and their radius of heat output won’t be as widespread as other sources. Many see this latter fact as a benefit, however, as being so focused, you heat only one spot, making them incredibly efficient.

2. Gas fireplaces

A long-term solution that’s obviously more permanent than a space heater, gas fireplaces can help to heat large spaces like a family room or even an entire floor in your home. Vented fireplaces will require more extensive installation, while ventless models require time-limited operation.

3. Electric fireplaces

Electric fireplaces are another great option that are equally as permanent as gas fireplaces but are quicker to install. Depending on the model, an electric fireplace can heat from 400 to 1000 square feet.

4. Electric radiators

If you are looking to heat one room, one electric radiator can usually do the trick. The temperature can be individually controlled, and most radiators don’t take up a lot of space. Other radiator types include steam heat and hot water, but these require a boiler and are therefore a much heftier investment.

5. Radiant floor heating

This system uses radiant heat, which is similar to warmth from the sun, to provide comfortable, consistent heating throughout your home. Based on the system you select, installation may require you to reinstall or remove flooring, making the process quite labor-intensive. Water-heated tubes or electric heating coils provide the energy for this setup, with the tubes needing to be powered by a boiler.

With supplemental heating, the good news is that it’s entirely possible to regulate the temperature in your home, even during the winter months, to keep everyone happy and comfortable.

Check out these additional tips for achieving and maintaining the ideal temperature in your home.

Achieve the Ideal Temperature

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