Secondary Heat Source Options for a Whole New Generation

Secondary heat sources are not just for when the power goes out or there’s a serious cold snap. Many these days are thinking about a secondary heat source as a way to save energy and money.

Increasing heating efficiency in your home might be more about how, where, and when you heat than it is about what type of heating system you use. Take a look at a whole new generation of heating options that can both keep you warm and cut your bill.

Comfortable living room with fireplace and chairs.

Why You Need a Secondary Heat Source

Whole house heating (think furnaces and oil pumps) are traditionally the way we think about heat. But whole house heating is often inefficient and expensive. It can produce hot and cool spots and leave entire rooms downright chilly.

If you’re like most homeowners, you spend most of your time in just a few rooms of your house. Of course you need to keep the temperature at a certain level to avoid frozen pipes but it certainly doesn’t need to be 70 degrees in the empty guest room.

Enter the concept of secondary heating. These are more targeted heat sources that boost the temperature in the zones where you spend the most time. Fireplaces, space heaters, electric blankets, and baseboard heaters all deliver heat at the right place and time allowing you to keep the thermostats turned down lower without sacrificing comfort.


White baseboard heater flanked by beige drapes under a window.

Secondary Heat Source Options

There are many options when it comes to secondary heat. What you choose depends on the size of the room, how many people use the space, the construction of your home, and more. Here are some of the most popular secondary heat sources.


More than just aesthetics, a fireplace can be a source of some serious heat. You have several options with a fireplace such as, wood-burning, electric, or gas.

Take into account how many BTUs a fireplace provides to guide your choice. BTUs are a measurement of heat, or more specifically, how much heat is required to raise the temperature of one pound of water one degree. It is the measurement by which you’ll be able to gauge heat output of a fireplace.

A wood-burning fireplace can produce up to 80,000 BTUs, enough to heat any size room (it might even heat an entire level of your home. A gas fireplace can produce between 7,000 and 70,000 BTUs. Be sure to research gas fireplace models carefully so you get the right amount of heat for your space. Electric fireplaces can produce up to 8,000 BTUs and are generally confined to heating rooms up to 800 square feet.

Fireplaces do have some restrictions when it comes to where you can place them. Wood-burning fireplaces need a chimney and are generally placed on an exterior wall. Some gas fireplaces need venting to the outdoors and also require an exterior wall. Non-vented gas fireplaces and electric fireplaces can be placed just about anywhere and are great options for secondary heating delivered exactly where you need it.

Electric Baseboard Heat

Electric baseboard heaters are based on one of the first whole house heating systems: hydronic heat or radiators. Electric models are a more modern, more reliable source of secondary heat.

Think of electric baseboard heat like a toaster. It works by sending an electric current through the unit heating the metal fins which then radiate that heat into the air. Currents in the room circulate the heat keeping the room toasty—pun intended.

Electric baseboard heat is the most sought after form of secondary heat in the Northeast, where it can be bitterly cold. Electricity performs better in extreme temperatures where other sources might struggle.

One downside to electric baseboard heat is that they aren’t the most attractive or subtle look. Baseboarders eliminated that concern by launching nice looking covers (very similar to the hydronic baseboard heater covers). These are available in kits for full update to your baseboard heat that are easy and quick to install.

Space Heaters & Electric Blankets

Meant for smaller spaces or as a personal heat source, space heaters and electric blankets provide just enough heat for one or two people or in very small spaces. Their heat is instantaneous and effective without the cost of turning up the thermostat.

Both should be attended at all times and should not be used for lengthy periods of time. They are perfect for bedrooms where a little boost is needed on a cold night.

Small space heater that looks like a miniature wood-burning fireplace in a living room.

Keeping Heat Where It Belongs

One of the biggest culprits when it comes to heating efficiency isn’t generating heat, but keeping it. If the windows and doors are leaky or there isn’t much insulation in the attic, hard earned heat escapes right outside and cold air comes inside.


Air moves around your house constantly so drafts will happen. The only way to combat them is to block them. To keep warm air in a room, cover spaces at the bottom of doors with a rolled-up towel or blanket. Add weather stripping on doors. Close chimney flues.


Adding more insulation to the attic is an excellent way to preserve heat. Heat rises so that’s where a lot of heat tends to escape. Extra insulation helps keep heat inside where it belongs.

Don’t forget to insulate lower floors too, especially if you’re heating them. Seal them up as well so cold air can’t get in and warm air can’t escape.

Ready to up your heating game? Do it with secondary heat. Learn more about the safety of electric baseboard heaters.

Learn More About Electric Baseboard Heater Safety