portable space heater

Is your office or lab space too cold for your preference? Here’s why space heaters are a bad idea.


Why is my building cold in the first place?

The supply air temperature in buildings with air handlers is 55 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that fresh outside air is cooled to 55 degrees Fahrenheit, which causes the moisture in the air to condense and be removed, thus reducing the air’s humidity. The cooler air then passes through a reheat coil to warm the air back up to a temperature that is comfortable for the building occupants. To conserve energy, the systems are set to an air temperature of 68-74F. This minimizes the amount of reheat energy needed. Increasing thermostat settings calls for the air handler to increase the amount of reheat, which uses more energy. Hence, a cooler set point for a building with an air handler actually conserves energy.

Why can’t I use a space heater?

Space heating units, including electric radiators, can lead to fires and injury when used improperly. To be used safely, at least 3 feet of clear space must be provided around space heaters when in use. This is typically not possible in most offices at UMB. Space heaters are only permitted to be used on-campus if facilities cannot maintain a comfortable temperature in your work area. Additional guidance can be found on the EHS Website.

Space heaters are energy-intensive appliances and are notorious for overloading electrical circuits, often causing an entire floor to lose power whenever they are turned on. When a number of devices are connected to the same circuit and running simultaneously, it can exceed the capacity of the electrical wiring. An overcurrent protective device in the main electrical panel shuts down power before any damage can occur during an overload — usually, it does this by tripping a circuit breaker as a safety precaution. 

Using a space heater can also make others in your area colder. If you use a space heater near a thermostat, it will register that the entire space is warmer than it actually is, and the central heat will cut off, making those in your space who are far from the space heater even colder.

What else should I know?

If your space is cold beyond just a level of personal discomfort, see about putting in a work order for UMB’s Operations and Maintenance team to check out any potential temperature imbalances in your space.

If you work in the Campus Center, HSHSL, School of Dentistry, School of Law, School of Nursing, School of Pharmacy, or School of Social Work, reach out to your facilities contact to put in a work order. If you are not in one of these buildings, use the UMB Facilities Work Request Portal to put in a request directly for your space.

And here are a few additional suggestions for staying warm in your space:

  • Get a hot cup of coffee or tea to drink to warm your hands and entire body.
  • Layer up with sweaters, jackets, and/or blankets.
  • When possible, take a break, get up from your chair, and go for a short walk (indoors or outdoors, depending on the season) to get the blood flowing and get your steps in!
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