Space Heaters Pose Safety Risks

As the weather turns colder, you may be looking for ways to stay warm and cozy. If you are looking for ways to warm up a single room, warm up cold spots in your home, or compensate for inadequate heating, you may be considering using a space heater. While space heaters can be a quick, easy way to temporarily heat up a single room, they do not come without risks.

While space heaters don’t have a flame, they can still start a fire. They can ignite flammable objects nearby, get tipped over accidentally and catch nearby objects on fire, or if the electrical circuits get overloaded, it can ignite an electrical fire within the walls. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters cause 25,000 home fires per year and are responsible for as many as 300 deaths and 6,000 emergency room visits per year. One-third of all house fires happen between December and February and space heaters are the leading cause of those fires.

Although newer models of space heaters are designed to be safer than older models, they can still be dangerous. If you need to use a space heater, there are steps you should take to minimize the risk of a fire.

  • Only purchase a newer model that has been safety tested and is UL approved. If you have an older unit, consider replacing it with a newer model with safety features.
  • Make sure your space heater has an emergency tip-over shut-off feature and heating element guards so that if it gets knocked over it will immediately turn off. It should also have a sensor that will turn it off if it overheats.
  • Only place a space heater on a level, hard, non-flammable floor surface. Do not place it on furniture, carpet, or countertops.
  • Make sure there is at least three feet of open space on all sides of your space heater. Oil-generated space heaters need at least one foot of clearance. Be especially careful to keep combustible liquids and flammable items far away from your space heater.
  • Do not leave a space heater unattended. Be sure to unplug it before leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Do not plug your space heater into an extension cord or an outlet that already has something else plugged into it. This can overload the circuit.
  • Never use a space heater to dry clothing or thaw pipes.
  • Do not use a space heater in a damp or wet area unless it specifically designed for use outdoors or in bathrooms.
  • Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
  • Choose one that is thermostatically controlled. These units are more efficient and won’t overheat a room.
  • Choose one that is the right size for the room you want to heat.
  • Make sure smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in your home are working properly.

If you still feel the need to use a space heater, check with your local fire department to find out what’s legal in your city. Some cities have banned the use of certain types of space heaters.