Space Heater Safety – Staying Safe and Warm

The cold weather is officially here and despite a few warm days here and there, it really is winter. For lots of us, there’s at least one room in the house that just stays chilly no matter what you do or what kind of heating systems you have. That’s where portable space heaters can come in handy to provide that supplemental heat that can take a room from chilled to cozy in minutes. Before you break out the heater, it’s a good idea to review some safety tips to reduce the fire hazards in your home. 

Plugging It In

Power strips and extension cords are a big no-no when it comes to space heater safety. Electric space heaters can become extremely dangerous when plugged into these items; they even have the potential to catch on fire. Power strips and extension cords are not built to handle the extra current flow needed to power a space heater, so keep it safe and plug it directly into the wall. From 2009 to 2013 heating equipment was involved in an estimated 56,000 reported U.S. home fires. This accounted for 16 percent of the total, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Nearly half of all home heating fires occurred in December, January, and February with space heaters accounting for two of every five of home heating fires.

Finally, make sure the plug is not in a walkway, or that it can become a tripping hazard.

Safety Features

Be sure that your space heater, whether it’s a traditional portable electric or an oil-filled space heater, has safety features such as tip-over turn off—which automatically shuts off the heater should it tip, and alerts for tip-over. If these stop working do not use that space heater in your home. Your space heater should also have been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. If it has you will find a tag to this effect on the cord.

The Right Heater for the Right Space

Never use a fuel-burning heater indoors. While electrical heaters are as safe as any other home appliance when it comes to fumes, combustion heaters can produce carbon monoxide, which is unsafe indoors and can kill. 

Other appliances that can be a carbon monoxide hazard are:

  • Non-electric hot water heaters
  • Gas ranges and ovens
  • Gas clothes dryers 
  • Oil, propane, or natural gas furnaces

These appliances MUST be properly vented to be considered safe for indoor use. 

Finally, when using a space heater, give it SPACE. There should be no furniture, loose fabric (such as curtains), or anything else within 3 feet of a space heater. Keep children and pets away from your space heater and use common sense. Never leave a space heater unattended. When you are finished using it unplug the heater, don’t just shut it off.

By following these tips, and using the proper heating equipment for your home heat, you can ensure that you stay snuggly AND safe all season long.