The Dangers of Space Heaters

Are space heaters safe? The answer is, “it depends.” Space heaters can be a quick way to heat up a room. However, they can be dangerous if used improperly. Space heaters cause 25,000 home fires a year, and 6,000 emergency room visits, according to the Harvard University Environmental Health & Safety group.

If left unattended, space heaters pose a significant fire hazard. In fact, about one-third of all house fires nationwide happen during colder months, December through February. Equipment that is intended to add a little extra warmth, such as space heaters, are the leading cause of these fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPE).

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10 Space Heater Safety Tips You Should Know

The good news is, one of the biggest causes of fires is one of the most easily avoidable. Many fires start when flammable products are placed too close to heating devices, such as space heaters. Here are additional safety tips to stay safe while using space heaters: 

  • Before using a space heater, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition.
  • Purchase only space heaters that have been safety tested and UL approved.
  • Make sure your space heater is equipped with an emergency tip-over shut-off feature and heating element guards. This should prevent any fires that could be caused by small children or pets knocking over your space heater. 
  • Read and follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions for operation and care.
  • Check space heaters before use. Cords should not be frayed, brittle, or cracked.
  • Turn space heaters off when not in use. If you leave it plugged in and turned on overnight, you substantially increase your risk of a fire. 
  • Place space heaters out of high-traffic areas and on a level, hard, non-flammable floor surface; NOT on carpets, furniture, or countertops. 
  • They should be kept at least 3 feet from blankets, clothing, paper and other flammables.
  • Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from blankets, clothing, paper and other flammables including your carpet.
  • Do not attempt to warm your entire home using space heaters. Space heaters are useful in small areas, such as a study or living room. However, if you need to keep large areas warm, your home heating system will do the job more efficiently.

Many people also use electric blankets to keep warm during cold winter nights. Before plugging in electric blankets, check for any damage and inspect cord for frays, cracks or cuts. Electric blankets should not be tucked under the mattress and nothing should be placed on top of the blanket while it’s in use, including comforters and bedspreads. Pets should never be allowed to sleep on the electric blanket.

Listen to our winter safety tips podcast for more information: