How to Use Space Heaters Safely
Space heaters make cold rooms more comfortable in the winter, but if misused, they can be a safety hazard. In fact, space heaters account for 86 percent of home heating fire deaths. Keep your home and family safe with these tips for buying and operating a space heater.
Select a Space Heater that Meets Your Needs
- Portable radiators heat the space gradually and evenly when heated oil or water travels through the system.
- Infrared heaters create heat with infrared bulbs to gently increase the temperature of the heater’s surroundings.
- Ceramic heaters warm air over an electric resistant element encased in ceramic.
- Fan-forced heaters blow air over electric coils for quick spot heating.
- Propane or kerosene heaters burn fuel to generate a large amount of heat for a work area. (Note: Fuel-burning space heaters must be vented to the exterior to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.)
Choose a Safe Space Heater
- Only purchase a space heater if it is qualified by the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or another recognized testing lab.
- Select a unit with safety features, such as a thermostat and cool-touch surfaces. Overheat protection and auto-shutoff turn off the heater if internal components become too hot or the unit tips over.
- Read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully so you understand how to use your new space heater.
Operate a Space Heater Safely
- Check the unit for cracked plugs, frayed wires, or loose connections before each use. If you spot any damage, don’t use the heater. Also, discontinue use if you notice the power cord becoming hot to the touch when in use.
- Plug the unit directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord or power strip, which could cause overheating and lead to a fire. Also, don’t plug anything else into the same electrical outlet as the heater.
- Only run a space heater while it’s sitting on a solid, flat, stable surface.
- Set the heater in a corner where it’s out of the way. Make sure the cord isn’t a tripping hazard.
- Never set anything on top of the power cord or run the cord underneath rugs or furniture, which could cause overheating.
- Keep drapery, furnishings, clothing, and other flammable objects at least three feet from the front of the heater and away from the sides and rear of the unit.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- Only use a space heater for its intended purpose, which is to provide supplemental heat. Never use it to warm bedding or towels, defrost food, or dry clothing.
- Never leave the unit running unattended. Turn it off and unplug it when you leave home or go to bed. Store the heater safely during the off-season.