Space heaters are a popular way to stay warm during cold winter months or cool autumn afternoons, but they can be dangerous. Every year, space heaters cause fires that result in injuries and deaths. The National Fire Protection Agency estimates that space heaters cause 43% of house fires due to heating elements resulting in 85% of heating fire deaths.
Most modern heaters now have many safety features and certifications from independent bodies about their safety. However, it’s still essential to follow basic safety rules when using portable space heaters. Following these rules would also help you baby-proof your house and ensure overall protection from your kids and the rest of your family.
Are Space Heaters Safe?
Space heaters are used to heat a small to medium-size space using different technologies. However, unlike central heating, they can’t heat connected rooms. To make them effective, they are best used for closed spaces.
Space heaters are generally electric heaters, but propane space heaters use liquid propane to produce heat. In the past, fireplaces were used to keep a space warm, but today, modern space heaters use electricity.
Here are the types of electric space heaters:
- Ceramic Heaters: electricity heats ceramic plates to produce radiant or convective heat.
- Oil Heaters: these work the same way as ceramic heaters, except they use oil to conduct heat
- Infrared Heaters: emit electromagnetic waves to heat nearby objects
Using space heaters properly will keep your family safe when you know how they work.
Space Heater Safety Tips
When using portable heaters, it’s best to follow the following basic safety practices.
1. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to reduce the fire risk.
Different types of heaters have different instructions for the optimal way to use them. Check the manual before operations and follow these safety instructions.
2. Place the heater on the floor in the room you’ll use most.
If you’re using it in the bedroom, ensure the heat reaches your bed quickly. However, never put it on top of any other surface, especially fabric, wood, or plastic surfaces, unless it’s specifically manufactured as a tabletop heater. When placing it on the floor, don’t put it on top of a rug.
3. Follow the three-foot rule when deciding where to place your heater.
Your heater must be three feet away from flammable objects like curtains, clothing, bed sheets, and other furniture. Always place the heater on a flat surface away from any flammable materials.
4. Ensure the heater is plugged directly into a wall outlet.
Never use an extension cord or power strip. Use a sturdy cord; don’t run it under rugs or carpeting. A loose or damaged cord is the usual cause of a faulty heater.
5. Turn off the heater when no one actively uses it.
This includes when you leave the room or fall asleep. Leaving the item unattended can cause the heating equipment to overheat and lead to a fire.
6. Opt for built-in safety features.
Look for space heaters with built-in overheat protection and automatic shut-off, so they’d turn off in case of overheating. Some heaters also have tip-over switches, so they’d shut down when accidentally tipped. Overheating and tipping are the common reasons why heaters cause house fires.
7. Never place space heaters near water.
Space heaters differ from water heaters and should never be placed in damp spaces like bathrooms and kitchens. Avoid touching it when you’re wet as this could cause electric shock.
8. Always unplug when you’re no longer using it.
If you don’t use a space heater for some time, don’t just turn it off. Completely unplug the device and keep it away. It will prevent curious kids or pets from playing with the item and anyone from accidentally tripping over it.
Be Safe When Using Space Heaters
Remember that space heaters are designed only to provide supplemental heat. Never use these heaters to warm linens, cook food, or dry laundry. If you can afford central heating, then go for it.
Space heaters are not energy efficient, and they are not wise for long-term heating solutions. Most space heaters consume 400 to 1,500 watts which can be pretty energy intensive.
However, It is great to have space heaters to quickly remove the chill from a room. Just remember that before purchasing one, you look for those whose safety has been certified and are aware of their risks. It’s also best if you’ve designated a safe level surface where you can use it.
By taking some simple precautions, you can enjoy the warmth of your space heater without putting yourself at risk.
For more articles about home safety, check out our blogs at Be Safe.
Daisy is the engine behind Be-Safe.org — from content production to product reviews and more. What drives her is the passion to make home security information easily available.