It's Getting Hot in Here: Space Heater Safety

space heater safety

Most of us have heard that space heaters are one of the most dangerous items in your house. But many people pull out a portable heater at some point during the winter, especially in houses that are older and drafty.

So if you're going to use a space heater, what should you know to keep you and your loved ones safe? And why are space heaters so dangerous in the first place?

Why Are Space Heaters Dangerous?

The biggest threat associated with space heaters is fire. In fact, each year space heaters are responsible for about 55,000 fires, 450 deaths, and over 1,500 injuries. However, there are a number of other ways that space heaters can lead to accidents and injuries:

  • Like any electrical device, they pose a shock hazard.
  • Space heaters use a lot of electricity. They can easily overload circuits, causing a power failure or fire.
  • Some parts of the heater can become really hot. Children and pets are especially vulnerable to getting burned, but adults can also accidentally brush up against the hot surface. It's also possible for clothes to catch on fire.
  • Some space heaters, especially taller ones, can tip over, posing a fire hazard.

Space Heater Safety Tips

If you're going to use a space heater, there are a few things you can do to make sure it's as safe as possible.

  • Never leave pets and young children alone in a room with a space heater.
  • Buy a space heater that has a guard around the heating element. This will help keep kids and pets safe from burns.
  • Choose one that's tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Not only do they meet certain safety standards, but manufacturers have to provide use and care information to consumers.
  • Never leave a space heater turned on when you leave the house or go to sleep. Dangerous levels of carbon monoxide can form if you're using a fuel-fired heater, and a fire can start if you're using an electric model.
  • Don't run several appliances at the same time if you're using a space heater. In addition, don't use extension cords with them. This will help avoid a circuit overload.
  • Check your heaters regularly – look for frayed wires and remove dust accumulation on grates, grills, coils, and other elements of the heater. All of these are a fire hazard.
  • To help prevent shocks, avoid using space heaters in rooms where spills and moisture build-ups are likely, such as bathrooms and kitchens.
  • If you have an older model, consider getting a newer one that most likely has improved safety features.

Not Every Product is Safe

Accidents happen, and sometimes everyday products turn dangerous. There are steps you can take to help keep everyone if your house safe, but some things are out of your control. Manufacturers have a responsibility to protect consumers, and it's important to understand your rights.

"The Dangers of Electric Space Heaters." ehow. December 2014.