Space Heater Safety

Health, Home & Family
on October 28, 2010

A portable space heater can be an economical way to heat one room, or supplement heat in a room without overheating your entire home. But its important to follow precautions when using the devices.

Each year, 25,000 residential fires and more than 300 deaths are associated with the use of small space heaters. If you plan to use a portable electric or fuel-burning heater in your home this winter, remember that an ounce of prevention can help you stay safe and warm. Here are some tips to follow:

  • Look for the UL label. Before purchasing a space heater, make sure it has the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label attached. This means it has met stringent safety standards.
  • Read and follow the manufacturers instructions.
  • Place the heater on the floor, and out of reach of children and pets. If you place yours on a table, TV stand or nightstand, they can get knocked over and may cause a fire, says Philip Crombie, a forensic specialist for Travelers Insurance and fire chief of South Windsor, Conn. Many new models have switches that automatically turn off the appliances if they tip over.
  • Do not use a power strip or extension cord.
  • Keep combustibles 3 feet from the heat. Curtains, upholstered furniture and bedding can ignite if they are too close to the heater, warns John Drengenberg, consumer safety director of Underwriters Laboratory in Northbrook, Ill.  A leading cause of space heater fires, and associated deaths, is heaters placed too close to combustibles.
  • Turn it off. Turn your space heater off when you leave the room or go to bed, and unplug it, Crombie says. For liquid-fueled space heaters, only use fuel recommended by the manufacturer and turn off the heater and let it cool before refueling.
  • Use fuel-burning space heaters only in emergencies. These heaters are more dangerous, because of their open flame, the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and the risks of handling fuel. If you must use a fuel-burning heater, be sure to properly ventilate the room.

This article was originally published as Space Heater Safety on