Home & Family

What Everyone Should Know About Space Heater Safety

People regularly use space heaters to warm their living spaces during the cold winter months. The U.S. Fire Administration states that these appliances not only lead to a third of home heating fires but also result in four out of five fire deaths. Per Corpus Christi’s KZTV10, too often, people trust space heaters and deem them to be safe. However, some can cause serious fires, such as the one that struck a New York City apartment building that killed 17. Thus, it’s important to focus on safety when it comes to using them.

Note that newer space heaters are generally safer to operate than older ones due to improved technology and safety features. Regardless, any can be dangerous when misused. Here are some general safety guidelines:

  • Use space heaters featuring automatic shutoff, timers, tip-over protection, and an adjustable thermostat.
  • Buy brands that are certified by a lab and feature a UL (Underwriters Laboratory) code.
  • Buy brands with a longer cord so that you do not require an extension cord that can pose danger when used with a space heater.
  • Never allow children and pets near the space heater.
  • Do not put a space heater in a child’s room.
  • Do not put anything on top of or near the space heater.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended.
  • Always keep the heaters on level ground. Never on a tabletop.
  • Always put them on a hard floor and not on carpet.
  • Keep the heater at least 3-feet away or more from combustible materials. This includes furniture, bedding, curtains, carpets, etc.
  • Keep the space heater away from water.
  • Keep the space heater away from flammable material.
  • Never block a doorway or exit with a space heater.
  • Always plug them directly into a grounded outlet in the wall.
  • Never use an extension cord or power strip with a space heater.
  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms in your home. (On every level and in every bedroom.) Test them to make sure they are working.
  • Turn it off when you leave the room or go to bed.
  • Should the cord become hot, turn off immediately. It should never feel too hot to hold.
  • Unplug it when not in use.
  • Close doors when escaping a fire to stop flames and smoke from spreading.

Space heaters are popularly used for warmth during the wintertime, and it is vital to adhere to these rules to help stay safe. Additionally, be prepared to call 911 in cases of fire, smoke, gas odors, or medical emergencies. Also, have an escape plan and practice it with the family to prepare everyone should a fire emergency suddenly occur.


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