Top 7 Tips For Space Heater Safety

Christine Herrington

Christine is our Chief Editor and a contributing writer to the site.

Last Updated on May 26, 2021

Space heaters are handy devices used to heat small areas of your home that get drafty. They are powered by either electricity or burnable fuel, such as propane, natural gas, wood pellets, or fuel oil.

It is often less expensive to run a space heater in the room you’re occupying, rather than boosting the level of heat throughout your home.

While convenient and affordable, if they are not used properly, they present safety hazards. By understanding and practicing these seven tips for space heater safety, you can enjoy the warmth of these units without endangering yourself or your family.

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Table of Contents

1. Ensure Your Space Heater is Safety Approved

Before you purchase a space heater, ensure the unit has been safety approved by specific organizations, such as Intertek Electronic Testing Laboratories (ETL) and Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL).

ULs are safety organizations that lay out the global standards for products entering the market. These organizations test, verify and certify the safety of space heaters in accordance with strict regulations. The testing that ULs carry out confirms wire sizes are correct, that the device handles the specified voltage and current, and that they’re built to meet safety standards.

While a UL doesn’t always test the product themselves, they authorize the manufacturer to carry out these assessments in accordance with the UL standards. High testing guidelines ensure the products are safe for consumers and present no obvious risks as long as they are used correctly.

A UL certification stamp communicates to a consumer that the product is safe for use. If you’re faced with the choice between two space heaters, and only one has a UL stamp, that’s the better option.

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2. Keep Your Space Heater Around 3 ft. Away From Flammable Objects

Ideally, you should keep your space heater at least 3ft. away from flammable objects in your home. This includes curtains, bedding, furniture, mattresses, clothing, papers, pillows, and other items that have the potential to ignite easily.

When positioning your space heater, you should ensure that the back, front, and sides of the unit all receive an ample open space of 3 ft. clearance. With many household fires starting from furnishings being too close to heaters or fireplaces, you must make thoughtful choices when determining where to position the space heater.

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3. Invest in a Heater With an Automatic Shut Off

An automatic shut-off provides convenience and home safety. These features work to ensure the safety of you and everyone in your home. For example, shut-off features automatically turn off your heater if it overheats, reducing the chances of a fire. Shut-off features also automatically turn off the heater if a child or pet accidentally knocks it over.

4. Never Plug a Space Heater into a Power Bar

When looking for a location to plug your space heater in, ensure you never resort to a power bar. These strip power sources are not designed to handle the amount of energy required to run a space heater. By plugging your heater into a power strip, you are increasing the risk of the unit starting a fire because it’s likely to overheat.

Instead, use the wall outlets in your home designed to handle much higher voltage levels than power strips. The extra capacity makes wall outlets a much safer power source for your space heater.

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5. Never Place Your Heater Near Liquids

You must never place your space heater in the vicinity of any liquids. For example, ensure it is as far away as possible from sinks, baths, showers, and other potential water outlets in your home.

Most people know that electrical devices and water are a dangerous combination because placing a space heater near a water source can increase the risk of electric shocks and sparks, which can cause electrical fires.

When your space heater is running, avoid placing cups, mugs, or bowls full of liquids anywhere near your unit. Being diligent around the heater prevents spills.

6. Ensure You Have Smoke Detectors Installed in Your Home

For general household safety, you must install smoke detectors on every level of the house, especially inside or right outside a bedroom. It’s critical to check that smoke detectors are functioning correctly by testing them monthly. Ensure you and your family know how to respond to smoke alarms going off and have a home fire escape plan that every household member knows by heart. This is important in case you need to vacate your property quickly in an emergency.

When using space heaters in your home, consider that they are a potential fire hazard due to their electrical nature. This is why you need a smoke detector in the room with the space heater. Also, adhere to the 3ft. rule (for flammable objects) whenever the device is plugged in. You should never leave the unit unattended when it’s turned on. If you’re leaving the room, it’s a good idea to completely unplug the space heater to eliminate the potential for fire while you’re away.

7. Never Leave Your Space Heater on Overnight

Warmth and relaxation go hand-in-hand, with the cozy heat of space heaters often making people feel sleepy. However, if you notice yourself dozing off in the comfort of your den, or you decide to take yourself to bed, you should never do so without turning off your space heater first.

 If your heater doesn’t have an automatic timer or shut off and you forget to unplug the device overnight, it’s a recipe for disaster. These extra hours of usage could lead to your unit overheating, increasing the risk of an electrical house fire.

Learn How to Use Your Space Heater Safely

By employing all of these space heater safety measures, you’ll be able to enjoy your unit without fearing hazards in your home.

These units provide an abundance of benefits. They’re an easy way to make a space feel comfortable and cozy while keeping the overall heat on your house low to save money on utility costs. While you need to be aware of proper heater use, don’t let the potential risks stop you from making use of a space heater in your home. They are excellent units that you can enjoy for many years if handled safely and positioned correctly.

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