Space Heater Safety


When temperatures fall and you fire up the heater for winter, it seems each time a corner of the house—or maybe an entire room—that never gets quite warm enough.


Rather than overheat the rest of the house, you might plug in a portable electric heater to cozy up space. The multipurpose units can be effective, energy-efficient tools to help keep things relaxed until spring. But, they’re also recognized as a fire risk.


According to the National Fire Prevention Association, in a recent five-year period, transportable heaters accounted for one-third of home heating fires, with half of all such fires happening during December, January, and February.


If you plan to use a space heater this winter, here are seven reasonable tips to help you stay safe:


Do your research.

Select a heater that’s been tested and certified for safety by an organization such as Underwriters Laboratories. Some shut off automatically if the unit overheats or tips over, but don’t substitute such features for careful use. To check for safety recalls, visit the SaferProducts website.


Don’t overkill your circuits.

Plug your portable heater into a wall outlet that can handle the wattage, and guarantee the plug fits tightly. Never plug it into an extension cord or power strip or the same wall outlet as other heavy-duty appliances.


Establish a boundary.

Place the heater in an open area, not under desks or in other encircled areas, and keep it at least 3 feet away from everything flammable. Safeguard children and pets don’t get too close, either.


Don’t cover up the cord.

Never run the heater’s cord under rugs or carpeting. This can damage the cord, causing it and nearby objects to burn.


Monitor for excess heat.

During use, check habitually to regulate if the heater plug or cord, wall outlet or faceplate is hot. If so, discontinue use and seek repairs.


Set the thermostat.

By using a heater with thermostat controls, you can help avoid overheating the room, which wastes energy, as well as the unit.


Don’t leave it unattended.

Leaving the room or sleeping? Hit the “off” button, and unplug the heater.


Recall, electrical fires can start inside your walls, too, not just in the immediate area. If you blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker while using your space heater, it’s a good indication that it’s more than your system can handle. Try a different outlet or a different portable heater to better reduce your risk.

IPA Team

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