Portable space heaters can be convenient for single-room use when central heating is inadequate or costly, but they involve some risk. If you plan to use a space heater, make sure to follow these safety guidelines.
The primary dangers to keep in mind are fire ignition and improper venting. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters cause approximately 25,000 residential fires each year.
To reduce this risk:
- Only purchase newer models with current safety features, including a switch that automatically shuts off the unit if it tips over.
- Place the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic and out of reach of young children and pets.
- Avoid using extension cords, and don’t overload circuits.
- Blankets, furniture, drapes and other combustible materials should be kept at least six feet away.
Only electric space heaters can function safely without venting. As combustion heaters run on propane, natural gas or kerosene, they produce gases – including carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides – that can cause harm if not vented outside the home. When using a combustion space heater:
- Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions upon installation, and supply only the approved fuel – never gasoline.
- Choose a model with an oxygen-depletion sensor to shut off operation if dangerous carbon monoxide levels rise.
- Examine the heater regularly for blockages around the vents, rust and corrosion, which could lead to the buildup of gases. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a yearly professional inspection.
These policies will help you enjoy a warm and healthy home through the winter. Your savings from using a space heater will depend on room size and insulation as well as temperature settings. Find more ways to reduce heating costs on our website.