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 more than 1,000 residential fires each year.
To reduce 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.
- Keep the heater at least 6 feet away from blankets, furniture, drapes and other combustible materials.
- Follow manufacturer instructions and only use recommended fuel – never gasoline.
- Choose a model with an oxygen-depletion sensor to shut off operation if carbon monoxide rises to a dangerous level.
- Examine the heater regularly for vent blockage, rust and corrosion, which could lead to gas buildup. The U.S. Department of Energy recommends a yearly professional inspection.