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Space heater safety tips

B.R. Shenoy

“…space heaters were most often responsible for the home heating equipment fires, accounting for more than two in five fires, as well as the vast majority of the deaths and injuries in home fires caused by heating equipment.” — a 2021 report by the National Fire Protection Association

This winter has already brought freezing temperatures and snow to certain sections of the country, and it is far from done.

Whether your home furnace needs a little help keeping your house warm or you want some extra heat, space heaters are a practical and low-cost solution to keep a specific room warm. However, they are not without their drawbacks.

Defective Space Heaters and Fires

A defective space heater is alleged to have caused an apartment fire in the Bronx on Jan. 9 that killed 17 people, including eight children, and is now regarded as one of the deadliest fires in the history of New York City.

According to the New York City Fire Department, the fleeing inhabitants of the apartment where the fire occurred left the door open, perhaps allowing the flames and smoke to spread throughout the building.

Home Heating Fires

According to the National Fire Protection Association, stationary or portable space heaters were implicated in the great majority of home heating fire deaths (81 percent), with over half happening during the winter months of December, January, and February.

Per the Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters are responsible for over 25,000 house fires and 300 fatalities per year.

Eight Tips for Using a Space Heater Safely

  1. Look for a model with fire-safety features, including a tip-over safety switch and overheat protection. Ensure that the heater you purchase has a safety certification label from an independent testing body, such as the UL mark, the ETL label from Intertek, or CSA International certification. Heaters with ceramic or metal heating components that are fan-assisted are ideal options. Kerosene heaters should be avoided.
  2. Ensure your space heater is securely fastened to level, stable ground or a hardwood surface to prevent it from falling over.
  3. Keep it a safe distance from water.
  4. Keep it at least 3 feet away from any object, including flammableobjects, such as rugs, upholstery, curtains, paper, furniture, clothing, mattresses, and blankets.
  5. Keep heaters that are hot to the touch away from humans and pets.
  6. Check for an automated shut-off feature. The latter is available on more modern space heaters but not on older ones.
  7. Keep an eye out for indicators of malfunction. The color of the flameson gas heaters is a significant warning indication. A blue flame is okay, but an orange flame indicates that it is not functioning correctly and should be switched off immediately.
  8. Plug it directly into a wall outlet that isn’t utilized for anything else.Never use a space heater with an extension cord or a power strip.
  9. Always keep an eye on your space heaters. When using a space heater, stay in the room and continuously monitor it. Never leave it alone, even if you’re asleep.
  10. Install and check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors monthly.


Many of the same safety precautions that apply to space heaters may also be applied to candles, responsible for an estimated 15,600 fires each year.

As Lori Moore-Merrell, administrator of theU.S. Fire Administration, stated:

“We could think of it like a candle. You don’t leave a candle burning when you leave the room, and the same thing must apply to our space heaters as well.”

This article originally appeared on Medium.

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Freelance Digital Content Creator. I cover a diverse range of topics including scientific research, health, human interest, news, travel, consumer protection updates, and more.

Houston, TX

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