Are Space Heaters Safe?

If you’re wondering if space heaters are safe, this article will solve your question and offer a number of tips to use space heaters at home safely.

Every year when winter rolls around, it finds many of us unprepared for the cold temperatures. At least for the first few days. This is where space heaters come in handy. Whether you use space heaters as a quick and easy fix for the first winter days or use them as your main source of heat, there are a few things you need to do to ensure you stay warm and safe when using them.

Types of Space Heaters


If you have made up your mind about getting yourself a space heater, there are a few things you need to know. First of all, there are different types of space heaters with different features. Here are the most common ones:


Fan-forced or simply fan space heaters have a quite simple design. These space heaters run on electricity, so once plugged in, the metal coils heat up. As these metal coils heat up, the fan turns on and blows air into them, consequently pushing their heat into the room.


The ceramic space heater has ceramic plates integrated into it. The way this heater works is through contact between the ceramic plates and the metal coils. The ceramic space heater runs on electricity so as the metal coils heat up when the space heater is plugged in, the ceramic plates heat up as well from the physical contact with the coils. Afterwards, the heated ceramic plates release heat into the air, thus heating up the room. If there is a fan incorporated in the ceramic space heater, the hot air will circulate in the room a lot faster.

This heater’s ceramic plates heat up fast and cool down relatively slowly, making it quite the energy-efficient heater.


A radiant space heater, as the name suggests, emits heat by radiating it. Because these types of space heaters radiate heat, they don’t need a feature like a fan to blow the heat into the room.


Although infrared heaters run on electricity, they differ from other space heaters in the way they operate. Infrared space heaters produce long-lasting heat through electromagnetic waves by heating up nearby objects. These heaters also come in two models: with or without a fan.

Are Space Heaters Safe?


It is good practice to research electrical appliances before purchasing them, especially how they operate and how safe they are. Whether in the news or from your acquaintances, chances are you have heard of a few accidents involving space heaters. So now, right before buying a space heater, you might be wondering: Are space heaters actually safe? The answer is not that simple.

Based on the statistics by Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters are the cause of more than one thousand home fires in the US during the course of one year. And, while those statistics may be concerning, nowadays space heaters have a different design and are significantly safer. Of course, the probability of causing an accident is still there since they do run on electricity and emit heat, but there are steps you can take to use a space heater safely.

Tips for Using Your Space Heater Safely

Below you will find a few pieces of information on what you should and shouldn’t do when using your space heater.

Don’t leave your space heater unattended

The number one rule on using space heaters is to never leave them on when you are not there. This piece of advice is especially important for people who have kids or pets around the house that could touch and tip the space heater over. With kids and pets, there is also the risk of electroshock. You being present will not guarantee that nothing will happen, but at least if you are there and something does happen, you can stop it immediately. This tip includes not leaving your space heater on at night when you’re sleeping.

Consider smoke or fire detectors


Whether you use a space heater or not, it is recommended that you use smoke and fire detectors in your home. Make sure your smoke detectors are up and running every month to ensure the safety of your family. A smoke detector is the last safety step in the worst-case scenario — the space heater causing a fire.

Give it space

The space heater in itself is a relatively safe appliance but can become a hazard when in contact with flammable things. This is why the U.S. Fire Administration advises you to place your space heater at least three feet away from all flammable objects like rugs, curtains, blankets, etc.

Place it on a flat surface

The ideal place for your space heater is a flat surface on the floor where there is a low risk of it tipping over and causing a fire. 

Keep it away from water

Because it runs on electricity, a space heater cannot come into contact with water. So when placing it away from flammable objects keep in mind that it should also be a place where water cannot reach it. This of course includes bathrooms. Although you might be tempted to put the heater in the bathroom during cold winter mornings, don’t do so unless the space heater is designed for it.

Buy one with safety features

To give you peace of mind, get a space heater with safety features. For example, some space heaters are designed so that they turn off when they get overheated or tip over. And some include timers, which can be very helpful in case of forgetting to turn it off before going to bed.

Don’t plug it directly into a power strip


As per the recommendations by the U.S. Department of Energy, when using your space heater, it is important to connect it directly to a wall outlet. Some space heaters have short cords so many people use an extension cord — this is a bad idea! Using space heaters without appropriate extension cords is dangerous and a possible fire hazard.

Inspect it regularly for signs of malfunction

Last but not least, you should always inspect your space heater regularly for signs of malfunction. If you suspect there is something wrong with it and don’t know how to fix it, let someone who knows about space heaters have a look at it.

The Bottom Line

During the cold months, space heaters can be a necessity for many families who can’t afford other ways of staying warm. They are a quick and easy way to make your home a warm place. Although nowadays space heaters are built to be safe, accidents can always happen. Being aware of what can cause an accident will be very important to avoid an unfortunate situation.

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