sage restoration space heater fire

When Mother Nature can’t make up her mind and people are constantly wondering if it’s going to be cold or warm outside, many are looking to space heaters instead of continually changing their thermostat. Space heaters, when operated properly, are a safe, low-risk way to provide supplementary heat to your home and reduce your winter heating costs. 

Beware, approximately 900 fires occur each year as a result of portable space heaters.  And while that seems low, don’t let that number lull you into a sense of false sense of security. Even a small risk isn’t worth taking. If you want to avoid becoming a statistic (and tragic headline on the evening news) take the time to learn how about space heater safety. Protect your home, your family and yourself from the threat of fire.

How to Find a Safe Space Heater

Not all space heaters are alike. Electric space heaters, in particular, have far less risk of fire than gas-fueled heaters, because there is no open flame or pilot light providing heat.

But even among electric heaters, some types provide more natural safety protection than others. You should look for space heaters that don’t have exposed heating elements – metal coils or bulbs that glow when heated. Instead, think about heaters where the heating element is removed from direct exposure, such as:

  • Oil-filled heaters – An enclosed heating element warms special heat-conserving oil which radiates heat through coiled fins
  • Hydronic heaters – These self-contained units use heated water to warm the air
  • Ceramic heaters – The metal heating coils are encased in ceramic material, so there’s less chance of contact injuries or fires

If you do choose a space heater with an exposed heating element or coil, make sure it has a secure covering of mesh screening it, to prevent small objects (including fingers) from coming in direct contact.

Another class of safe space heaters is the wall heater. Because these are installed on a wall, they avoid many of the risks of portable space heaters that sit on the ground – they can’t get knocked over, they can’t have things dropped on them, and they’re out-of-reach for small children and pets. This makes them a great alternative for preventing space heater fires and injuries.

Necessary Space Heater Safety Features

Whatever kind of portable heater you decide to buy, there are certain, built-in features you should look for to ensure the safest operation. 

  • Size and shape – A low, sturdily-built unit with a wide base will be less likely to fall over than a tall, thin unit.
  • Tilt switch – Almost all portable space heaters today feature a tilt-switch, a safety device that turns off the unit in case it gets knocked over.
  • Overheat protection – Many heaters now feature built-in thermostats that monitor the temperature. Make sure yours has an automatic shut-off in case the unit gets too hot and starts to overheat.
  • Cool-touch surfaces – Look for a heater that has a cool-touch exterior to protect against contact burns. This is especially important if you have small children or pets.

Space Heater Safety Tips

  • Choose a space heater certified by Underwriters Laboratory, Inc. (look for the UL mark on the label).
  • Buy an appropriately sized heater for the space you are heating. A too-powerful heater can cause the room temperature to raise too high and cause the heater to overheat.
  • Make sure the electric outlet matches the current and amps needed by the heater.
  • Make sure there is plenty of clearance around the heater, usually about a foot on each side to allow proper air circulation.
  • Keep your space heater on a hard, flat surface to avoid risk of tipping.
  • If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is properly rated to handle the electric current demanded by your heater or it could melt the plug and cause a fire.
  • Keep curtains, drapes and other hanging items clear to avoid contact fires.
  • Never drape clothing – wet socks or mittens, for example on your heater to dry them.
  • Always supervise kids and pets when a heater is operating.
  • Let the heater cool for at least 30 minutes before packing it away.

Another important safety tip is to watch out for product recalls. Even if you follow all the safety guidelines, a manufacturing defect can result in tragic consequences. If you do experience a fire, we can help. Contact Sage Restoration for more information. #ServiceWithCompassion.