With winter on the way and chilly weather incoming, many of us like to add some extra warmth to a cold room with an electric space heater. But you don’t want to become a statistic—about 25,000 house fires in the U.S. are caused by these heaters every year!
If you’d like to use a space heater in your home, keep in mind the following features and guidelines for optimal use and safety.
Features to look for
Automatic shut-off: One of the most important safety features is a smart sensor that will turn off the space heater if it overheats. For even better protection, get a unit that also has a tip-over sensor that shuts it off if the heater is knocked over.
Sturdy cord: You should never use an extension cord with an electric heater, so make sure to purchase a unit that comes with a sturdy, lengthy cord—6 feet is standard.
Safe plug-in: To prevent electric shock, a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) plug is the safest option, but many space heaters don’t have one. You can install a GFCI outlet or get a cord-connected type for temporary use.
Certification: The best space heaters on the market will have a safety certification label from an organization that does independent testing. Do some research before purchase for peace of mind.
Guidelines for safe use
Location: Find a good spot for the heater on a level, flat, and non-flammable surface (carpet is not recommended). Never place it on top of cabinets, tables, or other furniture, and avoid high-traffic areas.
3-foot rule: Keep your space heater at least three feet away from anything that can catch fire, like furniture, curtains, and bedding. Make sure children and pets stay three feet away from the heater, as well; burns can be very serious at high heat.
When to use: Never leave the heater unattended—and if you’re leaving the room or going to sleep, always turn it off first.
Dangerous materials: Never use your space heater near water, gas cans, paint, matches, or burning candles. Don’t use it as a drying rack for clothing items, either!
Plugs and outlets: When not in use, unplug your space heater carefully and never pull on the cord itself. Don’t use the heater if the cord is frayed or damaged in some way, and don’t plug it into an outlet that’s shared with other electrical devices.
Inspection: Check the heater on a regular basis to make sure it’s working as it should. If you see any damage, discontinue use immediately.
Fire precautions: Regardless of whether you have a space heater in your home, you should have working smoke detectors on every floor. Test them regularly.