Winter months without centralized heating can be brutal, but with the help of a space heater, many of us are able to sleep more soundly without worrying about piling on the blankets or piling the wood into a stove.
However, house fires are a constant worry for those looking for a safe way to heat their home and these machines can get pretty hot. It's a valid concern as fires caused by space heaters are more common than we'd like. So are space heaters safe to use all night long? We dove into the research to find the answer.
How to Safely Use A Space Heater
As with many things, the best safety measure is to read the user's manual, but we'll provide some general tips to get you started and help you know which safety features are useful.
Check Out the Space Heater's Safety Features
Automatic shut off
An automatic shut off is one of the best space heater safety measures that can be built into a space heater. Depending on the model, you may be able to set a target temperature and once the heater does its job thoroughly, a heat sensor should cause it to shut off and go into standby mode, helping minimize costs and prevent the machine from overheating.
If you have kids or pets, or if you sleepwalk, there is a multitude of things that could potentially knock over your heater and cause a fire or electric shock. This is why many manufacturers have begun to add safety features that cause the machine to lose power immediately once it is shut off. This should help mitigate the risk of accidental fire, though it's still a good idea to keep the space heater away from high traffic areas.
Some space heaters utilize internal thermometers for overheating protection. This allows the heater to detect when the temperature of the heating equipment becomes dangerous and shut off to avoid any damage or fire risks. These measures can be especially useful if your heater doesn't have an automatic shut off or timer feature.
A timer feature will allow you to designate when you want it to run, if you want the heater on to warm the room for when you wake up, you can set it so the heater doesn't run all night, but rather turns on just when you need it. It also will allow you to ensure the space heater turns off in case you fall asleep using it.
Need more info? Check out our best space heaters guide here.
Look For the Safety Certifications
Some safety certifications you can look for in common space heaters include the UL mark, from a global safety rating company, a CSL International Rating, or a rating from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These should ensure that the product meets safety standards, though best practices should still be used.
Choose a Good Spot in the Room
Portable space heaters should not be used near bedding, curtains, blankets, rugs, or other flammable materials. This means it's best to keep them away from most furniture and windows with drapes, as these are the areas that most commonly cause house fires.
Instead, opt for a visible location with at least three feet of leeway between the heater and other surfaces to avoid damage. It's also best to keep the heater away from children or pets that could easily burn themselves if they get too curious.
Plug It Directly into the Outlet
It's best to avoid extension cords or a power strip with a space heater as these are easy to trip over or disconnect by accident. If the cord were to be pulled it would pose a safety threat as the machine could tip over or shift into a dangerous position.
Additionally, plugging other electronic devices into the same extension cord could cause the port and your machine to overheat, creating the risk of a fire.
The outlets in your home with three holes are known as grounded outlets and provide a third route for electrical currents. This effectively prevents the flow of high voltage of electricity by directing surges of power into the ground. When it comes to your space heater, this will prevent short circuits and greatly increase your safety.
Do Frequent Maintenance and Inspection
If you get a lot of use out of your heater, it's not a bad idea to give it a once over before turning it on each day. Look for loose wires and screws, melted plastic or singed wood, or anything that looks out of the ordinary. An odd smell or any appearance of smoke is a good indication that it is time to immediately discontinue use and replace your heater.
Turn It Off When You Leave the Room
It may seem safe to leave your heater on when you step away for a glass of water, but it's easy to become distracted quickly. We recommend not risking it, and turning off your heater anytime you are not within eyesight of it.
Keep The Space Heater Away From Water
Just as you would a hairdryer or other appliances, keep electric space heaters far away from any sources of water. This includes faucets, bathrooms, washing machines, and even glasses of water. There is a risk of electrocution when you pair any item that plugs into the wall with water.
Don't Use It to Dry Your Clothes
As tempting as it may be if your dryer is out of commission or your socks are wet from the snow, do not use it to dry your clothes. The leading cause of space heater fires is leaving your heater too close to flammable items, such as clothes or upholstered furniture.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is it safe to leave the space heater on overnight?
Depending on the model you have – it might be safe to leave it on overnight. However, this depends heavily on features such as auto-shutoff, temperature settings, and overheating sensors. Even in the best case, sometimes these measures could fail, especially if you aren't following all of the safety guidelines.
If you plan to leave your heater on while you sleep, be sure to keep it far away from anything flammable, set the auto-off timer, and keep any pets or children out of the room you are using the heater in.
Space heaters can be useful tools for cold nights where your living space needs an extra boost of warmth. If you've been suffering from cold toes and are wondering if a space heater is a safe option for you, it's possible that it could be just what you're looking for. However, it's extremely important to read the user manual and follow the safety precautions to avoid any fire danger.
As long as you are being a safe and responsible consumer, space heaters are a great way to keep your home warm while you sleep.