Whether you’re trying to delay clicking on the furnace or heat up a specific area of your home, many people turn to space heaters as the weather turns cold. While they can keep you warm, space heaters also pose a fire hazard. If you aren’t careful, space heater fires can cause significant fire damage and even lead to fatalities.
What to Look For When Buying a Space Heater
Space heaters are a great way to keep warm during the winter. When you are selecting a space heater, safety should be your primary focus.
- Only buy a space heater that has been certified by an independent and nationally recognized testing laboratory. This ensures that the unit is safe to use and will help prevent space heater fires.
- Consider choosing an electric space heater, especially for home use. While fuel-burning space heaters are available, they are less safe than their electrical counterparts. Not only to do they require kerosene or other fuels, but they also pose the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Look for a space heater with a built-in temperature control. This allows you to dial in the right temperature, as well as decreases the chances of the unit overheating.
- Additionally, select a unit with an automatic shut off in case the space heater is knocked over. While this doesn’t prevent a fire entirely, it certainly limits the risk and helps keep you safer.
- Never buy a used space heater. While a used unit may be less expensive, the risk of a space heater fire is just too high. A new unit is always worth the extra expense.
Using an Electric Space Heater Safely
Electric space heaters are quite common because they are usually relatively inexpensive. While there are a number of types of electric heaters, almost all of them involve either a wire or ceramic element that heats up. Some units may also include a fan that helps the heat move through the area.
- Inspect cords, plugs, and outlets before using your space heater. Check the cord for signs of wear, including fraying or bare wires and melted plastic or wire sheathing. Make sure the plug is in good condition and fits snuggly into the outlet. Look at the outlet for signs of damage, including burn marks or smoke stains. Do not use your space heater if you see any signs of damage.
- Avoid using a space heater with an extension cord or power strip. Space heaters require a lot of energy, which puts stress on electrical cords and outlets. A space heater can easily overwhelm an extension cord and start a fire. The same goes for power strips, which have an even greater chance of overheating.
- Never overload an outlet or circuit. Like extension cords, overloading an individual outlet or a single circuit in your home can also pose a fire hazard. It’s best to only use a specific outlet for the space heater and unplug other electrical items first. Avoid running multiple space heaters or other devices that use a large amount of energy in the same room or on the same electrical circuit.
Using a Gas or Oil Burning Space Heater Safely
Oil or gas burning space heaters pose a great risk of causing a fire than electric space heaters. In addition to the risk of fire, they also create carbon monoxide. Due to concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning, they fuel-burning space heaters should only be used in well-ventilated areas.
- Unvented, fuel-burning space heaters are not recommended and may even be illegal in some states. Since they can produce poisonous carbon monoxide or nitrogen oxide gases, they should only be used in well-vented areas.
- Choose a unit that is vented, such as a combustion heater, as it’s more efficient and less likely to cause a backdraft. Also, select a unit that automatically shuts off when the level of ambient oxygen is too low.
- Never refuel your space heater indoors. Not only do the fumes pose a risk of fire, but you could also spill the fuel. Wipe down your space heater after filling with a clean, dry rag to clean up any spilled fuel.
- Only use the specified fuel for your space heater. This ensures the unit performs as intended and limits the risk of a space heater fire. You should also never blend fuels, as this is likely to cause damage to your space heater and may even start a fire.
- Keep a window open when using a fuel-burning space heater. Proper ventilation reduces the risk of carbon monoxide poising, as well as ensures that the space heater works properly.
- Never light your space heater if you smell gas or fuel. If you smell gas, there could be a leak that may easily start a space heater fire. You should have the unit inspected by a professional before using it again.
General Safety Tips to Prevent a Space Heater Fire
Regardless of whether you have an electric or a gas burning space heater, you should always read the warning labels and safety instructions before using your device. You should also refamiliarize yourself with the proper operating instructions before using your space heater for the first time each season. Here are some ways to practice safe space heater use within the home.
- Install a smoke alarm and test regularly when using your space heater. You should have smoke alarms in every major room of your home, including the kitchen, living room, and all bedrooms. Test your smoke alarms at least every month and replace the batteries every six months.
- Keep a fire extinguisher on every floor of your home. Review the operating instructions regularly so you know how to use the unit if necessary. Always point the nozzle at the fire, keeping it between you and the fire as you spray it back and forth across the flames.
- Only use your space heater for the recommended time. Running your space heater continually can cause the unit to overheat, increasing the chances of a space heater fire. Refer to the safety instructions for your specific unit for the maximum operating time. All the unit to cool for at least an hour for before turning it back on.
- Place your space heater on a level surface. This reduces the chances of it falling or getting knocked over on accident. Avoid placing it on furniture, bedding, or another surface that is likely to catch fire.
- Avoid placing your space heater in high traffic areas. Putting your space heater in doorways and other high traffic areas will increase the chances of it getting knocked over.
- Keep space heaters at a safe distance. A good rule of thumb is to keep them three feet away from furniture, curtains, bedding, and other potentially flammable items in the room. The safety instructions for your specific model may also include a specific safety distance as well. Always follow the instructions for your space heater.
- Supervise children and pets when using your space heater. Children and pets are often naturally curious and prone to touching or playing with space heaters. Not only is it likely they could burn or injure themselves, but they also increase the chances of a space heater fire.
- Turn off your space heater when you leave the room. Even if you only plan on leaving the room for a moment, you should turn off your space heater to prevent a fire. You never know when you might get called away or get wrapped up in something else. Most space heaters heat up very quickly, so there is no significant disadvantage to turning it off for a few minutes.
- Avoid using space heaters in the bathroom or near a water source. Whether your device is electric or gas burning, water can short out the unit and lead to a space heater fire.
- Only use your space heater as intended. Space heaters are designed to warm areas in a home or business and should never be used for other purposes. This includes cooking food, drying wet clothing, or warming bedding.
- Allow your space heater to cool before storing it. You should always put your space heater away after every use, but all it plenty of time to cool down first. Ideally, you should allow it to cool for at least one hour for storing it to prevent a space heater fire.
- Never use a space heater as a replacement for a furnace. While repairing or replacing a furnace can be expensive, space heaters should not be used as a long-term solution for warming your home. While you may be tempted to use multiple units, that increases the load on your electrical system and increases the risks of fire.
- Stop using your device immediately if you notice anything out of the ordinary. This may include smelling smoke, seeing sparks, or hearing unusual noises. If you think there is a problem, you should discontinue using it immediately to prevent a space heater fire.
What to do if a Space Heater Causes Fire Damage
Improperly using a space heater or using a damaged unit is likely to lead to cause a fire. Most space heater fires are caused when the unit is knocked over or placed too close to flammable materials, like carpeting, wood, bedding, curtains, clothing, or other fabrics.
A space heater fire can get out of control quickly, causing significant fire damage and smoke damage throughout your property. If you’ve had a space heater fire, the smoke and fire restoration professionals in the Restoration Local network are here to clean and restore your home or business.
As the largest network of restoration contractors in the country, you can easily locate a fire damage restoration company in your area. Our directly includes independent companies and popular brands like 911 Restoration and ServiceMaster Restore.
For emergency response, call 1-888-443-3110 now to speak with the on-call fire damage contractor in your area. Our on-call restoration companies offer 24-hour service, immediate response, and a free estimate. At Restoration Local, we don’t just restore your home or business, we restore your life.