Space heaters: Follow these safety tips to protect your home from fire

The do’s and don’ts of electric space heaters


Space heaters can be a convenient way to supplement heat in your home, but can pose a significant safety threat if not used properly.

Heating is the second leading cause of home fires, according to the National Safety Council (NSC).

The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that 1,100 fires a year result from the use of portable electric heaters. They say these fires result in about 50 deaths, dozens of injuries, and millions of dollars in property loss.

Fire and electrical hazards can be caused by space heaters with inadequate safety features, space heaters that are placed near combustibles, or space heaters that are improperly plugged in, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

What should you do to protect yourself from home heating fires?

Here is ESFI’s list of tips to keep you and your home safe and warm during the cold season:

  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet, do not use an extension cord or power strip
  • Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater
  • Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or any loose connections before use, if damage is found do not use the heater
  • Never leave a space heater unattended, turn it off if you leave a room or if you are going to sleep
  • Always unplug and safely store your heater when not in use
  • Do not let pets or children play too close to a space heater
  • Space heaters should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing, or thaw pipes
  • Heaters should be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, such as clothing, rugs, or paper
  • Keep space heaters out of high-traffic areas where they may pose a tripping hazard
  • Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces, never on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet
  • Make sure your space heater’s label says it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory
  • Before use, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully
  • Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas
  • Test smoke alarms once a month

Check out our fire safety page for more information on keeping your home safe from fire.

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