space heaterAs the days become shorter the outdoor temperatures begin to drop. With the cooler weather, many homeowners will be pulling out their space heaters for extra warmth and added comfort.

Using space heaters, whether electric or fuel-burning has some increased risk. However, if you follow a few simple safety rules, space heaters can safely and effectively compliment your whole home heating system.

Are Space Heaters Safe?

All space heaters are required to meet minimum consumer safety standards. When used properly, space heaters are safe to use.

However, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), based on 2011-2015 annual averages, space heaters “accounted for just over two of every five (43%) of home heating fires and four out of five (85%) of home heating fire deaths.”

While space heaters are technically safe to use, safety issues arise when they are not used properly. The primary causes of space heater fires are:

Operating a space heater near flammable items.
Leaving space heaters running unattended.
Operating a fuel-burning space heater with an unclean chimney.

Electric Space Heater Safety

The most common types of space heaters use electricity to warm the surrounding area. Here are some basic safety rules for operating an electric space heater.

Always read the owner’s manual thoroughly before operating an electric space heater.

Follow all operating instructions in the owner’s manual.

Leave at least three feet in all directions. Keep this space free of all flammable material, including toys, blankets, curtains, clothing, paper, etc.

Never leave your space heater on while unattended. A responsible and aware adult should always be present when your space heater is in use.

Use your electric space heater only on a level surface.

Keep children away from your space heater when it is in use. To prevent burns as well as fires, keep children a safe distance away. Consider child safety gates or other equipment to ensure small children do not accidentally touch or knock over your space heater.

Consider purchasing a space heater with added safety features. Many models feature an automatic shut-off system which employs when the unit tips over.

Fuel-Burning Space Heater Safety

A fuel-burning space heater is one that uses burnable fuel like wood pellets, kerosene, propane, or natural gas to heat the surrounding area. Fuel-burning space heaters are very efficient, but can present their own set of risks. With a few simple safety tips and
Precautions, however, a fuel-burning space heater can be a safe and comfortable way to complement your whole-house heating system.

Always use the appropriate fuel in your space heater. Check with the manufacturer or the unit’s user manual if you are uncertain.

Always remember to turn your space heater off before leaving the room or going to sleep.

Maintain a three-foot perimeter around your fuel-burning space heater. Keep all flammable materials outside of this area.

To prevent burns and accidental fires, keep children at least three feet away from your space heater.

Make sure the area has sufficient ventilation. Fuel-burning space heaters emit dangerous carbon monoxide, which can have hazardous effects on your family and pets. Use the space heater with an open window or running ventilation fan.

Refuel your fuel-burning space heater outdoors or in a well-ventilated area.

Make sure your home’s carbon monoxide detectors are working properly. Change batteries at least once each year.

If your space heater features a pilot light, use caution when lighting it. If the pilot light goes out, do not try to relight it for at least five minutes. This will give enough time for any lingering gas or fumes to safely dissipate before you attempt to relight it.

Consider purchasing a fuel-burning space heater that offers enhanced safety features. Many newer models feature special shutoff mechanisms which engage when ambient oxygen levels are low.

If your unit requires a chimney, have your chimney cleaned before use.

Consider Upgrading your Whole-House Heating System

Many homeowners turn to space heaters to correct bigger comfort issues. If your central heating system is not adequately heating your home, it may be time to upgrade your system. Contact your local HVAC professionals to help you determine the proper size and model to meet your needs. A qualified technician can perform load calculations to determine proper sizing for heating systems and help you decide if upgrading the central heating system is the proper solution.