Fires and Deaths

Smart Strategies to Prevent Fires Caused by Space Heaters

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 40% of fires that happen in homes are caused by space heaters. In addition, 84% of the associated deaths from fires happened as a result of a mishandling of space heaters.

This data surrounds the misuse and inappropriate handling of electric space heaters. This type of space heater does not use combustion of any fuel to create heat and are therefore not vented to the outside. They use a great deal of electrical energy and are being used incorrectly resulting in too many fires and deaths across America during the winter season.

Tips for Space Heater Safety

Read the manual and the manufacturer’s suggestions when you first purchase a space heater. Read the instructions and make yourself familiar with how the heater works and what it needs to work correctly. Understand the warnings that have been placed there for your well being.

Look for labels that indicate the space heater has been approved by an authoritative entity. Some of these are

  • the Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC),
  • the Electrical Safety Foundation International(ESFI),
  • the National Fire Protection Association(NFPA),
  • the Department of Energy(DOE),
  • the Underwriter’s Laboratory(UL).
  • CSA (Canadian Standards Association)
  • ETL (Intertek Group)

Understand that a space heater is only intended to be used as supplemental heat and must not be considered the primary source of heat for any space in your home. Differentiate between using the space heater for yourself or for an entire space. Make sensible determinations as to whether or not the space heater can be used for the space you are thinking about.

Space heaters must be kept at least 3 ft. away from other objects. (NOTE: According to the research data, the primary reason space heaters are the cause of so many fires is that folks do not keep them away from flammable things.)

Do not leave a space heater alone in a room. Turn the heater off if you are going to leave the area. Make sure pets and children are not in the room.

Make sure smoke alarms are installed and functioning correctly.

Keep anything combustible such as flammable liquids well away from a space heater.

Plug space heaters directly into a wall socket and do not use extension cords or power strips.

Only place a space heater on a flat floor and not on top of furniture, carpet or tables.

Place the space heater away from regular foot traffic so it will not be tipped over by people who are not expecting it to be in the area.

Do not use a space heater in a damp or wet area such as a bathroom. (Some manufacturers make safety plugs that are safe to use in wet areas. Look for this safety feature if you need extra heat in a bathroom.)

Inspect the power cord often. You are looking for frayed insulation or exposed wires. You also want to make sure the plug is not damaged.

Purchase a space heater with an automatic shut off should it tip over. Also, buy a heater with a built in heat sensor that turns the unit off if a maximum temperature is reached.

If you are not going to use it, unplug it!

Gas Combustion Space Heaters

Use these outside the home. If you must use it inside, make sure the space heater is vented adequately to the outside.

Do not put fuel in a hot space heater.

Do not overfill it and leave enough room for the gas to expand. Store the fuel outside, well away from the heater.

The danger associated with fuel burning space heaters is the possibility of carbo monoxide poisoning. Protect against this possibility by installing carbon monoxide detectors and having the heater inspected every year.

Do not sleep with the heater on and make sure there is a protective guard around the flame or heating element.

Remain vigilant in regard to where your space heater is, how much heat it is putting out, what is near by, and when it may become a safety hazard. Consider the installation of a complete HVAC system so that space heaters are not necessary.