How to safely use a space heater

Updated 1/30/2021 10:02 AM

Thousands of residential fires every year are associated with space heaters, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, and they kill more than 300 people a year.

Additionally, an estimated 6,000 people visit emergency rooms for burns associated with space heaters, most of them not associated with fires, the federal Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy said.


The agencies offer these safety tips for space heaters:

• Purchase only newer-model heaters that have all current safety features.

• Make sure a heater has an Underwriters Laboratory label.

• Select a heater that's appropriately sized for the room you wish to heat.

• Put a heater on a level surface away from foot traffic.

• Keep children and pets away from a heater.

• Unvented combustion heaters that burn kerosene or natural gas are not recommended for use inside homes because they produce potentially dangerous compounds, including carbon monoxide, and deplete air.

• Sealed combustion heaters (which draw air from and vent outside) are much safer to operate than other types of space heaters. They are less likely to create a backdraft or reduce indoor air quality.

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• For liquid-fueled heaters, use only the approved fuel. Never use gasoline, and never fill a heater that is hot.

• Vented heaters should be professionally inspected annually.

• Electric heaters should be plugged directly into wall outlets. If an extension cord is necessary, use the shortest possible heavy-duty cord.

• Buy a model with a safety switch that automatically shuts off the heater if it tips over.

• Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element.

• Keep a heater at least 3 feet from bedding, drapes, furniture or other flammable materials.

• Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep.

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