Electric space heaters can be used safely, but they are not the safest option for staying warm when the temperature drops.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters account for 43% of home heating fires and 85% of home heating deaths.
They can also be a hazard in the workplace. While there are no federal safety rules prohibiting space heaters at a worksite, you should follow local rules and regulations. OSHA also requires businesses to follow all manufacturer specifications on the unit’s label and in the user manual when using electrical equipment.
So, if you’ve tried other ways to warm the area, like adjusting your HVAC system or adding weather stripping, and it’s just not working, an electric space heater might be the next best option. And it can be used safely at home or in the workplace when you take the right precautions.
Here are steps you can take to increase space heater safety for your home or business.
Use your indoor electric space heater safely
Here’s how to increase safety while enjoying the warm comfort of your electric space heater indoors:
- Follow all manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines.
- Before you use it, do an inspection of the space heater to check for damage on its parts, knobs, coils and legs. If any damage is detected, take the space heater out of service immediately and have it repaired by a professional.
- Place the space heater at least six feet away from combustible materials and never place anything on top of or touching it.
- Keep a fire extinguisher near each space heater.
- Put your space heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface. Avoid furniture, countertops, rugs or carpets. Keep it out of high-traffic areas, such as doorways.
- Make sure your space heater is plugged into properly grounded outlets. Do not use extension cords or power strips.
- Turn off the space heater when no one is occupying that area or when it is out of sight.
- Do not use space heaters if small children are in the area.
- Unplug space heaters at the end of each day and make sure the unit has cooled before exiting the room or jobsite.
- Only use a space heater as a temporary (not permanent) heat source.
- Make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition.
- For business use, require employees to request permission from a supervisor or facility manager.
When you use your electric space heater the right way, you are reducing the likelihood of property damage and injuries — keeping you and the important things around you safe and sound.
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Safely use space heaters outdoors
Many restaurants, schools, offices and other businesses use outdoor spaces during the cooler months of the year and rely on outdoor heaters to keep business running and people warm. Check out these safety tips for heating and storing propane cylinders and other outdoor space heaters:
- Use propane heaters in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
- Set up heaters in open, ventilated areas. Propane cylinders cannot be used in enclosed spaces.
- Use the shortest possible hose to operate the propane cylinder.
- Follow restrictions based on occupancy. For example, restaurants with 50 or more occupants cannot have propane cylinders within five feet of exits.
- Store propane cylinders inside and in an area with minimal potential exposure to temperature increases, physical damage, etc.
There are also electric patio heater options for heating the outdoors. NFPA recommends following these safety guidelines for electric patio heaters:
- Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for safe use and storage.
- Complete proper inspection, cleaning and maintenance procedures for each use.
- Be mindful of necessary clearances from the heating element as well as installation and wiring requirements.
- Pay attention to the power requirements and whether an electric patio heater can be plugged into an outdoor extension cord and receptacle, power tap or multiplug adapter safely.
- Ensure any extension cords used are in good condition and free from splices or deterioration.
It’s possible to accomplish the safe use of space heaters by following the right precautions during setup, use and storage.
Keep this article handy as a quick reference for basic space heater safety indoors and outdoors.
Things to consider before you buy or replace an electric space heater
In addition to using your space heater safely, here are other safety tips to consider for buying, maintaining or replacing an electric space heater:
- Understand which type of space heater you have. There are convection and radiant heaters. Convection space heaters circulate air in the room. Radiant space heaters emit infrared radiation that directly heats the objects and people in line with the space heater.
- Invest in an electric space heater with added safety features. An automatic shut-off feature if the heater falls over or heating element guards are good features to look for.
- Consider the hours you have used your space heater as an indication for when it is time to replace it. For example, a space heater you have used daily for two years might need to be replaced due to the long hours of use. Replace your heater with a newer, safer model when possible.
Electric space heater safety is essential for you and the people around you. Practice safe use of space heaters on a regular basis to reduce the risk of fire in your home or business.
This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. Talk to your local independent agent to learn more about Grange’s Homeowners and Business insurance coverage.
- National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
- National Safety Council
- American Red Cross
- Business and Legal Resources
- Safety+Health Magazine