Electric space heaters are safe as long as they are used properly. You should never leave a space heater running in a room without occupants. Additionally, never leave an electric space heater on overnight. These two mistakes drastically increase fire risk. By taking a few simple steps, you can prevent the dangers of electric space heaters. That way, you can enjoy a warm, comfortable room.
What are the Dangers of Electric Heaters?
Electric space heaters are a leading cause of fires when they are used improperly. Studies by the Consumer Product Safety Commission show that portable heaters cause up to 1,400 residential structure fires and 70 deaths annually.
- Accidental fire.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Property damage.
Although fire is the most common danger associated with heaters, carbon monoxide poisoning is a concern. Even a small fire can produce large amounts of carbon monoxide. This odorless, colorless gas can poison and kill those who inhale it during a fire. So, the risk of heaters goes far beyond the flames created by an accidental fire.
What Type of Electric Heater is Safest?
Infrared and oil-filled heaters are the safest electric space heaters. Models that utilize heating coils are the most dangerous. As a quick test, if you can see the coils turning red or orange as they heat up, the heater is probably one of the more dangerous models. Instead, we prefer oil-filled electric heaters. They typically do not heat up to extremely high temperatures, which reduces the risk of fire.
- This oil-filled radiator heater is one of the safest types of electric heater.
- Infrared space heaters are also considered to be safe.
- Space heaters with visible coils (that heat and change color) are among the most dangerous.
- Do not use a propane heater indoors—this is extremely dangerous.
Never use a fuel-burning heater indoors in place of an electric heater. Any heater that runs on propane or other fuel will release dangerous fumes as it runs. When used indoors, this can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal.
How Do You Use an Electric Heater Safely?
Using portable space heaters safely requires following a few essential tips. They are:
- Review and follow all manufacturer instructions that come with the heater.
- Place the heater at least 6 feet (2 meters) from flammable materials and surfaces when in use.
- Do not allow anything to touch the heater while it is running.
- Always put your heater on a hard, flat surface. Avoid carpets, rugs, and other soft surfaces.
- Plug your heater directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord or power strip for your heater.
- Unplug your space heater when it is not in use.
- Keep a fire extinguisher in the same room as the space heater while it is in use.
- Do not leave a space heater running in an unoccupied room.
- Never leave your space heater on overnight.
- Use space heaters as temporary heat sources only.
- Regularly inspect your space heater for damage. If it is damaged, replace your heater.
- Test your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide sensors—make sure they are working before using an electric heater.
This may seem like a big list, but it is essential to follow these instructions to prevent an accidental fire. Always keep in mind that electric heaters are meant to be used temporarily, not as long-term heating solutions.
Are Electric Heaters Safe for Health?
When used safely, electric space heaters pose no risk to health. Because they do not burn fuel, there is no risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as long as the heater does not start a fire. Using an electric heater for prolonged periods can dry out the air in a room, which can cause dry, chapped skin. Other than that, there are few effects to worry about.
Are Electric Heaters Safe to Leave on Overnight?
It is not safe to leave an electric space heater on overnight. If there is no adult awake in the room to monitor the heater, the risk of fire drastically increases. A fire that begins while you are sleeping can cause deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Even if you do wake up, awakening to a fire can be an extremely disorienting and dangerous situation. To remain safe, unplug your electric heater before going to bed.
Can Electric Heaters Be Left On All Day?
Some electric heaters can safely be left on all day. However, the proper operating procedure depends on the heater itself. Some models can only safely operate for a few hours at a time before they risk overheating. Check the manual for your heater to see how long you can safely operate the device.
Is an Electric Heater Safe in a Closed Room?
There is no increased risk in operating an electric heater in a closed room, as long as an adult is within the room while the heater is in operation. Fully electric heaters burn no fuel and release no gases, so it is just as safe to run them in a closed room as it is to run them with the door open. If the heater burns fuel, never use it indoors or in a closed room.
Is it Safe to Use an Electric Space Heater?
When considering the use of an electric space heater, keep these facts in mind:
- Electric space heaters are safe to use as long as manufacturer instructions and safety guidelines are followed.
- Improper use of electric heaters is the cause of 1,400 residential fires in the United States, annually.
- Fires caused by electric heaters release dangerous carbon monoxide.
- Fully electric heaters release no gases or fumes when operating properly.
- Oil-filled electric heaters and infrared models are the safest types of electric heater.
- Electric heaters with coils that visibly heat up are more dangerous than other types.
- Only run an electric heater where an adult is present and awake to monitor the heater.
- Never run an electric heater overnight.
- Do not leave an electric heater unattended while it is running.
By using electric heaters as temporary heating sources in safe conditions, you can easily heat a room without danger. With the right heater and proper precautions, there is nothing to fear.