picture of a space heater

7 Ways to Prevent Space Heater Fires

Get a Free Security Analysis
picture of a space heater

It definitely feels like winter now and you’re probably getting your space heater going to warm things up. But heating equipment, such as space heaters, is the second leading cause of house fires and deaths (NFPA). We’ve got 7 ways you can safely use space heaters to prevent house fires.

Here’s some scary statistics based on annual averages from the NFPA and John R. Hall Jr.’s “Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment” report:

  • 33% of home heating fires and 81% of home heating fire deaths are caused by space heaters
  • 53% of home heating fire deaths are due to flammable items (clothing, bedding, mattresses, upholstered furniture) too close to space heaters or other heating equipment
  • 50% of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February

1. Keep space heaters and flammable items at least 3 feet apart

Don’t throw clothes, sheets, blankets, or any other flammable material onto your space heater. Also, make sure your space heater is at least 3 feet away from furniture and beds.

2. Turn off space heaters when you go to sleep or leave a room

Even if you’re leaving the room for just a few minutes, your space heater could start a fire that quickly gets out of control. Never leave a space heater unattended.

3. Supervise children around space heaters

Children may not know to stay away from a space heater and could tip it over or put something flammable near it. Also, contact burns are more common than flame burns.

4. Use reliable, safety-tested equipment

Make sure your space heater has the label of a recognized testing laboratory.

5. Make sure your space heater has an automatic shut-off

Automatic shut-offs turn off your space heater if it gets tipped over.

6. Use your space heater on a flat, solid surface

Don’t put your space heater on a table, dresser, or other unreliable (or flammable!) surface.

7. Plug your space heater directly into an outlet

Never use an extension cord with your space heater as they aren’t designed to handle large energy loads.

Experts recommend having a working carbon monoxide detector to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, especially if you have a fuel-burning space heater. You should also have working smoke detectors in every room that has a space heater.

Space heaters can be convenient, but carelessness can be deadly. Heat smart and stay safe and warm!

Sources: NFPA – Put a Freeze on Winter FiresNFPA – HeatingNFPA – Home Fires Involving Heating EquipmentNFPA – Space Heaters Involved in 79 Percent of Fatal Home Heating FiresKSHB – Space heater overload! How to avoid a fire hazardKTTC – Update: Blanket near water heater caused NW Rochester fire

Updated January 11, 2016 and May 20, 2020