Whether 10-below temperatures have you fighting off the flu or the office AC has got you shivering in your ergonomic chair, electric space heaters are an easy and room-friendly solution to the cold. However, we are all aware of the dangers that come with operating a space heater. Leaving a heater unintended can lead to catastrophe: electrical shocks, circuit overload (leading to power failure), burns and, of course, fire. According to *National Fire Protection Association, heaters are responsible for at least 56,000 residential fires, over 470 deaths and more than 6,000 trips to the ER per year. Even when you’re present, they have the potential to pose the same threats.

But you can’t deny the convenience of a space heater – they offer immediate warmth and they can be cost effective – instead of heating your whole house, you can warm up a single room. On the other hand, heaters can use a lot of electricity and get so hot, they can be a danger to children and pets. You should always take care when using a space heater and follow these crucial tips and advice on fire prevention provided by Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).

It is also good to know what kinds are available and how they work. Vented and unvented (vent-free) heaters are not safe to use inside. They are intended for outside use. “Home” unvented kerosene heaters have been banned from home use as have many unvented natural gas heaters. Find out more here.

If you’re going to use a space heater, the safest way to go is to purchase an electric heater. While more expensive, these units pose less of a risk of fire than fuel-gased heaters (no open flame or pilot light) and are better for indoor air quality. Among electric heaters, it is best to avoid ones with direct exposure components like metal coils or glowing bulbs. Here are some you might consider:

Oil-filled Heaters – An electrical heating source warms thermal oil, which emits heat through coiled fins. These are thought to be the most reliable but take longer to warm up.

Hydronic Heaters – Similar to oil heaters, these units use warmed water to heat the air.

Ceramic Heaters – Metal coils encased in PTC (Positive Temperature Coefficient) ceramic are used to produce heat, decreasing the chance of fire or contact burns.

Electric Convection Heaters – Operated by air convection currents that circulate through the unit, heating up the air.

For outdoor use: Radiant & Infrared Heaters (best for workshops, garages & patios) – Works through direct infrared heat transfer.

Whichever space heater you choose, make sure to read the directions (!); avoid using extension cords (plug directly into the wall); keep in a clear, flat area (away from drapes and curtains); do not cover or tip; watch for children and pets; NEVER leave it unintended; and wait at least 30 minutes before putting it away.

If you have any questions or need any help with your electrical appliances, don’t hesitate to contact Mister Sparky! For more tips, click here.

*Between 2009-2013

Space Heaters: Staying Warm While Protecting Your Home