What You Need to Know About Space Heaters

A properly used electric space heater can keep you comfortable in cold weather and save you money in the process. Used improperly, catastrophe can result.

The National Fire Protection Association reports that space heaters were involved in 79 percent of fatal home heating fires in 2010. The leading factor contributing to space heater fires, according to the NFPA, was the heating equipment being too close to things that can burn—upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, or bedding.

Space heaters don’t just cause minimal damage. In 2014, one Rather than taking chances, take the time to inform yourself about the benefits and risks of space heaters so that you can be both safe and comfortable.

Space heaters come in two types—electric and combustion. Combustion heaters that burn propane and kerosene should only be used outdoors in very well-ventilated areas like a screened porch or patio. Because these give off carbon monoxide fumes, they should never be used indoors or in a confined area. Never use them in garages or workshops without proper ventilation. They can also get quite hot, so they constitute an ignition hazard for combustible materials like paint fumes, solvents and fabrics and can cause severe burns. Check that the heater has been tested for safety and follow instructions carefully for both assembly and use.

Only use electric heaters indoors. As they come in several different types, choose the kind you need for your particular circumstances.

A space heater can quickly warm a small space such as a home office or workroom. A small heater with a fan will usually work fine for rooms of 100 sq. ft. or so (that’s a 10ft x 10ft room). They can have metal coils or ceramic-encased wires, and both types generally have two heat settings. On low, they use around 1,000 watts of power and on high, it’s about 1,500 watts. Some have two fan speeds and may also oscillate (moving side to side) to spread the heat over a larger area.

Larger rooms are best warmed with a larger unit with a fan, but convection units and electric radiators are quieter since they generally don’t use a fan. Radiators can be upright designs that look like traditional steam or hot water styles or horizontal ones that function like baseboard heaters. Convection heaters can be free-standing or wall-mounted, and some are available as wall-mounted flat panels that can be painted to match the room.

While some uses of space heaters can save on heating costs, their principal function is to make chilly spaces more comfortable. Electric heat is more expensive than other types, so using space heaters will only save money if the thermostat in the rest of the house is turned down enough to offset the cost of running the electric heater. This is only practical if you spend most of your time in a single room such as a home office and can lower the temperature of the rest of the building for extended periods.

Space heaters come with a number of safety concerns. Limit yourself to using new style heaters that have the heating elements placed safely behind grills. That will limit contact burns. Newer heaters also have safety features like thermostats and switches that turn off automatically when tipped over. Damp air can cause shorts and other problems, so only use heaters that are rated for wet areas in bathrooms and on porches.

Because they draw a lot of current, heater cords can become warm to the touch, so never run the cords under rugs or furniture where they can overheat and start a fire. Avoid using extension cords. If you must use an extension cord, be sure the cord is rated for the current load of the heater.

Finally, keep children, pets, fabrics, and combustible materials away from heaters, and never leave the heater unattended. Think of it the same as you would a stovetop burner and use similar precautions.

Improperly used space heaters cause hundreds of fires and dozens of deaths every year. Don’t become a statistic—use your space heater safely and responsibly.

If you think your home may have service or safety issues, don’t hesitate to call Allstar Electrical Services. We’ve served the Colorado Front Range since 2000. We’re top-rated by the BBB and Angie’s List. Don’t put up with annoying problems or risk costly emergencies. Visit our website for complete details about our services as well as timely articles about the latest developments in the ever-changing world of electronics. Then give us a call at 303.399.7420 or use our handy on-line forms to request an estimate or set up an appointment.

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