Space Heaters: Safety Tips to Prevent Burns Injuries and Fires

by John McKiggan

The temperature is dropping and more and more Canadians are using space heaters to keep warm.

The first house that my wife and I bought was so poorly insulated that we had an electric space heater in the bathroom so we wouldn’t freeze to death getting ready for work in the morning.
Thinking back it probably wasn’t a great idea to have an electrical appliance like that around so much water.

Since then I have seen many people who have been injured because of faulty space heaters. Or children injured because heaters were not used properly. So I thought it might be a good idea to post these safety tips.

space-heater.jpgDifferent Heaters – Different Risks

There are two different types of space heaters: electric heaters and heaters that burn fuel (usually oil or kerosene).

Large Space or Small Space?

There are convection space heaters that can be used to heat a large area. They usually come with a fan or blower to circulate heat.

Radiant heaters are designed to be used in smaller areas.

But any type of space heater; electric, fuel, convection or radiant can cause serious injury or loss due to burns or house fires if not designed or used properly.

Safety Tips

1. Not a Substitute. Space heaters are designed to temporarily heat small areas. They are not a substitute for heating an entire home or apartment.

2. Children and space heaters don’t mix. The heating elements in space heaters tend to glow and create a sometimes irresistible attraction to babies and toddlers. Never leave children alone in a room where a space heater is being used.

3. Don’t leave heaters unattended. Most house fires that are caused by space heaters happen because the person that turned on the heater forgets to turn it off before they leave the room or fall asleep.

4. Space heaters can cause fires. This may sound obvious but space heaters should be kept far away from flammable materials. Most space heater fires happen when curtains, blankets or clothes are placed to close to the space heater. Manufacturing guidelines usually recommend that space heaters not be placed within 3 feet of any flammable materials. That includes the floor so don’t place you space heater on a rug!

5. Extension cords are dangerous. Most electric space heaters specifically state that they are not to be used with extension cords. Extension cords in general pose a danger especially when they are placed under carpets or rugs.

6. Fuel based space heaters should not be used indoors. Kerosene or oil based space heaters give off carbon monoxide. When used inside a room they can give off poisonous fumes that can kill the occupant while they sleep.

More information:

Canadian Standards Association

Consumer Product Safety Association

Harvard University Space Heater Safety Fact Sheet

Comments are closed.