Safer Home Heating: Space Heaters

As the weather turns colder, many people will turn to alternate home heating sources, either because they have no central heating, to supplement central heating, or to keep down their heating fuel costs. Space heaters are a very popular way to do this.

Heating equipment is involved in more than 64,000 home structure fires every year, which cause 540 civilian deaths. Space heaters, whether stationary or portable, account for three-quarters of these deaths.

To keep yourself and your family both warm and safe, follow these simple tips:

  • Keep anything that can burn—paper, bedding, clothing or furniture—at least 3 feet away from the heater. Having combustibles too close to heat source is the leading factor contributing to home heating fires.
  • Turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
  • Keep children away from space heaters, especially when they’re wearing night gowns or other loose clothing that can easily catch fire.
  • With electrical heaters, make sure the circuit isn’t overloaded. Choose an extension cord the same size or larger than the appliance electrical cord.
  • Keep electrical heaters well away from water.
  • Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer’s instructions

Special Tips for Kerosene Heaters

Gas-fueled heating devices pose a higher risk because of the danger of carbon monoxide poisoning.

  • Be sure your heater is in good working condition, with no carbon buildup in the exhaust parts. Your heater should have an emergency shut off in case it tips over.
  • Use ONLY the fuel recommended by the heater manufacturer.
  • Keep kerosene or other flammable liquids outside your home, in approved metal containers in a well ventilated storage area.
  • NEVER fill the heater while it’s hot, or operating.
  • Refuel outside your home.
  • Make sure all fuel-burning equipment is vented to the outside to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Install and maintain carbon monoxide (CO) alarms to avoid the risk of CO poisoning.

Adapted from research and recommendations of the U.S. Fire Administration and the National Fire Protection Association