Space heaters cause about 1,700 fires a year nationwide. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), they are the culprits in 81% of fatal house fires caused by heat. More than half of the fires caused by heating equipment between 2014 and 2018 occurred in the month of January, with February being highest for residential fires.

In January of 2022, a fire caused by a space heater in New York killed 17 people, a grim reminder of the need to take extra precaution when more heaters are used during the coldest months in winter.

Failure to clean the heaters and placing them within five feet of flammable objects often cause the fires. 

During the coldest winter months, homecare clients want to use a space heater to add extra warmth in their immediate surroundings rather than running the high cost heat throughout the home.

Newer heaters can be safe if used correctly. Without careful monitoring, heaters can create an electric shock hazard, burns to users, carbon monoxide poisoning, fires, or possibly even explosions.

Here are a handful of tips:

Heater selection:

  • When purchasing a portable heater (gas or electric) be sure that it is an approved model from a recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters’ Laboratories.
  • Assure that it has a safety “automatic turn-off device” that will turn the heater off if it is accidently tipped over or if overheating occurs.

Heater Use:

  • Never leave a portable heater unattended.
  • Turn off and unplug heaters when leaving the area.
  • Always turn portable heaters off when you go to sleep.

Click above to download a space heater safety sheet if you or someone you know uses a space heater. Stay safe during the cold months of winder.