Portable space heaters can be a welcome source of extra heat in a home, especially as the weather gets colder across the nation. However, many people are wondering if portable heaters are risky as news stories about unintentionally started house fires stemming from these convenient devices continue to make headlines.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is the second-leading factor in domestic fires in the United States and the third-leading factor in fatal home fires. Portable and stationary space heaters were to blame for an alarming 85% of home heating fire fatalities between 2011 and 2015 and close to 50% of all reported home heating fires. In addition, two out of every five fatalities in fires involving space heaters are attributed to portable electric space heaters.

What Causes Portable Space Heater Fires?

The majority of space heater fires, unsurprisingly, happen between December and February. And even though only 18% of space heater fires happen between midnight and 8:00 AM. The NFPA reports that nearly half of all fatalities occur during these sleeping hours. The issue with portable heaters isn't that they aren't safe; instead, it is how they are used.

Portable space heaters placed too close to combustible objects, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, curtains, bedding, paper, or flammable liquids, are the leading cause of dangerous fires. Leaving a heater on while leaving the room unattended can cause an enormous fire and should never be done when attempting to maintain a safe environment.

How Do You Use Portable Space Heaters Safely?

Naturally, mistakes can still occur despite taking all reasonable safety measures. To protect your home and loved ones from space heater fires this winter, installing smoke and heat sensors will often suffice to ensure individuals inside the home are alerted to danger; however, more advanced smart home solutions are now available.

Another way that intelligent home safety systems can contribute to people's safety during the winter heating season is through connected carbon monoxide sensors. These sensors will alarm if dangerous concentrations of odorless, toxic gas are found in a home. For homeowners or renters to get their families to safety, having an early detection system is crucial.

When used correctly, portable heaters are an effective way to generate heat within a home. Although, some considerations should always be maintained to ensure a safe experience. Below, you will find some of our tips on safely using portable space heaters.

  • Always look for a UL tag and read the manufacturer's instructions and warning labels.
  • Ensure three feet of space between the heater and any flammable objects.
  • Inspect the heating unit, cords, plug, and outlet for potential damage before use.
  • Ensure the heater is placed on a solid, stable surface.
  • Never leave a heater unattended; always unplug the unit when not in use.
  • Avoid using an extension cord and plug the heating unit directly into an outlet.
  • Only use heating units in dry locations to avoid moisture-induced electrocution.
Modern electric infrared heater in the living room

Portable space heaters can be an efficient way to boost the heating system in your home as the weather gets colder. Unfortunately, things can go horribly wrong if they aren't used properly. You can stay warm and safe this winter by following our space heater safety recommendations, installing fire safety equipment, and having our team inspect your outlets.

Why Choose Hot Shot for Electrical Safety?

The threat of fire is serious whenever you are dealing with electrical currents. Do not ruin this holiday season by choosing the wrong extension cord to power your decorations. Hot Shot Electric Service Co. can help you keep this Christmas safe. We can provide electrical inspections, panel upgrades, maintenance or installation of smoke detectors, and various other electrical repairs and replacements. Our family-owned company is here to ensure your Oklahoma home is as safe as possible!