Navigate Up
Sign In


    Fire Safety: What you should know about space heatersWhat You Should Know About Space Heaters Used for Supplemental Room Heating

    The purpose of this publication is to provide safety information that should assist in the purchase, operation, fueling, and maintenance of space heaters. A space heater is a self-contained, free standing air heating appliance intended for installation in the space being heated and not intended for duct connection. This document is not intended to be all-inclusive, but it is intended to inform the reader about some of the safety aspects associated with using space heaters for supplemental room heating. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of room (space) heaters. More than 300 persons die in these fires. An estimated 6,000 persons receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.

    General Suggestions for All Space Heaters
    CPSC offers the following general suggestions for selection, safe use, and maintenance of gas, wood, kerosene and electric space heaters:
    • Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or the heating element. This will help keep children, pets and clothing away from the heat source.
    • When selecting a heater, look for one that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters have been determined to meet specific safety standards, and manufacturers are required to provide important use and care information to the consumer.
    • Buy a heater that is the correct size for the area you want to heat. The wrong size heater could produce more pollutants and may not be an efficient use of energy.
    • Read and follow the manufacturer's operating instructions. A good practice is to read aloud the instructions and warning labels to all members of the household to be certain that everyone understands how to operate the heater safely. Keep the owner's manual in a convenient place to refer to when needed.
    • Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Some heaters have very hot surfaces. Children should not be permitted to either adjust the controls or move the heater.
    • Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps to prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Even vented heaters require ventilation for proper combustion.
    • Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or leave the area. For fuel-fired heaters, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide could accumulate or uncontrolled burning could cause a fire.
    • Never use or store flammable liquids (such as gasoline) around a space heater. The flammable vapors can flow from one part of the room to another and be ignited by the open flame or by an electrical spark.
    • Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.
    • Place heaters at least three feet away from objects such as bedding, furniture and drapes. Never use heaters to dry clothes or shoes. Do not place heaters where towels or other objects could fall on the heater and start a fire.
    Kerosene Space Heaters
    • Never use gasoline in a kerosene heater.
    • Only use 1-K kerosene in kerosene heaters.
    • Refuel heater out of doors
    • Keep kerosene stored outside in a sealed blue container labeled "Kerosene."
    Portable Electric Space Heaters
    • Use heaters on the floor. Never place heaters on furniture, since they may fall, dislodging or breaking parts in the heater, which could result in a fire or shock hazard.
    • Do not hide cords under rugs or carpets.
    • Do not use an extension cord unless absolutely necessary. If you must use an extension cord, it must be marked #14 or #12 A WG; this tells the thickness or gauge of the wire in the cord. Only use extension cords bearing the label of an independent testing laboratory such a U.L. or E.T.L.
    • Be sure the plug fits snugly in the outlet.
    Wood Burning Heaters
    • Existing building codes and manufacturer's instructions must be followed during installation.
    • Check chimney and stove pipes frequently during the heating season for creosote build-up and have them cleaned annually.
    • Stoves must be placed on an approved floor protector or fire resistant floor.
    • Use a metal container for ash removal.
    Gas Space Heaters
    • All unvented gas-fired space heaters (manufactured after 1983) should be equipped with an oxygen depletion sensor (ODS). An ODS detects a reduced level of oxygen in the area where the heater is operating and shuts off the heater before a hazardous level of carbon monoxide accumulates. These heaters also have labels that warn users about the hazards of carbon monoxide.
    • Always have your gas heater and venting system professionally installed and inspected according to local codes.
    • Vented gas-fired heaters can also cause carbon monoxide poisoning if they are not vented properly.