How to stay safe when using heaters this winter


With the annual “return” time change coming this weekend, we know that somehow winter is just around the corner. Although the temperatures have not been very cold so far, eventually Jack Frost will be there to make an appearance. There are many reliable heat sources, from central gas and electric heating to space heaters. Many homes that lack a centralized heating and cooling system often end up with space heaters as their primary heat source.

Space heaters cause 1 in 3 winter house fires every year

Although they provide great comfort during the coldest nights of winter, it is important to remember the risks they present and how to stay safe while using them. Heaters are the cause of 1 in 3 house fires in the winter, with about 80% on average being responsible for deaths caused by heating in the winter. Here are some important things to keep in mind as we enter the coldest month of the year if you’re relying on space heaters to heat your home.

Why are space heaters so dangerous?

How do space heaters work?

There are a few heating methods used in the manufacture of most heaters. Many use convection to heat the entire area they are used in, circulating the heated air around the room. While others are designed to be more of a radiant heat source. Radiant heaters tend to emit a more concentrated source of heat, heating people and objects closest to where the heater is located. Radiant heaters are only meant to be used for a few hours at a time in individual rooms.

Due to the outlet type of radiant heaters, anything near the heaters is exposed to high temperatures and has an increased risk of ignition. The NFPA said more than half of all space heater-related deaths occur when heaters are placed too close to other items in the home. For example, furniture like sofas and mattresses, clothes and linens.

Space heaters, as well as almost all other types of electrical appliances, pose a risk of electrocution, which is when the electrical current being conducted has been exposed due to damage from the outlet, the electrical cord or its housing. Space heaters usually put a little strain on the home’s electrical circuits and can lead to power failure and a fire hazard. This goes for any type of heater, whether it’s a convection heater or a radiator.

Tips for heating your home safely this winter

Safety should be everyone’s natural priority, with 1,700 households involved in radiator fires each year, with approximately 80 annual fatalities resulting in millions of dollars in property loss, who can afford the risk? Here are the main recommendations on how to operate your heat source safely.

How to operate a heater safely

  • Check that your heaters have the seal of approval from nationally recognized testing labs such as Intertek
  • Buy a heater that has a “tip over” safety feature that will automatically turn off the heater if it should be tipped over. (Taller heaters generally have a higher risk of being knocked over and tipped sideways)
  • Look for space heaters that have a shield around the area where the heat is emitted, this will help add space between the heat source and pets, and children and help keep things in the house at a safer distance.
  • Make sure the heater is suitable for the size of the room, where the room doesn’t overheat and waste electricity (resulting in higher utility bills and adding an unnecessary fire hazard) potential).
  • Make sure your home is well equipped with smoke detectors and alarms, according to NFPA every level of the house must have smoke detectors and alarms installed, including the basement. Alarms should be placed in and around bedrooms and it is suggested that one be installed for every 1,200 square feet of living space in the home. It is important to remember to test them monthly.
  • Consider buying a heater with a thermostat to help better regulate the heating output, to prevent overheating
  • If you plan to use a heater that burns fuel, such as kerosene, be sure to install a carbon monoxide detector to avoid exposure and risk of poisoning. Symptoms of carbon monoxide pinning include unexplained headaches and sickness and can be fatal.

Appropriate backup heater configuration

  • Take into account the advice given in the brochures provided by the manufacturer. (if misplaced, you can browse online by searching for the brand and model of heater used)
  • When using an older heater, check the condition of the heater, is it showing signs of overuse? Such as scorch marks, frayed electrical cords and other damage. Also check for corrosion. If you have any of these problems, please dispose of it properly and buy a new heater. Saving extra money is less important when it could make a difference in life, death and loss of property.
  • Locate all heaters outside areas of foot traffic and establish a space of at least 3 feet around the heater where there are no objects to minimize the risk of fire. Keep away from furniture and clothing at all costs.
  • Do not use heaters in rooms where moisture may be present such as bathrooms, kitchens or around windows/doors that produce condensation.
  • Make sure the heaters plug in, fit snugly into the wall outlet, if not look for another wall outlet to use.

When a space heater is used:

  • Never leave space heaters unattended and do not sleep in rooms where they operate.
  • Do not leave children or pets in rooms with single heaters. Teach young children to play by touch or to play too close to radiators because they could hurt them.
  • Limit the use of electricity when using a space heater, such as major appliances, so as not to strain the circuits of the house too much.
  • Check surrounding areas near radiators often, do walls, floors, electrical outlets and radiator cords get hot? Turn them off to avoid overheating and fire.
  • Keep clean from dust and other debris
  • Check for recalls on websites such as and properly remove recalled heat sources from your home.


Stock up on these winter essentials before it snows

Winter is coming! Before you get caught with a meter of snow and no snowsuit, make sure you have the essentials to get through this winter and stay warm!

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