Space Heater Safety Guide

Space heaters are great, inexpensive ways of heating various rooms within your home, on your RV or even taking on an ice fishing or camping trip. They also make ideal heaters for college dorms and basements. But like all heating appliances, they are not without safety hazards. They present a potential fire risk; sadly, people are hurt or tragically killed in house fires caused by the incorrect use of space heaters every year. But, if used sensibly, they can be an inexpensive, quick and easy solution to heating various spaces around your home.

As with all appliances, it is important to carefully read the manufacturers guidance and adhere to any safety advice given. And ensure you keep the leaflet for future reference. In this article we’re going to look at some of the safety issues these heaters present along with the features to look out for to ensure you and your loved ones are warm and safe.

This article is focused on the safety aspects of space heaters to help ensure you and your family are warm and safe. If you’d like to learn more about the different types of heaters available including a more in-depth look at how they work, and tips to help you choose the right space heater for you. Then you should check out our articles such as choosing the right – Tower HeaterIce Fishing HeaterRV Heater etc. Keep checking back as we add more articles about the different types of Space Heaters.

Types of Space Heaters

Space heaters are simply small, portable heaters which can be used to heat rooms in your home, the garage, basement, shed etc. Or they can be taken on vacation in your RV or trailer or if you’re going ice fishing or camping – they’ll be a space heater for that too.

Fuel types used are primarily:

  • Electric
  • Kerosene
  • Propane

Having a small space heater available could ensure you have heat in an emergency where there is a power outage or issues with your natural gas supply for example. So, it’s well worth considering purchasing one, or several units, to keep on hand should you ever need them. They’re compact, easy to store and highly portable providing a blast of heat when you might need it most.

Within the fuel sources there are different ways in which the heaters work including:

  • Ceramic
  • Oil-filled radiant
  • Infrared
  • Fan heaters

Key Safety Tips for All Types of Heaters

These basic safety tips are relevant no matter which type of heater you own:

  • Never place anything on top of or covering a heater, especially wet or damp clothes
  • Never plug a heater into an extension cord, or strip, this may cause overheating and is a potential fire hazard
  • Never place a heater on to an uneven or unsafe surface, ensure it’s on a flat, heat safe surface
  • Never place a heater where it might touch clothes, curtains, fabrics, towels etc
  • Never leave your space heater unattended
  • Switch off your heater when leaving the room
  • Switch off your heater before leaving your home
  • Switch off your heater when you go to sleep
  • Keep heaters at least 3 feet away from any flammable furniture, cushions, curtains etc.
  • Keep heaters away from young children and babies
  • Keep heaters away from pets and animals
  • Read and retain the manufacturer’s instructions

Key Safety Tips for Using Space Heaters Around Children and Animals

These safety tips are important to know if you plan on using a space heater in an area where there will be small children and/or animals:

Kids and animals
  • Never leave a young child or pet alone in a room with a space heater
  • Place the heater in an area that can’t be accessed by either children or pets
  • Place the heater on a flat, non-flammable surface away from any fabrics such as curtains, towels etc.
  • Hidden knobs will ensure your child can’t accidentally turn the heater up. If you can’t find a model with hidden knobs then opt for one where the controls are up high
  • Remote controls should be kept well out of reach of curious hands
  • Look for models with these features for added peace of mind
  • Anti-tip helps prevent the heater from tipping over
  • Cool-touch technology ensures the outer casing remains cool to the touch
  • Over-heat technology helps to prevent the heater from becoming dangerously hot by switching off the unit

Safety Features

Space heaters, if used correctly, can be an efficient way to heat rooms in your home, especially those used infrequently such as guest bedrooms. Or areas of your home that don’t have central heating such as the garage, workshop or your basement. Selecting the most appropriate style, size and fuel-source for the area in which you plan to use it, is important.
Below you’ll find a list of the safety features available on each type of space heater.

Safety Features on Electric Heaters

In general, electric heaters are extremely safe, but they are a heat source and as such there is the potential for accidents to happen. These safety features should help to reduce the likelihood of accidents and fires:

  • Automatic Overheat Protection automatically switches the heater off if there is a fault with the unit
  • Tip-Over Switch prevents the heater from tipping over and causing a fire hazard
  • Safety Motion Sensor detects if objects are too close and will automatically switch the heater off, when the item is removed, the heater will switch back on
  • Cool-Touch Exterior ensures that the exterior remains cool for safer handling and operation

Safety Features on Kerosene Heaters

Kerosene provides a clean, odourless burn using liquid fuel available locally at most home improvement stores. It’s important that Kerosene is stored properly away from the reach of children and animals. Store in the original container and be aware of the hazards associated with it, which include:

  • Flammable liquid and vapor
  • Skin irritant
  • Toxic if swallowed
  • Drowsiness or dizziness may occur if inhaled
  • Toxic – do not dispose of by pouring into rivers, lakes or waterways

These safety features should help to reduce the likelihood of accidents and fires:

  • Automatic shut-off prevents potential fire hazards by shutting-off the heater if it’s tipped-over
Kerosene Heater
  • Exterior protection usually in the form of a metal grill or cage, prevent fires by protecting the heating element from touching flammable materials
Propane Heater

Safety Features on Propane Heaters

Propane heaters can be an excellent source of heating. They’re handy for emergencies when you might experience a power outage and can’t use your electric central heating for example. When using a propane heater keep in mind these essential precautions:

  • If you smell gas, do not attempt to light the heater
  • Use the correct fuel as specified by the manufacturer
  • Use the correct sized canister as specified by the manufacturer
  • Ensure you have working Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors in your home.

Carbon Monoxide can kill humans and animals, in seconds. For your safety please ensure you read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. More information on CO poisoning is available towards the end of this article.

These safety features should help to reduce the likelihood of accidents and fires:

  • Low-oxygen detector prevents CO poisoning by shutting-off the fuel if the oxygen level falls below a certain level
  • Anti-tip prevents units from tipping over and causing fires if they fall, tip or are placed on a sloped or uneven surface
  • Automatic shut-off prevents CO poisoning by shutting-off the fuel output if the pilot light or flame is extinguished
  • Exterior protection usually a metal grill or cage, prevents fires by protecting the heating element from touching flammable materials

Key Safety Tips for Using Space Heaters During The Holidays

During the holiday season, we all love to decorate our homes and invite family and friends over to help us celebrate. This is lovely but please keep in mind a few simple safety tips to ensure your family and friends stay safe during the holidays:

  • Keep away all hanging decorations
  • Keep the Christmas tree at least three feet away from your heater
  • Keep away any gifts, wrapping, ribbons etc.
  • Keep away any candles or lights
  • Never place candles on top of your heater
  • Never decorate your heater by placing bows or tinsels on or near it
  • Remember to keep young children and pets away from the heater
  • Tell your guests where the heater is and how to use it, especially if they will be using it in your guest bedroom for example
  • Ensure they don’t place coats, hats, scarves, gloves etc. on or near it

Above all have a Warm and Safe Happy Holidays!

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

If you plan to use your gas-powered space heater in a confined area such as a cabin, your RV, work room, or shed for example, it’s vital you follow the product instructions on the correct use of your heater.

Being aware of the signs and symptoms of Carbon Monoxide (CO) poisoning is vital. It can prove fatal in minutes both to humans and animals. It’s often called the ‘silent killer’ so familiarise yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions and you will go a long way to keeping yourself, your loved ones and your pets – safe, and warm.


Some of the symptoms of CO poisoning are:

  • Dull headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Confusion
  • Blurred vision

If you or someone you are with are experiencing symptoms of CO poisoning – LEAVE THE AREA IMMEDIATELY – CALL 911.

For information check-out this simple, one-page guide on CO poisoning.

CSA Certification

Products with CSA Certification have undergone external rigorous testing to ensure consumers receive high-quality, safe products. The CSA Certification can also tell you whether your heater has been certified for use indoors, outdoors or is suitable to be used both in and outdoors. This is especially important if you plan to take your heater on a camping or ice fishing trip.

Fire Risk

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) – ‘heating equipment is the second-leading cause of U.S. home fires and the third-leading cause of home fire deaths. More than half (5.3%) of all home heating fire deaths resulted from fires that began when heating equipment was too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses or bedding.’

But, don’t worry, if used correctly, a space heater can be the perfect way to heat your home, RV, cabin or dorm room, efficiently and safely. Just remember the tips we’ve given you above and –

Always read and retain the manufacturer’s instruction.

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