A portable heater is a necessity in many homes during winter as the outdoor temperature plummets to below zero. Unfortunately, many residential fires happen because of a malfunction or improper positioning of portable and electric heaters. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reports that one in seven home fires is due to heating equipment. Moreover, 81 percent of deaths resulting from home heating fires involved portable space heaters.


Every time winter approaches, it helps to brush up on our knowledge of electric heater safety and the best practices for preventing an accidental fire in our homes.

Common Causes of Fires Involving Heating Equipment

Many use portable electric space heaters that disperse heat through convection, which means they circulate warm air. Many households use a portable heater instead of central heating to save on costs (a heater can keep its immediate vicinity warm for hours). Moreover, they can move the heater wherever they need to be.


Portable heaters are best suited for rooms or small apartments. They are also more economical to use instead of heating your entire bedroom, living room, or house when all you want is to stay warm in bed or on your couch while binge-watching holiday specials.


What makes a space heater dangerous? Fire safety problems emerge when flammable objects are placed too close to a heater. Even if it doesn’t use fuel or firewood that can throw off sparks, its radiant heat can still ignite a fire. 


Here are some examples of objects that can ignite if left too close to a space heater:


  • Upholstery
  • Bedclothes
  • Paper 
  • Clothing
  • Dry firewood and tinder
  • Carpets and rugs


Heaters that use natural gas or kerosene can also cause a fire if the fuel chamber leaks. Corroded fuel lines or tanks are also massive fire hazards. 


It bears mentioning that apart from compromising fire safety, fuel leaks can cause incomplete combustion, increasing carbon monoxide production and putting people’s lives in danger.  


With these in mind, here’s a comprehensive list of the best practices for ensuring your safety while you stay warm this winter.

Fire Safety Tips: How to Use a Portable Heater Safely

  1. Choose a heater from a reputable and trusted manufacturer.
  2. Be mindful of choosing older models, especially those without built-in timers and other modern electric heater safety features. 
  3. Consider buying a heater with a thermostat and automatic shut-off feature when the heater is knocked over. The former will prevent overheating, while the latter offers extra protection in case someone accidentally bumps into a working heater.
  4. Plug your electric heater directly into an outlet. Don’t use extension cords because they increase the risk of electric overload, overheating, and other electricity-related fire hazards.
  5. Never let electric cords lie across a hallway, doorway, or floor space people in your household often walk over. Don’t put wires below carpets because that can increase their wear and tear rate.
  6. Maintain a safe distance of 3 feet between any flammable object and your heater. That includes furniture, laundry, books, toys, curtains, and electronics.
  7. Place your heater on a hard, even surface like tiles, stone, or laminated wood floor. Never place a heater on top of a carpet or rug.
  8. Make sure your heater is well-ventilated. This is another reason for maintaining a 3-foot space around the heater.
  9. Keep your heater out of your pets’ or young children’s reach. Place it somewhere high, beyond the reach of curious noses and hands. 
  10. If you can’t elevate your heater, make sure it is sufficiently fenced-in to keep pets and people from getting too near.
  11. Don’t leave a space heater unattended. Don’t leave it in a room unattended or leave it on while you sleep – it’s not worth the risk. Using your home’s central heating or tucking hot water bottles under the bedclothes are safer methods to stay warm while you sleep.
  12. Consider installing a carbon monoxide detector, especially if you’re using fuel or a wood stove. 
  13. Only use manufacturer-recommended fuel for your heater.
  14. Don’t pour liquid fuel into a space heater when it’s hot.
  15. Watch out for physical signs of damage, especially in the electrical components and fuel lines.
  16. Regularly check and clean exhaust ducts to ensure they are unobstructed. 
  17. Avoid using too many electrical appliances while using an electric heater to prevent overloading.


Keep Safe and Warm This Winter: Get in Touch With Restoration 1 of Washington DC

Keep these electric heater safety tips in mind this upcoming winter to eliminate the fire hazards in your home and, more importantly, ensure your family’s safety. 


If you want to consult fire damage professionals for advice on how to reduce fire risks associated with space heaters, Restoration 1 can help. We have experts in fire damage repairs and restoration who can give you concrete tips on how to stay warm without compromising your household’s safety during winter. 

Contact Restoration 1 of Washington DC, today.