How to Choose the Safest Space Heater and Avoid the Risk of Fires

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Space heaters, when operated properly, are a safe, low-risk way to provide supplementary heat to your home and reduce your winter heating costs. Only 2% of the residential heating fires that occur in the U.S. annually are the result of portable space heaters - just about 900 fires each year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

But don't let such low numbers lull you into a sense of false sense of security - even a small risk isn't worth taking. If you want to avoid becoming a statistic (and tragic headline on the evening news) take the time to learn how to find the safest space heater available, and follow all the safety guidelines to protect your home, your family and yourself from the threat of fire.

How to Find a Safe Space Heater

Are certain types of space heaters safer than others? Most certainly. Electric space heaters, in particular, have far less risk of fire than gas-fueled heaters, because there is no open flame or pilot light providing heat.

But even among electric heaters, some types provide more natural safety protection than others. In particular, you should look for space heaters that don't have exposed heating elements - metal coils or bulbs that glow when heated. Instead, think about heaters where the heating element is removed from direct exposure, such as:

If you do choose a space heater with an exposed heating element or coil, make sure it has a secure covering of mesh screening it, to prevent small objects (including fingers) from coming in direct contact.

Another class of safe space heaters is the wall heater. Because these are installed on a wall, they avoid many of the risks of portable space heaters that sit on the ground - they can't get knocked over, they can't have things dropped on them, and they're out-of-reach for small children and pets. This makes them a great alternative for preventing space heater fires and injuries.

Necessary Space Heater Safety Features

Whatever kind of portable heater you decide to buy, there are certain, built-in features you should look for to ensure the safest operation. These include:

Space Heater Safety Tips

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The most common causes of space heater fires are:

  • Obstructions
  • Tipping over
  • Covered by objects or material
  • Not enough air clearance
  • Electric supply not correct

In order to avoid these problems, take the following safety precautions:

Here's one last important safety tip for your space heater: watch out for product recalls. Even if you follow all the safety guidelines to the letter, a manufacturing defect can result in tragic consequences. You can sign up for recall alerts with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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