Are Space Heaters Safe? | Scott Goodwin Law

Are Space Heaters Safe?

by / Wednesday, 22 February 2023 / Published in Defective Products, Tips
Close-up of the glowing red grill of a space heater.

Do you have a space heater around your house? Maybe you keep one in storage just in case your furnace ever stops working on a cold day and you need a way to stay warm while you wait for it to be fixed. Or maybe you have a home office in a basement that gets a little too cool during the winter. But what about those stories you see on the news from time to time about house fires being started by a space heater? Are space heaters actually safe to use? 

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, electric space heaters were responsible for an average of 1,700 fires per year between 2017 and 2019, resulting in about 70 deaths and 160 injuries annually. As is the case with any type of household appliance that generates heat, it’s important to make sure a space heater is used correctly so that nobody gets burned or a fire doesn’t start by accident.

Space Heater Safety Tips

First and foremost, it’s extremely important to make sure the heater is being used in a suitable area. Space heaters should only be used on a level, non-flammable surface. Do not place a space heater on an area rug or carpeted floor, or near any other flammable materials, like curtains, bedding, upholstered furniture, or paper. Heaters should be kept at least three feet away from anything flammable.

If you have children or pets, make sure they stay a safe distance away from the heater while it’s in use. Never leave a space heater running while you’re sleeping or while you’re not at home. 

Before you start using a space heater, make sure the cord isn’t frayed or damaged and that it’s plugged directly into a wall outlet instead of a power strip or an extension cord. Space heaters aren’t very energy efficient. They can draw a lot of electrical energy, which can cause power strips and extension cords to overheat. Speaking of electrical outlets, check to make sure the wall outlet you use doesn’t feel warm since this can be a sign of a problem an electrician should take care of. 

Lastly, if you’re going to use a space heater, make sure it’s placed in a way where people won’t trip over its cord. Electrical cords stretched across walkways are a major trip hazard, so even if using the heater doesn’t start a fire or burn someone, it’s still possible that someone could end up being seriously injured if they trip on its cord. However, it’s not a good idea to run the heater’s cord underneath a rug since this can damage the cord and increase the risk of a fire. 

What to Look for in a Space Heater

If you need to buy a space heater, being careful about the one you buy can go a long way in helping you and your loved ones stay safe. 

One key thing to look for is an automatic shutoff feature. Heaters with this feature will automatically shut down if the heater starts to overheat. This is a common feature, but since it is part of a voluntary product safety standard, not all heaters have them. It’s also a good idea to look for heaters with a sensor that will automatically turn the heater off if the heater tips over. 

It’s also important to look for a heater that has labels for UL, ETL, Intertek, or CSA International certification. All of these are independent safety organizations and products with these markings indicate that they have been tested to ensure they meet current safety standards. 

Contact a Michigan Defective Product Lawyer

Not all space heater fires are caused by user error. Defective heaters can easily start a fire, even if the person who bought it has done everything they can to follow proper safety measures. If you or a loved one has been injured by a faulty space heater, don’t hesitate to contact a defective product lawyer. Product liability cases can be very complex and it can feel like all the odds are stacked against you, the consumer. But at Scott Goodwin Law, you’ll be able to get help from a lawyer experienced in handling cases involving defective products. Contact us today for a free consultation about your case.

Image: Alirad Zare / Unsplash