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How to Prevent Space Heater Fires


Home fires are more common than you would think. One quarter of all reported fires happened indoors. The causes are multiple, ranging from electrical fire, cooking or heating equipment. The latter is the second leading cause of home fires, after cooking. Although space heater fire incidents caused only 4% of total fires during 2013 and 2017, they provoked 16% of home fire deaths.

Space heaters are commonly used during the cold season and they’re the type of heating equipment that causes most fires. While they are safe to use, you need to follow the label instructions to avoid causing a fire. Barbara Guthrie, UL’s Vice President of Corporate Sustainability says that “it’s not so much an unsafe heater as unsafe use of a heater. If you use them according to the design, they’ll work just fine”. 

However, homeowners do not always follow the specific instructions. The leading factor in home fires caused by heating equipment is placing the heater too close to flammable objects, such as mattress, clothing, bedding or upholstered furniture. 


Safety measures to avoid a space heater fire in your home

Perform a quick check-up before using it

If you haven’t used the space heater in a while, check for any parts that need to be replaced, such as a frayed cord, broken plug or loose connection. Make sure the enclosure is not compromised during storage, as it sometimes gets cracked or dented. Check the grill and make sure it is in place, to avoid children sticking their hands in the heater.

Plug it directly in the wall outlet

Extension cords and power strips are a fire hazard when plugging a heater in them. Neither can handle the amount of energy a heater requires and will overheat. It is best to plug it in the wall outlet directly.

Place it in the right environment

Moisture can damage the heater’s components. To avoid long term damage that can cause a fire, place the heater in a dry location.

Do not run the cord underneath the rug or carpet. It will overheat and cause a fire.

Follow the 3-foot rule

It is best practice to place the heater in the middle of the room, at least 3 feet away from any flammable object. Upholstered furniture, bedding, clothing, rugs, and paper goods are only a few items that can easily ignite and cause a fire. Keep the heater away from the curtains or other hanging flammable objects.

Turn the space heater off when you leave the room

Do not leave the heater unattended. If you leave the room for a longer period, you go to sleep or leave home, turn it off and unplug it.

Install smoke alarms

You should have smoke detectors on every floor of your house. Test them once a month and replace the batteries regularly. 

What to look for when buying a space heater 

  1. A switch that turns off the heater if it accidentally tips over.
  2. A thermostat that enables the heater to turn off automatically when it reaches a certain room temperature
  3. A low oxygen sensor for combustion heaters. This way, the unit will shut off when there is not enough oxygen in the room
  4. A safe handle

Does homeowner’s insurance cover fire damage from heating equipment?

Standard insurance policies cover fire damage and will pay you back or cover the restoration expenses. In case you have a fire in your home caused by a space heater or any other heating equipment, contact your insurance company to file a claim. We will take it from there and deal with your insurer so you can focus on getting your life back to normal.

Space heater fires in New York

Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires in the United States. Our team alone handles several home fires per year that start from space heaters in the 5 boroughs of NYC , Long Island & Westchester. Having a fire in your home is a devastating experience, but you should not face it alone. Once the intervention team extinguishes the fire, you are left with a large amount of water in your home, soot and smoke odor. Restoration companies are specialized in getting your house back to its original state. Our licensed technicians are properly equipped to handle any type of fire damage. We are ready to support you 24/7 with advanced drying, cleaning, and restoration equipment, to get rid of the soot and smoke in your home.