Space heaters, those little plug-in heaters, are responsible for 25,000 fires per year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. These portable heaters are linked to about 300 deaths and more than 5,000 emergency room visits. Even with great care, their use is problematic. As much as you feel they’re needed, they are inherently unsafe.

Using space heaters to warm areas of your home is a significant sign your house heater needs an upgrade. Space heaters are far from energy efficient and can certainly not heat the average room. At best, space heaters are a poor substitute for a well-maintained, energy-efficient whole house heater.

Different Types of Space Heaters

Electric space heaters come in four general types. The construction is relatively inexpensive in all categories, and they have short service lives. Regular and extensive use leads to wear and shorter service life.

The least expensive heaters use a fan to draw or push air past heating coils or filaments. The simple design and low heating power are best used in small areas.

Using infrared light tubes, infrared heaters have a heating chamber housed within and run with little noise. The heat builds up and is emitted to the outside.

Ceramic space heaters pass air over heated ceramic material and can heat a midsize room. Newer models are considered somewhat safer as they are cooler to the touch.

Water or oil-filled electric heaters most often have a radiator-like design. Air drafts through the spaces of contained hot circulating liquid.

Use With Caution

While manufacturers will use descriptions like “safe” to describe their products, it is best to understand the best space heaters can only be used with caution. Here are some common-sense practices:

Know the Model

It’s essential to read the manufacturer’s safety materials. Every model will have slight differences to consider. Before a purchase, the packaging will have a rating of how many cubic feet or square footage the heater can warm.


Only buy a model with the Underwriters Laboratories label. Another source of safety information is the Department of Energy’s website. Check to see if there are any recalls.

Never Leave Them Unattended

Children and pets are curious; keep your space heater on a level surface and out of reach. Space heaters should never be left running when leaving home or sleeping – unplug them.

Place Them Properly

Keep the heater at least four feet from anything that can catch fire, like curtains, bedding, wood, desks and furniture. Ensure the model is rated for the floor surface where it will be placed. Remember, if materials are continuously overheating, they may ignite. Water is a conductor; if a heater gets wet or can get wet, a shock hazard exists – keep it away from damp or wet areas.

Electrical Cords

Don’t use extension cords. Plug your space heater into the outlet directly. Extension cords can’t handle the power draw. Check the cord near the outlet for heating up. If it is overheating, the circuit is being overworked and a fire hazard exists. Also, watch out for cords becoming a trip hazard.

The Bottom Line

With all the cautions and warnings, it is obvious that using a space heater is risky. Space heaters have very limited uses and are not a solution if your house heater is leaving you cold. If you need to add more space heaters to keep warm, that is a sure sign your heating system is wearing out.

As most heaters age, they start drawing more power to create the same heat. Using these portable heaters to heat is a waste of energy. No portable space heater has earned an Energy Star award. Most importantly, the high energy use also can create fire hazards in the electrical system.

The only safe and viable decision is to consult an HVAC specialist. There are many alternative heating options to make your home cozy and safe.

Your Local Home Heating Pros

R.J. Groner Inc. provides heating and cooling repairs, installations and maintenance to Stroudsburg, PA residents. We know our reputation rests on good customer service. Our consulting services are the starting point of every project and service. All our tasks are done right the first time and on time.

Investing in a heater upgrade, including new installs, is a big step. If you are ready to add comfort and value to your home, we are ready, too.

Feel free to call R.J. Groner Inc. today or anytime!

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