How to Use Space Heaters Safely and Effectively

Space heaters can be a great tool for battling very low winter temperatures. In the coldest months, they can provide your entire heating system with a little bit of relief or keep individual rooms more comfortable. But their effectiveness (and their cost-efficiency) all depends on how they are used. Follow these guidelines for safe and effective space heater use that doesn’t break the bank.

Space Heater Safety

The US Department of Energy outlines very clear safety guidelines for the use of space heaters. They include the following:

  • “Only purchase newer model heaters that have all of the current safety features. Make sure the heater carries the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label.
  • Select a heater of the proper size for the room you wish to heat. Do not purchase oversized heaters. Most heaters come with a general sizing table.
  • Locate the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic. Be especially careful to keep children and pets away from the heater.”

In addition to these general guidelines, be sure to keep bedding, curtains and other flammable materials at least three feet away from space heaters. Always turn space heaters off before going to bed, even if this means you have to double or triple up on blankets to keep warm. And never use a space heater in a child’s room. As space heaters are a leading cause of house fires, it’s very important to always use them safely.

Space Heater Efficiency

In addition to operating your space heater safely, take steps to increase its efficiency to save you money and conserve energy. Start with carefully considering where to position your space heater. It’s smart to use a space heater in a small room, as smaller spaces are easy to heat quickly. This may mean that minor lifestyle changes will be necessary: for example, instead of reading or watching TV in a large family room in the evening, consider using a smaller den or bedroom.

When choosing a space heater model, go for one with an automatic thermostat that you can set. This way, you can avoid overheating a room or having to continually get up to turn the unit on and off. In addition, look for a model that has an automatic shutoff to be sure that the unit does not run all night in the event that you forget to switch it off. This measure ensures both safety and efficiency!

No matter which space heater you choose, remember that it is a bandaid, not a replacement for a fully-functioning heating system. Use this tool sparingly to make it through the winter months.


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