Have you ever heard somebody tell you that space heaters aren’t safe, but you haven’t really been able to figure out why? Stick around, we’ve got some important stuff to talk about.
Let’s put the paranoia aside and stick to the FACTS. Are space heaters safe, or are they dangerous? Can you leave a space heater running all night to cool your room, while you’re asleep, or is this a bad idea? Here’s what you need to know…
Are space heaters safe to leave on all night?
In perfect conditions, you should be just fine leaving your space heater running all night while you sleep… BUT those “perfect conditions” aren’t always common or the default, so you’ll really need to learn the proper way to operate them, the safety precautions you need to take if you’re leaving your space heater running, but there are variables here that you don’t always have control over – so nothing’s ever 100% safe.
All in all, these things get hot – and there are a lot of ways they can catch fire – so it’s really not a good idea to leave it running all night. If you asked us “can you go to sleep with a space heater on?”, we’d have to tell you it’s really not the best idea…
But if you’re sitting there with a broken furnace in the dead of winter, it’s Saturday morning and the contractor can’t make it out until monday, and you know your pipes are going to freeze overnight unless you do something about it, that’s a tricky situation where you may decide to keep the heater on. In that case, make sure…
- If you have a timer that plugs into your outlet, you can set it to turn itself off for a little bit to cool down intermittently overnight and to reduce the chances of it overheating to the point of catching fire.
- If your heater is a modern unit, this increases your chances of success. A rackety old thing that’s barely holding on is a lot more likely to have wiring issues, and more likely to have the potential to catch fire if it is left unchecked for hours and hours at a time.
- If you have pets, or kids, or anything that could possibly knock anything into your heater, that’s a huge risk factor for starting a fire.
- Don’t buy used space heaters, stick to new ones and look for safety certifications on the box from reputable organizations.
When asked is it safe to leave a space heater on overnight, Jill Notini, a vice president at the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), summed it up for the Washington Post when she said “It’s not worth it.“
Why are space heaters dangerous?
There are a number of reasons that space heaters can be dangerous. From older units that start to decay over time and lack more modern safety features like auto shut-off, tip-over detection, and more… it’s tough to make a blanket statement that space heaters in general are either safe or dangerous, because there is simply so much variance between the best units and the worst ones.
Don’t buy a space heater unless it has auto-shut-off features. This is simply not something that’s acceptable to use anymore, now that these features are readily available in any half-decent heater. Why even risk it with one that doesn’t have such a basic, necessary safety feature?
Can I plug a space heater into a power strip?
This is a bad idea, you should NOT plug a space heater into a power strip. Heaters generate a lot of heat, obviously, it’s their job… but not all power-strips are equipped to handle that heat, and it just creates one more potential point of failure.
Plug your space heaters directly into a suitable wall outlet.
Further reading: MentalFloss on plugging into a power strip…
Other things to keep in mind about the safety of space heaters…
So, if you’re still wondering how to make your space heater usage a bit less dangerous, here are a few final points…
Final Thoughts on How Dangerous are Space Heaters
We understand that sometimes, you’re just freezing cold, and leaving on a space heater overnight feels like your only option. Freezing pipes is very, very bad. In a case like this, where you don’t have a timer, and you have no other options, one could set alarms on their phone for every couple of hours, to turn off the heater for a bit, make sure everything is okay… it sounds over the top, but it’s a lot better than risking a house fire while you’re at home and asleep. If you have a friend who can help “babysit” the heater, that could be another option.
At the end of the day, leaving their heaters on while sleeping is something that people do, and a lot of time it turns out just fine, but there are still tons of house fires started by heaters, and a lot of those fires are caused by incorrect or negligent usage of heaters, and leaving them on overnight would absolutely be an example of using these products incorrectly.
We don’t encourage anyone to use their heaters irresponsibly, but again, sometimes there aren’t a lot of options, so sometimes the best you can do is to make sure they’re doing things as safely as you possible can. Now that we’ve talked about the dangers of space spaces, how to use space heaters more safely, and are about to wrap things up… many people, at this point, are wondering an important question…
What is the safest space heater?
We’re still compiling research and putting together our selections of the safest space heaters, please bookmark this page and check back soon to see our recommendations.