Space heaters spark fires as cold weather arrives


If you're using a space heater you might want to read this first

The weather has gotten chilly in much of the U.S. and winter is coming. Many consumers are pulling space heaters out of the closet and plugging them in to provide a little extra warmth.

But these devices can be dangerous. On Nov. 11, firemen in Kirksville, Mo., were called to the scene of a blazing home to put out a fire, apparently caused by a space heater.

On Nov. 12, one person was injured in a house fire in Spokane, Wash. The Spokane Fire Department reported the blaze was caused by "combustible materials placed too close to a space heater."

Also on Nov. 12, fire destroyed a home in Rocky Ford, Colo. Once again, it was a case of a faulty space heater, with fire officials concluding that the device was improperly wired and had shorted out, producing a spark. The house was deemed a total loss.

Lots of recalls

But electric space heaters aren’t the only ones that can pose a danger. In 2021 Enerco Group recalled about 4.500 DeWALT cordless kerosene forced-air heaters. The company discovered that the heaters can re-start unexpectedly while in standby mode if the room temperature falls below the thermostat set point, posing fire and carbon monoxide poisoning hazards.

The firm said it received one report of a heater starting unexpectedly when it was moved while in standby without being turned off.

In 2019, Amazon recalled about 399,000 AmazonBasics 1500 watt ceramic space heaters sold in the U.S, Canada and Mexico. The company received 25 reports of the heater overheating, burning, or sparking.

Underwriters Laboratories (UL), which tests and certifies electronic devices, says any auxiliary heating source can be dangerous unless used properly. More than a decade ago it cited data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) showing that heating equipment is involved in an estimated 64,100 home fires each year. 

All of this may make you consider putting on a sweater. However, if you do use a space heater, you need to do it safely. According to Vanderbilt Health in Nashville, there are many ways electric space heaters can pose a threat.

  • Like any electrical device, they pose a shock hazard.

  • Space heaters use a lot of electricity. They can easily overload circuits, causing a power failure or fire.

  • Some parts of the heater can become really hot. Children and pets are especially vulnerable to getting burned, but adults can also accidentally brush up against the hot surface. It’s also possible for clothes to catch on fire.

  • Some space heaters, especially taller ones, can tip over, posing a fire hazard.

What to do

If you are going to use a space heater, use one that has a guard around the heating element. This will help protect children and pets.

Choose one that’s tested and certified by UL. Not only do they meet certain safety standards, but manufacturers also have to provide use and care information to consumers.

Never leave a space heater turned on when you leave the house or go to sleep. That’s because these devices can generate dangerous levels of carbon monoxide from a fuel-fired heater. Electric heaters can start a fire.

If you are using any auxiliary heating device, you should install carbon monoxide (CO) alarms in your home. Make sure that your CO alarm batteries are fresh and working.

Take a Home Warranty Quiz. Get matched with an Authorized Partner.