How to Avoid a Space Heater Fire: Safety Tips + Alternatives

Bill Hoelzer
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Heating equipment is one of the top causes of house fires in the US, especially during the cold months. Here are the key findings from a report by the National Fire Protection Association.

  • From 2016 to 2020, there were more than 44,000 home fires caused by heating equipment every year, resulting in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries, and billions of dollars in damage.
  • Heating equipment was behind 13% of all home fires, 18% of all fire deaths, 12% of all fire injuries, and 14% of all fire damage in that period.
  • Space heaters were the worst offenders, causing 1/3 of all heating equipment fires, and most of the deaths and injuries. They are extremely dangerous if not used properly and kept away from flammable materials.

In this article, we’ll review the most important things you can do to use space heaters safely, and we’ll outline the best options to keep your home warm and cozy without space heaters.

If you have questions about keeping your home warm this winter, please give us call at (248) 291-7815, or send us a message anytime.

Home Fire Hazards from Different Heating Equipment

Space heaters cause more fires, deaths, and injuries than any other type of heating equipment. Out of every three home fires caused by heating equipment, one is caused by a space heater.

Out of every ten people who die in a home fire caused by heating equipment, nine are killed by a space heater. Out of every five people who get injured in a home fire caused by heating equipment, four are hurt by a space heater.


Home Structure Fire Trends by Heating Equipment Category: Annual Averages from 2016 to 2020

chart of heating equipment fires

Tips to Use Space Heaters Safely

  • Distance: Don’t let anything that can burn get too close to heating equipment. Keep a three-foot distance from any heat source.
  • Children: Keep children away from space heaters. They can get burned or start a fire by accident.
  • Switch: Turn off your portable heaters when you leave the room or go to sleep. They can overheat or tip over and start a fire. Nearly half of the fire deaths, and more than a fifth of the fire injuries and damage, occurred between midnight and 6am.


Percentage of Home Structure Fires that Heating Equipment Caused: Averages from 2016 to 2020

space heater deaths

Tips for Safe Home Heating in General

  • Professional: Hire a qualified professional to install and maintain your heating equipment. They will follow the local codes and manufacturer’s guidelines to make sure everything is working properly.
  • Inspection: Get your heating equipment and chimneys checked and cleaned every year by a q​​ualified professional. They will remove any dirt, dust, or debris that can cause a fire.
  • Screen: Use a sturdy screen to cover your fireplace. It will prevent embers from flying out and starting a fire. Dispose of the ashes carefully after they cool down.

Want to Get away From Space Heaters? Try This.

Air Sealing and Insulation

Drafts and cold spots are caused by air leaks and poor insulation, which allow heat to escape from your home in winter and enter in summer. This makes your home feel chilly and uncomfortable, and forces you to use more space heaters or other heating devices to stay warm.

Air sealing and insulation allow you to avoid the need for space heaters by creating a tight and cozy envelope around your home.

Air sealing involves finding and sealing all the gaps and cracks in your home’s walls, ceilings, floors, windows, doors, and other openings. Insulation involves adding or improving the material that slows down the heat flow between the inside and outside of your home.

What’s more, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, air sealing and insulation can save you up to 15% on your annual energy bills.

Install a Ductless Mini Split Heat Pump

Another option to reduce your need for space heaters is to install ductless mini splits. Ductless mini splits are heating and cooling systems that consist of an outdoor unit and one or more indoor units.

They do not require ductwork, which can lose up to 30% of energy due to leaks and heat loss. You can control the temperature of each room individually, which allows you to create different zones in your home and save energy by turning off the units in unoccupied rooms.

Ductless mini splits can also provide year-round comfort, as they can switch between heating and cooling modes depending on the season. They are especially suitable for converted spaces and add-on rooms, where extending ductwork can be difficult or costly.

According to the Department of Energy, ductless mini splits can save you up to 30% on your cooling costs and up to 60% on your heating costs compared to conventional systems.

Prevent a Space Heater Fire: The Bottom Line

If you’re in a pinch, it’s OK to use space heaters, but be mindful to use them safely. Make sure they have three feet of space from anything that can catch fire, and turn them off when you leave the room.

When you’re ready to power down the space heaters for good, give us a call at (248) 291-7815. We’ll give you a proposal to seal up air leaks, add insulation, and perhaps install a ductless mini split.

Ecotelligent Homes

Since 2009, Ecotelligent Homes has completed more than 3,000 projects in Michigan. If you need help with new insulation, efficient HVAC, or abatement services, give us a call anytime: (248) 291-7815. Satisfaction guaranteed.

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