Space heaters: The warm, the cozy, the potential danger


Related Articles

There’s really nothing like feeling toasty on a cold winter day. Now that the temperature has plunged for many of us, you may be thinking of upgrading your space heater.

Portable space heaters are a popular source of comfort and warmth as the chill sets in, but they also pose potential safety risks.

According to a 2011 National Fire Protection Association report, space heaters — either portable or stationary — accounted for one-third (32%) of home heating fires and four out of five (79%) of home heating fire deaths.

Fortunately, you can prevent space heater fires from occurring with these safety tips from the Consumer Product Safety Commission:

Keep space heaters at least 3 feet from bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials.

Place them on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, such as ceramic tile floor. Keep them off of rugs or carpets.

Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or leave the room.

Make sure your space heater has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory.

Make sure your heater is correctly rated for your home. An oversized heater could deplete the available oxygen, causing excess carbon monoxide to be produced. Keep a window in the room open at least 1 inch, and keep doors open to the rest of the house to ensure proper ventilation.

Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually.

Do not use a kitchen range or oven to heat your house.

Install a smoke alarm on each level of the house, inside every bedroom and outside the bedrooms in each sleeping area. Install a carbon monoxide alarm outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area.

Plug your space heater directly into an outlet. Do not use a light-duty extension cord or a multi-outlet strip/surge protector. This can start a fire with a high-wattage appliance. The unit must be grounded with a three-pronged plug.


Now that you’ve got the safety tips down, it’s time to choose a portable heater (assuming you need one). Reviewers on Viewpoints, a consumer reviews and product rankings website, recommend three options.


Best convection heater

DeLonghi Portable Oil-Filled Electric Radiator
(rated 85/100)

Convection heaters work by heating up oil to the desired temperature, allowing the warmed oil to continue heating the room. There's no fan or moving parts.


Best radiant heater

Holmes Portable Quartz Tower Heater with 1Touch
(rated 88/100)

A radiant heater warms objects in a room. Users will feel the heat sooner than from slower-to-warm liquid radiators. It also has a safety shut-off to prevent overheating or in case it falls over.


Best combination heater

Lasko Portable Digital Ceramic Tower
(rated 90/100)

This model has a quiet fan that blows warm air throughout a room, and the oscillating feature offers a quick warmup time with even heat. It comes with a remote control, programmable thermostat and eight-hour timer.


For additional information, check out Consumer Reports’ podcast on space heater testing.