How to Avoid Burning Down Your House with a Space Heater

by Muhammad Awais Khan

It was the winter of 2019, and I was working on the finishing touches for my band’s next album in my unfinished basement. Only a few more guitar overdubs remained, but my fingers were too chilly to perform the sections correctly. So I grabbed a space heater I’d been testing for Wirecutter for a while. I sat it on top of my digital audio workstation’s wooden workbench and plugged it into the nearest power strip, which happened to be the same one that I used to power my half-stack Marshall amplifier.

I switched on the heater. The power strip blew up five seconds later.

This was probably not the dumbest thing I’d ever done in my life. I knew it was on the list as I watched the sparks fade from the smouldering ball of newly burned plastic in front of me.

Every year, over a thousand house fires caused by space heaters, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Space heaters involved in around 43 percent of home heating-related fires (which includes devices like water heaters and fireplaces) and 85 percent of connected deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Despite these alarming statistics, modern space heaters are far safer than they once were.”The electric heaters that I grew up with opened elements,” said Linda Hotz, De’Longhi’s category director for Home Comfort. In comparison to an air filter, modern heaters are 100 times safer, yet still have a heating element. For example, a thermal shutdown disables electricity when the heater becomes too hot.

However, nothing is foolproof, as my amp action revealed. Here are some tips for operating a heater safely.

Place your space heater on the floor and don’t move it

It’s tempting to position your space heater space-heater so that it blasts directly in your face. Don’t do that unless you’re lying flat on the floor, which is the only time you should use your space heater. Set it on a shelf, a stool, or a dirty wooden workbench in the basement, but not on a shelf. With all those combustible fabrics and feathery stuffing, don’t lay it on top of your bed. Keep it off the rug if at all possible.

In general, your space heater should be placed on the flattest, smoothest surface possible. The Vornado WHEAT Vintage Heater, for example, lets you tilt the heating element to point it upward; the Vornado VH200 and AVH10 are both inclined somewhat upward by default, but you can’t tilt them any more. Most space heaters have tip-over controls that make tilting them difficult. Even if you think you can get around it, don’t.

Keep it out of the water.

Electricity and water are even more deadly than orange juice and toothpaste, it should go without saying. Keep your space heater clear of wet areas like kitchens and bathrooms unless it’s designed and approved for it—which most aren’t. Try a bidet if you want a toasty toilet seat.

Also, stay away from combustible items.

The “3-foot rule,” as the CPSC describes it, is straightforward: Place a space heater at least 3 feet away from anything flammable. Curtains, papers, furniture, cushions, and bedding are all listed as items to avoid in some guides. Further measures, such as keeping combustible objects such as paint and matches far away, recommended by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM).

Never leave a space heater unattended in a room.

Many space heaters also come with warnings about leaving them on while sleeping.DeLonghi TRD40615T and Lasko FH500 All Season Comfort Control Tower Fan & Heater in One both include built-in timers to help you avoid leaving them on unattended.

You can set them to turn off after an hour, so you can go to sleep in a cosy cocoon without risking a fire. To keep a room warm after a long day, oil-filled radiators like the De’Longhi keep producing heat even after being switched off.

How to deal with an excessively lengthy cord (or not long enough)

This is where we begin to enter the Goldilocks zone. Overloading a circuit or adding resistance increases the risk of a fire or other internal electrical injury. A few feet apart from your space heater also recommended by many manufacturers. To avoid scorching the wall where it plugged in, keep it away from it.

You may occasionally find yourself with excess cord slack. Maybe you’ll need to utilize a wall outlet in another room. When you’re in a situation like this, avoid the impulse to hide the cord as it snakes around the corner. Avoid burying it beneath a mat or a couch, as this will prevent heat from escaping. Avoid pinching or bending the cable by passing it through a tightly closed door hinge, for example. This can also obstruct the electrical current, causing heat and energy to build up.

How to install intelligent controls

In the United States, space heaters with built-in smart-home capability are uncommon as of late 2020. However, both technology and regulatory requirements are rapidly evolving, and we should expect more smart space heater technologies in the next year or two.

The DeLonghi TRD40615T, our oil-filled radiator option, has an analog 24-hour dial that you can use to create a timetable.

The Wemo Mini plug-in smart outlet is a good option if your space heater doesn’t have a timer, or if you want to use your voice assistant to control your heating. Consider a Wemo Mini plug-in smart outlet if you don’t have a timer or only want to give your voice assistant heating commands. Extension cables and surge protectors often discouraged by space heater manufacturers.

However, a Wemo Mini should be safe to use with space heaters up to 15 amps or 1800 watts of electricity, according to a Belkin spokeswoman (most of our picks max out at 1,500 watts). Noting that certain space heaters with built-in fans might use more power and cause a high inrush current, the Belkin rep advised care. “Some space heaters with built-in fans might use more power and cause a high inrush current, damaging or wearing out the motor,” the Belkin employee warned. Visit for more relevant content.For more related articles please visit

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