Do Space Heater Cause House Fires? What You Need to Know

As the temperatures start to drop, many of us turn to space heaters to keep our homes warm and cozy.

While these handy devices can be effective at heating up a room quickly, there are concerns about their safety. In recent years, there have been reports of house fires caused by space heaters.

This raises the question: do space heaters cause house fires? In this blog post, we will explore this topic in depth and provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions about using space heaters in your home.

What Are Space Heater?

A space heater is a portable device that provides heat to a small area. They are typically used to supplement central heating systems or to heat rooms that aren’t connected to a central heating system.

Space heaters come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and they can be powered by electricity, propane, natural gas, or kerosene.

The basic principle behind a space heater is that it converts energy into heat. The most common type of space heater is an electric heater, which works by passing an electrical current through a heating element.

The heating element then radiates heat into the surrounding area.

Other types of space heaters work by burning fuel to produce heat. Propane and natural gas heaters are popular choices for outdoor spaces, while kerosene heaters are commonly used in indoor spaces.

These heaters work by burning the fuel in a combustion chamber, which produces heat that is radiated into the surrounding area.

Do Space Heaters Cause House Fires

The short answer is yes, space heaters can cause house fires. Space heaters can be a fire hazard if not used properly.

One of the main risks associated with space heaters is their proximity to flammable materials. It is essential to keep space heaters at least three feet away from combustible items such as curtains, furniture, and bedding.

Additionally, space heaters should never be left unattended or placed on unstable surfaces.

Another risk associated with space heaters is electrical malfunctions. Faulty wiring or damaged cords can cause fires.

Inspecting the cords before use and avoiding using extension cords with space heaters is crucial. Additionally, it is essential to ensure that the space heater is plugged directly into the wall outlet and not through a power strip.

Do Space Heater Cause House Fires

How to Prevent Space Heater Fires

Space heaters are responsible for a significant number of house fires each year. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent space heater fires and keep your home safe.

Here are some of the most effective ways to prevent space heater fires.

Choose a Safe Location

The first step in preventing space heater fires is to choose a safe location for your heater.

Keeping your heater away from flammable materials such as curtains, bedding, papers, and furniture is important.

A safe distance is at least three feet away from anything that can burn.

Please keep it on a Stable Surface.

Another important consideration is to keep your space heater on a stable, flat surface. This will help prevent it from tipping over and potentially causing a fire.

Never place your space heater on a soft surface like a bed or sofa; always ensure it is on a stable, level surface.

Don’t Leave it Unattended

It’s also important to never leave your space heater unattended. This means turning it off before leaving the room or going to bed. If you need to step out momentarily, turn it off and unplug it to be safe.

Use the Right Type of Heater

There are different types of space heaters; some are safer than others. For example, electric heaters with automatic shutoff switches are much safer than propane or kerosene heaters.

Electric heaters with low surface temperatures are safer than those with high temperatures.

Keep it Clean

Regular cleaning is important to prevent space heater fires. Dust and debris can accumulate on the heating element, which can ignite and cause a fire.

To prevent this, clean your space heater regularly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Use a Smoke Detector

Finally, make sure you have working smoke detectors in your home. This is important whether or not you use a space heater.

Smoke detectors can alert you to a fire and give you valuable time to evacuate your home.

How Can You Stay Safe While Using A Space Heater?

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk of a space heater-related fire. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Choose a heater with safety features: Look for a space heater with automatic shut-off, tip-over protection, and overheat protection.

Keep the heater away from flammable objects: Place your space heater at least three feet away from anything that could catch fire, like curtains, bedding, or furniture.

Don’t leave the heater unattended: Never leave a space heater unattended for long periods of time. If you need to leave the room, turn the heater off or move it to a safe location.

Keep children and pets away: Make sure to keep children and pets away from the space heater at all times. Children may be tempted to play with the heater, increasing the fire risk.

Don’t use the heater in wet areas: Never use a space heater in wet areas like bathrooms or kitchens, as this can increase the risk of electrical shock.

Types Of Space Heaters

Here are some common types of Space heater

Ceramic Heaters

Ceramic heaters use a ceramic heating element to produce warmth.

These versatile heaters can be used in different settings, including bedrooms, living rooms, and even offices.

Ceramic heaters are energy-efficient and heat up quickly, making them ideal for instant warmth.

They also come in various sizes, from small tabletop models to larger floor-standing options.

Radiant Heaters

Radiant heaters use infrared radiation to produce heat that warms up objects in the room rather than the air.

These heaters are perfect for those who want to heat a small area quickly, such as a bedroom or bathroom.

Radiant heaters are energy-efficient and don’t require a fan, making them a quiet option for those who want to use them while sleeping.

Oil-Filled Radiator Heaters

Oil-filled radiator heaters are convection heater that uses oil to heat the surrounding air.

These heaters are ideal for larger rooms and can provide a consistent and long-lasting heat source.

Oil-filled radiator heaters are also energy-efficient and quiet, making them an excellent choice for those who want to heat a bedroom or living room.

Fan-Forced Heaters

Fan-forced heaters use a fan to blow air over a heating element, producing warm air that circulates throughout the room.

These heaters are ideal for those who want to heat up a larger area quickly.

Fan-forced heaters are also energy-efficient and come in various sizes, from small tabletop models to larger floor-standing options.

Propane Heaters

Propane heaters are perfect for outdoor use, such as on a patio or in a garage.

These heaters use propane gas to produce heat and are often portable, making them easy to move from one location to another.

Propane heaters are also energy-efficient and can provide a consistent heat source.

Electric Fireplace Heaters

Electric fireplace heaters are popular for those who want to create a cozy atmosphere in their homes.

These heaters use electricity to produce heat and often come with a flame effect to mimic the look of a traditional fireplace.

Electric fireplace heaters are energy-efficient and can provide a consistent heat source, making them an excellent choice for those who want to heat up a living room or bedroom.

Percentage Of House Fires Caused By Space Heater

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States, and space heaters are responsible for a substantial portion of these incidents.

In 2018, heating equipment caused an estimated 48,000 home structure fires, resulting in 520 civilian deaths and 1,350 civilian injuries. Of these fires, 44% involved space heaters.

So, what makes space heaters so dangerous?

For one, they can easily overheat and ignite nearby combustible materials such as curtains, bedding, or furniture.

They can also tip over and cause a fire if not placed on a level surface.

Additionally, space heaters can emit carbon monoxide, a toxic gas that can be deadly if inhaled in large quantities.

Cause Of Space Heater Fires

Cause Of Space Heater Fires

Here are some common causes of space heater fires:

Overheating: One of the most common causes of space heater fires is overheating.

This can occur when the heater is left on for an extended period of time or if it is placed too close to flammable materials such as curtains or furniture.

When a space heater overheats, it can ignite nearby objects and start a fire.

Electrical Issues: Another cause of space heater fires is electrical problems.

This can include frayed or damaged cords, faulty outlets, or an extension cord not rated for the heater’s power.

Overloading an electrical outlet can also cause a fire.

Combustible Materials: Space heaters should never be placed near combustible materials such as paper, clothing, or bedding.

These materials can easily catch fire and spread quickly, causing significant damage.

Lack of Maintenance: Another cause of space heater fires is a lack of maintenance.

Over time, dust and debris can build up in the heater, which can cause it to malfunction and overheat.

It is important to regularly clean and maintain your space heater to prevent these types of issues.

Human Error: Finally, human error can also cause space heater fires.

This can include leaving the heater on when you leave the room or forgetting to turn it off before you go to bed.

It is important always to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and never leave a space heater unattended.

Benefits of Using a Space Heater

Space heaters can come in handy. Not only can it save you money on your heating bill, but it also has several other benefits.

1. Cost-effective

Using a space heater in a single room can be much more cost-effective than heating your entire home. Space heaters are designed to heat small spaces quickly and efficiently.

According to the Department of Energy, using a space heater in a single room can save you up to 10% on your heating bill.

2. Energy-efficient

Space heaters are an energy-efficient way to heat your home. They use less energy than central heating systems, producing less greenhouse gas emissions.

Additionally, many space heaters have energy-saving features, such as automatic shut-off and programmable timers, which can help you save even more energy.

3. Portable

One of the biggest benefits of a space heater is its portability. Unlike central heating systems, fixed in place, you can easily move a space heater from room to room as needed.

This makes them ideal for people who live in small apartments or for those who only need to heat a single room.

4. Safe

Modern space heaters have safety features, such as automatic shut-off and overheat protection.

Additionally, many models are designed with cool-to-the-touch exteriors, which means they are safe to use around children and pets.

5. Easy to use

Space heaters are incredibly easy to use. Simply plug them in, turn them on, and adjust the temperature to your liking.

Many models also come with remote controls, meaning you don’t need to get up from your chair to adjust the temperature.

6. Versatile

Space heaters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, which means there is one to suit every need.

Whether you need a small heater for your desk, or a larger one to heat a large room, you can find a space heater that meets your needs.

What To Do If Your Space Heater Catches Fire

If your space heater catches fire, it’s important to know how to protect yourself and your home.

Stay calm and act quickly.

The first and most important step is to stay calm and act quickly. If you notice that your space heater has caught fire, don’t panic.

Quickly assess the situation and take immediate action to extinguish the fire.

Unplug the space heater

The next step is to unplug the space heater immediately. This will stop the flow of electricity to the device and prevent the fire from spreading.

Use a fire extinguisher or baking soda

If the fire is small and contained, you can use a fire extinguisher or baking soda to put out the flames. Remember to keep a fire extinguisher handy in your home and know how to use it.

Call 911

If the fire is large or you ca unable put it out, call 911 immediately. Get out of the room and close the door behind you to contain the fire as much as possible.

Evacuate the building

If the fire spreads or you ca unable put it out, evacuate the building immediately.

Ensure everyone in the building knows about the fire and is safely evacuated to a designated meeting point.

Don’t re-enter the building.

Do not re-enter the building until it has been declared safe by the fire department.

Even if the fire seems to be out, there may still be hot spots or smoke that can cause harm.

Contact your insurance company.

After the fire has been extinguished and it’s safe to re-enter the building, contact your insurance company to report the incident.

They will guide you through the claims process and help you recover any damages.


While space heaters account for many home heating equipment fires, they are not inherently dangerous.

Using a tested and certified space heater and following safe usage habits, you can safely and effectively use a space heater to keep your home warm during the winter months.

Remember always to prioritize safety and never leave a space heater unattended.