Given that 25,000 fires are started in the U.S. every year by space heaters in homes, apartments and condos, safety features on these handy units are a must. When you add in the total of 300+ deaths each year as a result of these fires, you need to pay extra-close attention to the safety features on any unit that you are considering for purchase.
Don’t be one of the 6,000 people who have to go to the emergency room for burn injuries associated with space heaters, either. Most of those burns are not the result of fires, but result from a person simply touching the heater.
When you buy a space heater, you want it to do its job with the absolute least chance of injuring you or another family member. A space heater should not be brought into your home unless it can be regarded as ultra-safe. This is especially true if you plan on using the heater in a child’s bedroom or playroom, or anywhere the family gathers for winter fun. Many families like to put space heaters in their basement play rooms, for instance, where the children romp around without adult supervision.
What to Look For?
Here are safety features that you should consider essential on any model of space heater that you are judging.
- Check for a cool-to-the-touch surface on your heater. Most of the more expensive units have this type of surface.
- Look for a model with an automatic shut-off when the unit is tipped over or knocked down, an almost essential feature now. Most fires are started when a space heater is knocked over and has contact with carpet, clothes or other flammable materials. This feature is especially important when looking at many of the modern slender units, which stand quite tall and are easily tipped.
- Your model should also have an overheat protection feature, a switch that acts as a sensor and automatically turns the heater off when its internal machinery reaches an unsafe temperature.
Not all space heaters have all three of these safety features. Shop carefully and try to find one that has at least two of the three, with #2 above your top priority. Consumer reviews of space heaters will often detail what safety features are available with each unit.