Are electric heaters a safe way to keep your home warm?

During the winter months, electric heaters can be a useful way to keep rooms warm. With rising inflation, many consumers are finding that it makes sense to only heat one room with a heater, rather than switching on their gas central heating. 

However, portable electric heaters are high-wattage appliances that, if not used correctly, may pose a fire risk. Statistics from US fire departments show that 13% of fires between 2016 and 2020 involved heating equipment, causing around 480 civilian deaths per year.  

If not used properly, electric heaters can cause fires by igniting nearby combustible materials, like beds, clothing, sofas, rugs, curtains, paper, and flammable liquids. 

Despite this, if the proper safety measures are met and the heater has an approved safety mark, such as a BEAB-approved European Safety mark in the EU, electric heaters can be a safe way to keep a room warm. There’s no open flame or fuel being burned, they don’t produce carbon monoxide, and they don’t have the same risks that come with gas portable heaters.

When using an electric heater, experts recommend following this basic safety advice: 

  • Only buy a new heater, rather than second-hand, and make sure the heater has been safety approved and has a safety certification mark. 
  • Regularly check the heater, cord and plug for any damage before using it and never operate an electric heater if there are any signs of damage. 
  • Always follow the maintenance and operational instructions with your heater.
  • Keep the heater on a stable, level surface and away from any obstructions where it won’t be knocked over. 
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet/1 meter away from any combustible materials including clothes, beds, sofas, curtains, paper, and flammable items. 
  • Never use an electric heater to dry clothes or other items. 
  • Keep electric heaters away from water and never touch them with wet hands. 
  • Don’t power the heater using an extension lead as this can cause overloading. 
  • Don’t leave the heater on when you’re sleeping or not in the room. 
  • Frequently check the plug and cord and if they are hot, stop using the device. 

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