How Do I Choose the Safest Space Heater?

Jeremy Laukkonen
Jeremy Laukkonen
A space heater.
A space heater.

There are a variety of different space heater designs available, and many of them are relatively safe to use. Choosing the safest space heater will typically involve looking for a number of features. Two important safety features include proximity sensors and switches that will cut the power if the unit tips over. One of the safest designs available is known as a radiant oil heater, since it operates by warming oil inside a sealed unit. Other radiant and convection heaters can be relatively safe as well, so long as they are used properly.

A halogen space heater.
A halogen space heater.

The two main types of space heaters are radiant and convection. A radiant heater is typically the safest space heater, and some variants are more dependable than others. Radiant designs may use heated substances such as oil or quartz to warm a space, and can include fins or other elements to provide more surface area. The defining feature of these heaters is that they do not use any sort of fan. Since there is no fan involved and no exposed element involved in a radiant unit, it will usually be the safest space heater available.

A convection unit may not be the safest space heater around, but they can be relatively harmless if used properly. Convection heaters typically use electrical resistance to warm up a metal or ceramic element. A fan may then draw cold air through the element and expel heated air into the room. Older units with relatively exposed metal heating coils can be potentially hazardous, though newer ceramic units are typically safe. If a ceramic convection heater is equipped with a temperature cutoff switch, tip over switch, and proximity sensor, it will often be very safe to use.

Certain designs may be considered unsafe or even dangerous. An old convection unit with an exposed coil that lacks any cutoff switches will never be considered the safest space heater. There are also some inherent dangers involved with gas operated heaters, as they may use an open flame to generate heat. It is usually a good idea to keep furniture and other objects away from any space heater, though it can be especially important when flames are involved.

Care should typically be taken to ensure proper ventilation any time a gas heater is used indoors. Gas heaters may create a number of potential hazards that can end in asphyxiation. A fuel leak combined with unventilated space might be an issue, as could a burning flame exhausting the available oxygen supply.

What Kind of Space Heater Is the Safest?

There are a few traits to look for to determine whether a space heater is safe. Firstly, consider how old the space heater you are using is. If it is very old, it will likely lack a lot of safety features that modern space heaters have to offer. While you can use older space heaters, it is important to be aware of their shortcomings. Never leave a space heater that doesn't have an automatic shutoff feature unattended or running overnight.

If you're buying a new space heater, one feature you can look for is a built-in thermostat. This will allow you to set your desired temperature for the room. The heater should turn off on its own once the room has reached this temperature. Not only is this a safer option than leaving a heater running constantly, but it is also more energy-efficient and can save you on power bills.

Electric Heaters Vs. Combustion Heaters

Most space heaters today are electric. This design is simpler and often safer than combustion heaters; however, you may opt for a combustion heater if you need something a bit more powerful than an electric option, such as if you do not have any other form of functional heating within your home.

Combustion heaters operate on fuel and it is important to get the proper variety to avoid the risks of carbon monoxide poisoning. You should look for an option that is vented and make the necessary preparations to install it by creating a ventilation shaft, similar to a small chimney, that will carry the fumes away. Be sure to follow any instructions that come with the space heater and do further research before using these options.

Electric heaters are much easier to use and are the better choice if you are looking for a little extra warmth in focused parts of your home. As has been briefly touched upon, look for fans that automatically switch off if they are tipped over, if something is near them, or they begin to overheat.

What Heaters Are Safe to Leave on Overnight?

Leaving space heaters on overnight is generally not recommended due to the risk of house fires; however if you find yourself in a pinch and absolutely need the extra heat, some types of heaters are much safer for this purpose than others.

Never use an outdated heater or one that runs on fuel for overnight heating. Instead, consider a modern ceramic option that has an automatic shutoff. Ceramic heaters keep the heating element contained within them, preventing them from coming into contact with anything that could catch on fire. An infrared heater may also be a safe option, as it uses a similar method of heating internally without creating a hot surface area.

Traditional electric heaters that use a fan component are usually not a good choice for long-term heating. They use a lot of electricity and can blow breakers or overload circuits if they run for too long. This adds an additional fire risk as it can cause sparks to fly or components within the circuitry to melt. Cheaper electric heaters that are easily tipped over pose a threat if they do not turn off automatically. Pets or children may not them down without noticing, causing the heating element to come into contact with carpet, curtains, or furniture that is easily combustible.

Is It Safe to Leave a Space Heater on all Night?

There are situations, such as if the main heat source in your home breaks and can't be fixed for a few days, when you may need to use alternative methods to heat your house. Keep in mind the inherent danger of starting a fire that comes along with using many kinds of space heaters, and don't leave yours unattended.

You can consider using modern electric blankets as an alternative heat source through the night. They are made to be used for this purpose and generally shut off automatically. You should also consider shopping for a new space heater if you haven't updated yours for a while. It is ok to use an older or cheaper option if you are only going to keep it on for a limited amount of time and you aren't going to leave the vicinity. If you need to leave it on overnight or for long periods unattended, it is worth investing in a newer option that will pose substantially less of a risk to you and your home.

Discussion Comments

summing

Safety should be a major concern when you are shopping for a space heater.

My grandparents house burned down in the 60s when a defective space heater caught their living room on fire. No one was hurt, thankfully, but they lost a lot of things they wish they still had.

nextcorrea

You can read reviews of the best space heaters online. They will discuss not just safety, but heat output, efficiency, durability and cost. When it comes to electronics I always think it is best to comparison shop before you buy.

vigilant

In general, you get what you pay for when it comes to space heater. So if safety is your concern, I would advise spending some money. Some of the cheaper models make claims that they really can't back up.

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