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Space Heater Safety for Property Managers: Everything You Need to Know

living room space heater

As the weather begins to change, and temperatures start to drop, we find ourselves once again preparing for winter. With this seasonal shift comes the increased use of space heaters, a popular choice for many looking to stay warm during these colder months.

The Popularity of Space Heaters

Space heaters have seen a surge in popularity over the years. A 2023 Market Research report found, "the global space heaters market exceeded US$9 billion in revenue last year [and] is predicted to grow exponentially in the next decade."

This probably isn't surprising. There are few things that contribute more significantly to feeling comfortable at home than temperature and the "ideal" temperature varies from person to person. Most people find that a temperature between 68 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit is comfortable and a space heater can be an effective way to tailor a room's temperature to your individual liking.

Warming up with a space heater

The Efficiency of Space Heaters

Many turn to space heaters as an efficient alternative to central heating systems. According to CNET, using a space heater in a specific area can cut heating costs significantly. This is corroborated by an article in Stanford Magazine, which discusses how space heaters can effectively warm up a room without heating the entire property. And, as we've written about before, efficiency is a property owner's best friend.

Space Heaters vs Central Heating

Despite their benefits, space heaters also come with risks. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates, "more than 1,700 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, resulting in more than 80 deaths and 160 injuries nationally." Injuries, deaths, and substantial property damage are all pretty serious side effects.

The debate between using space heaters or central heating often comes down to a balance between cost-effectiveness and safety. While space heaters can be more cost-efficient, they require careful handling and proper usage to ensure safety.

hot space heater

Safe Use of Space Heaters

To mitigate the risks associated with space heaters, property managers should familiarize themselves with safe usage guidelines. Consumer Reports' buying guide for space heaters offers valuable insights on choosing the right heater, placement, and other safety measures.

With credit to the National Fire Protection Agency and Consumer Reports, here are some key things to consider when using a space heater:

  • Ensure it has the seal of a qualified testing laboratory.

  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can catch fire, including people.

  • Opt for a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection.

  • Place the heater on a stable, level surface.

  • Verify that your heater has an auto shut-off feature to turn it off if it accidentally tips over.

  • Keep space heaters clear of foot traffic and never obstruct an exit.

  • Ensure children are kept away from the space heater.

  • Always plug the heater directly into a wall outlet and avoid using an extension cord.

  • Remember to turn off and unplug space heaters when leaving the room or going to bed.

  • Check the cord for damage periodically, and don’t use the heater if the cord is frayed or worn.

  • Don’t plug another electrical device or an extension cord into the same outlet as a heater—that can cause overheating.

  • Install working smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every bedroom, and test them monthly.

  • Consider a smoke alarm monitoring system in addition to well-maintained smoke detectors.

different kind of space heaters

The Best Space Heaters

There are four basic types of electric space heaters:

  1. Oil or water-filled radiator: Heated oil or water travels through the heater.

  2. Fan-forced heater: A fan blows warm air over metal coils.

  3. Ceramic heater: Air is warmed over a ceramic heating element.

  4. Infrared heaters: Heat is created by infrared bulbs

Picking the right heater for your situation depends on a number of variables. When shopping for space heaters, or helping tenants know what to purchase, you should check out Consumer Reports' Space Heater Buying Guide. Their 2023 list of recommended space heaters as well as USA Today's top rated space heaters is also a helpful reference.

Comfort Matters But It Doesn't Trump Safety

As winter approaches, space heaters will once again be in high demand. While they offer an efficient way to warm up a space, their safe use should be the top priority for property managers. By understanding the benefits and risks of space heaters, and by implementing safety measures, property managers can ensure the comfort and safety of their tenants during the colder months.

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