Our tests of the latest electric space heaters show that they provide more-consistent heat than those we last tested. And while they have the most current safety features, space heaters cause an estimated 21,650 home fires and 1,512 fire-related injuries and deaths each year, according the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Fuel-fired models carry their own risks.
All of the tested space heaters will comfortably warm a chilly room. But remember, the only way to potentially save money is to use a heater in one room and leave the rest of the house chillier.
When you shop for an electric space heater, look for a label from a recognized testing laboratory such as UL (Underwriters Laboratory), ETL (Intertek), or CSA (Canadian Standards Association) verifying that the heater's construction and performance meet U.S. voluntary safety standards.
Also, fuel-burning space heaters are more dangerous than electrics. We suggest that you consider them only for emergency use--say, during a winter power outage.
Our experts and the NFPA offer the following safety advice:
- Don't leave an electric heater unattended while it's plugged in. Place the heater on a level, flat surface where children and pets can't reach it--and never in a child's room. Use a heater on a tabletop only when specified by the manufacturer. If you place it on furniture, it could fall and be damaged.
- Don't use a space heater in a damp or wet area unless it's designed for outdoor use or in bathrooms. Moisture could damage it.
- Keep combustible materials such as furniture, bedding, and curtains at least three feet from the front of the heater and away from its sides and rear. Don't use a heater near paint, gas cans, or matches. Keep the air intake and outlet clear.
- Run the electric cord on top of area rugs or carpeting so that you can step over it and not abrade it underfoot. Plugging another electrical device into the same outlet or extension cord as the heater could cause overheating.
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