Is it safe to sleep with a space heater on?

When it’s practically freezing outside, but your apartment or home doesn’t have central heating, it’s more than uncomfortable. Even if you have built-in heating, the vents may not reach certain spots in your home, and in this case, a space heater is the best solution. If you’re asking yourself, “Is it safe to sleep with a heater on?” we’ve got the answer here.

ceramic heater on wood floor

Types of space heaters

The answer to your Google search, “Can you sleep with a space heater on?” depends largely on what type of heater you have. Three main types are radiator, convention, and fan-forced.

Convection heaters warm up the air in your room using oil, electricity, or water. On the other hand, radiators quickly help warm you and the surrounding area through infrared radiation. These are considered some of the safest heaters. Fan-forced heaters are perhaps the most portable type of convection heater. They’re often used for heating up a work area or warming up your feet under a desk. These tend to generate noise, but may be less hazardous than larger heaters.

Other types include oil- or gas-fueled appliances commonly found in outdoor restaurants or patios. These are best for outdoor use, as they emit exhaust. If you do use one inside, crack a window open for proper ventilation.

Where is your heater located?

space heater on wall

Most heaters require a diameter of 3 feet or more without any flammable objects in the way. This is why many heater-caused home fires occur — materials are too close to the heater itself. With that said, keep clothes, blankets, papers, rugs, and other materials that may catch fire away from the heater. Furthermore, do not set the heater on carpet or on furniture, like a table or dresser.

Does it offer automatic shut-off or cooling settings?

Most electric space heaters provide top-of-the-line features like temperature controls and programmable heating times. For fan heaters, you may even choose oscillation movements to distribute heat evenly in your space.

More important features include automatic shut-off when the heater overheats or tips over. If your heater doesn’t have an automatic shut-off feature, it may be a wise idea to turn it off before sleep in case it accidentally falls over.

Additionally, always turn off the heater when you’re not in the room to supervise it. A good practice is to pore over the manufacturer’s warnings and peruse the instruction manual for information specific to your heater.

Is it plugged into the wall or an outlet strip?

One common — but extremely important — piece of advice you’ll hear is to never plug your space heater into an extension cord or outlet strip. These tools may not be able to handle your space heater’s power demand, which could lead to a broken heater or even cause a fire in your wall due to power failure or faults. This sounds terrifying –and it is! –but there’s a straightforward precaution we can all take. Remember: Plug into the wall, not the strip!

Do you have children or pets?

two children wrapped in blankets

Lastly, you might rethink leaving a space heater on as you rest if you have pets or children. Space heaters will feel hot to the touch, so if your child or pet has access to your room while you sleep, turning it off is even more mandatory. Moreover, if they trip on the heater, causing it to fall over (and not automatically turn off), a fire could break out.

If you’re in dire need of some warmth before or during sleep, our advice is to crank up the heater before bedtime, while you’re able to monitor the machine, and turn it off before sleep. Give enough time for the heater to cool down, or leave it somewhere kids or pets can’t get to it.

Yes, electric heaters with automatic shut-off features are generally safe even when accidentally knocked over or when they overheat. However, you can never be too safe, so keep your heater on only while you’re awake and alert.

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