Is it safe to leave a space heater on overnight? It’s a perfectly normal question to ask if you haven’t used a space heater before. And the answer may annoy you but it’s “Yes and no, depending on who you ask and how you go about it.”
So, let’s delve a bit deeper into it.
Leaving space heater on overnight is one of the most common causes of house fires in the U.S. and likely elsewhere too. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 53% of house fires in the U.S. between 2011 and 2015 resulted from leaving flammable materials too close to heating equipment with 43% involving space heaters. What’s more, 20% of home fires reportedly occur between 8 p.m. and midnight with another 18% – between midnight and 8 a.m.
So, can you sleep with a space heater on? Yes, but according to these statistics, it’s really not a good idea.
The flip side of the coin is that all of those incidents were actually preventable not only by not leaving the space heater on but also by just taking the necessary precautions first. Many experts are adamant that leaving the space heater while sleeping is not a problem if you’ve made sure that there’s a 0% chance for accidents.
Here are most experts’ main recommendations for avoiding house fires with the space heater on overnight:
- Keep the device away from any and all flammable materials. A minimum safe distance of 3 feet from any furniture, carpets, and clothes should be kept at all times.
- Use a grounded outlet and never plug your space heater into an extension power strip. Most modern space heaters run at about 1,500 watts so it’s possible to overload a circuit if you have too much stuff on it.
- Make sure your space heater has top quality safety features such as a shut-off function and many others. Timers are great as they allow you to set the heater to turn off automatically some time (say, ~30 minutes) after you go to bed, giving you time to fall asleep. If you’re using an old or low-class space heater, leaving it on while you sleep or when you’re out of the room is really not recommended.
- Make sure your smoke alarm is working and fully charged. Also – make sure you have a smoke alarm, obviously. This won’t prevent an accident but it will prevent a major accident. A good smoke alarm is a difference between a burnt drape or carpet and a burnt-down house.
- Don’t use the heater to dry your clothes off. This shouldn’t need to be said in a separate point as we already said you should avoid putting flammable materials near the space heater. Yet, it’s stupefying how many people do this. Your space heater is not clothes drier – don’t use it as such if you value your home and your life.
- Make sure there are no pets or kids present in the room with the space heater while you’re sleeping. Even if they too are asleep when you go to bed, you never know when they’ll get up and accidentally kick the device onto the carpet.
So, in short, leaving a space heater on overnight is generally not a good idea unless you’re certain you’ve got everything under control.