CPSC Offers Tips to Prevent Home Fires From Space Heaters

December 16, 2003
Release Number: 04054

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reminds consumers to follow safety precautions when purchasing and using electric or fuel-fired space heaters. In a recent year, there were about 10,900 residential fires and about 190 deaths associated with portable or fixed local heaters.

Fuel-burning space heaters also can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and indoor air pollution because of improper venting or incomplete combustion.

"CPSC has worked with industry to improve safety standards for space heaters," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton, "but consumers must exercise care in how they use space heaters."

- Choose a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters will have the most up-to-date safety features, while older space heaters may not meet the newer safety standards. CPSC worked to upgrade industry standards for electric, kerosene, and vented and unvented gas space heaters. An automatic cut-off device is now required to turn off electric or kerosene heaters if they tip over. More guarding around the heating coils of electric heaters and the burner of kerosene heaters also is required to prevent fires. CPSC worked to upgrade the industry standard for unvented gas heaters to provide an oxygen depletion sensor to shut off the heater if the oxygen level drops too low. CPSC and industry amended the vented heater standard to provide a spill switch to turn off the heater if the vent is blocked or disconnected.

- Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, or other flammable materials.

- Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to provide sufficient combustion air to prevent CO production.

- Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.

- Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.

- Have a smoke alarm with fresh batteries on each level of the house and inside every bedroom. In addition, have a carbon monoxide alarm outside the bedrooms in each separate sleeping area.

- Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment.

- Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually.

Consumers who would like more information can view our booklet, "What You Should Know about Space Heaters," on this web site, or receive a free copy by sending a postcard to "Space Heater Booklet," CPSC, Washington, DC 20207.