Space heaters can be risky. That’s why safety features are of paramount importance when choosing any room heater. To help you out in choosing the safest space heater, we have prepared a list of 6 no-nonsense heaters you can leave unattended using a 7-point safety feature checklist.
Before we check which space heater type and which specific space heaters are the safest, we absolutely need to impress on you the dangers unsafe space heaters pose. Only by understanding the hazards and following both the safety tips, and understanding safety features can we truly talk about the safe use of room heaters.
Here is why choosing the safest indoor space heater possible is so important:
“Heating is the 2nd leading cause of home fires, and the 3rd leading cause of home fire deaths. Local fire departments responded to an estimated average of 48,530 fires involving heating equipment. These fires resulted in annual losses of 500 civilian deaths, 1,350 civilian injuries, and $1.1 billion in direct property damage.” (National Fire Protection Association on heating hazards)
In short, 500 people per year die due to unsafe or unsafely used heating systems. NFTA also points out that:
- “Most home heating fire deaths (81%) involved stationary or portable space heaters.” That’s why space heater safety features are so important.
- “Half of the home heating fire deaths were caused by having heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing mattresses or bedding.” That’s why following space heater safety tips is so important.
- “Nearly half (48%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January, and February.” As you can see, wintertime and space heater-related fires go hand in hand.
As you can see, the need for safety is usually the most important part of choosing a good space heater. In order to turn up a space heater without burning your house down, we are going to cover 3 specific parts:
- Safety tips (15 measures to take). These are data-based tips from NFTA, AHAM, and UL laboratories that we need to follow no matter which space heater we have. They will help you not to burn down your house by using a space heater.
- Safety features (8 specs to check). The safest type of space heaters are oil-filled radiator heaters. We are going to check the 7-point safety checklist of what to look for when choosing a safe heater, including checking for UL or EFT certificates, tip-over protection, overheat protection, inclusion of a thermostat, and so on.
- List of 6 safest space heaters. Only after we understand what kind of safety measures we should take and how to choose a safe space heater (based on safety features), we will look at which are the safest space heaters to buy. We use the 7-point safety checklist to ensure that we are indeed choosing the best safe space heater for your home.
Let’s start with safety tips that everybody who owns any type of space heater should be aware of:
Space Heater Safety Tips (15 Measures)
Because we see so many fires due to improper use of space heaters, it’s vital that we go over the recommended safety tips we should follow when using space heaters. As we have seen in the quote before, NFTA points out that 50% of deaths resulting from home fires are due to inadequate use of space heaters.
Here are 15 safety tips you should follow. Please do read them carefully, and possibly reread them, to insure for safe use of space heaters:
- 3 feet rule (most important!). NFTA states that positioning a space heater “too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing mattresses or bedding” causes 50% of heating fire deaths. Keep a space heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn. That includes furniture, pillows, bedding, clothes, papers, curtains, carpets, and so on.
- Another 3 feet rule (kids, pets). Keep a space heater at least 3 feet away from kids or pets. Small children suffer 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-degree burns or can trip the heater and start fires. The same is true for dogs and cats; furry animals catching fire presents a serious fire hazard.
- Don’t run a space heater overnight. Many people ask if you can run a space heater overnight (continuous use). It is not OK to leave a space heater on all night. If you absolutely have to run a space heater overnight, do make sure you have the safest electric space heater possible to ensure safety. When choosing the safest space heater for the bedroom (#1 Dreo and #2 RW Flame heaters in the list below are ideal for bedroom heating), keep in mind that it is not advised to run it overnight.
- No clothes on the heater. Every heater will have the explicit warning “Don’t cover”. Never put clothes over the heater.
- Never put a heater on the carpet. Many people wonder if you can put a heater on the carpet. No. Just no. Putting a space heater on a carpet is an absolute no-no. This is a part of the 3 feet rule but it needs to be explicitly pointed out because carpets can catch on fire very quickly and burn down your home. You should place a heater on a nonflammable surface that is both hard and level.
- Never place a heater in a child’s sleeping room (kids’ rooms). UL explicitly states “never place space heaters in an area where a child is sleeping” here. If you are looking for the safest space heater for the nursery, please do keep in mind that the use of space heaters in a nursery is advised against.
- Avoid hoarding. “Hoarding can be a fire hazard,” according to NFPA.
- Smoke alarms. To make absolutely sure you are prepared for the space heater burning something, test smoke alarms at least once a month. The smoke alarm will not prevent a fire; it will, however, decrease your response time in an event of a fire.
- Be aware of water. Never put an electric space heater in the immediate vicinity of anything that contains water, like bathtubs (bathroom use), showers, skins, or even swimming pulls. As you know, water and electricity don’t mix. If they do mix, sparks will start flying and something can catch on fire.
- No power strips or extension cords. Use just the cable that is attached to the space heater; it should go directly into a standard 15A or 20A outlet. Power strips or extension cords can catch fire if overwhelmed, potentially resulting in burning your home down.
- Unplugging. Whenever you are not using a space heater, don’t just turn it off. It is recommended that you unplug it straight out of the outlet.
- Check for cord damages. The cord is the power source for your space heater. If it is damaged, it may be heated up and burn something, or, in limited cases, it can cause electric sparks to fly, catching furniture, carpets, and so on, on fire.
- Never place anything on the cord or cover the cord. In order to prevent cord damage and prevent potential fires, always keep the cord visible. Never place anything on the cord that could potentially damage it or restrict your view of the cord. That includes laying the cord under furniture or beds.
- Never block air intake or exhaust. Every space heater should have a clear air intake and clear exhaust. Don’t put anything in front or at the back of the heater in order to ensure safe and efficient use.
- Always read the manufacturer’s warning labels and instructions. Real men don’t read manually? That’s not the safest way of running a space heater. Focus especially on the warning labels; there are there for a very good reason.
Note: With electric space heaters, you don’t have to worry about carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. That’s obviously because ‘burning’ electricity does not produce CO gases and you don’t have to use CO detectors.
Make sure you have a good understanding of these safety tips for space heaters, and please do follow them. Just by following the #1 tip (3 feet rule), you will likely avoid 50% of bad things that can happen due to improper use and positioning of space heaters.
These 15 measures should be taken when using any space heater. Space heaters by themselves also have built-in mechanisms that minimize fire hazards and maximize the safety of using them.
Here are the features that increase the safety of space heater use indoors:
Space Heater Safety Features (8 Specs To Check)
Space heaters should never run out of control. To prevent that, you need special safety controls.
Type-wise, the safest type of heater is an oil-filled radiator heater. Most of them have UL or ETL certificates, start heating slowly, and are not hot to the touch. Ceramic heaters, on the other hand, heat up very quickly, posing a higher fire risk.
The key here is that safety features are not all that costly. Most of the safest space heaters cost about $100 because tip-over safety protection, overheating protection, stable wheels, and so on are not some next-gen tech. They are inexpensive additions that increase the overall safety of electric space heaters with little to no additional cost.
When checking the specs sheet, look if the space heater includes these safety features. The safest indoor space heater will include several of them, preventing the heater to run out of control even if something goes wrong.
We will start with the most important spec to check and go down the list (in the comparison table of the best safe space heaters further on, you will find a checklist of most of these safety features):
- Check For UL Certificate Or ETL Certificate. First and foremost, a safe heater should have a certificate of safety from UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or ETL (Edison Testing Laboratories, now known as Intertek Testing Services). All producers that value safety will specify that their heater is UL certified (or ETL certified) in the description. If you don’t see the safety certification mentioned, you are probably not looking at the safest electric space heater. Most producers do focus on energy efficiency (which is important) but arguably the safety features and certificates can be much more important. Example: “UL Listed portable electric heaters must pass a tip-over test that simulates the most severe tip-over orientation. This is one of many abnormal operation tests that the listed heater must pass without creating a risk of fire, electric shock, or injury to persons.” You can read more about how Underwriters Laboratories (UL) tests tip-over protection here.
- Tip-Over Switch. One of the most dangerous things is for a space heater to tip over. The tip-over protection is essential to prevent anything close to the heater to catch on fire. Tip-over protection won’t prevent the space heater from tipping over; but it will (when the heater is falling – 45-degree angle) switch the heater off. The heat-exchanging element will thus turn off, minimizing the possibility of a tipped-over space heater starting a fire.
- Overheat Protection / Automatic Shut-Off. Another danger is the heater being overheated. An overheated space heater can more likely burn something in its vicinity or catch itself on fire. To prevent this, space heater manufacturers include a safety check – the automatic shut-off. When the thermometer inside the heater registers high temperatures anywhere between 150°F to 250°F, the heat exchanger will shut off. The safest heaters with the best overheating protection will shut the heater off at the lowest temperature (closer to 150°F than to 250°F).
- Built-In Thermostat. The primary job of a thermostat is to adjust the heating output to only what is needed to heat up a room or maintain a stable room temperature. That reduces the heater running costs because the heater is not operating at 100% heating output all the time. Because the thermostat will lower the operating percentage below 100%, it will also add to safety. Not blasting a space heater at 100% all the time will decrease the possibility of the heater overheating and potentially catching fire.
- Stable Position (Wide Or Rotating Wheels). To prevent the heater from tipping over, you need a stable wheel position. The safest heater wheels will be able to rotate 360 degrees. This can prevent a force from the side to flip the heater over. Alternatively, having wide set wheels will also add to the stability of the heater.
- No Exposed Heating Elements. Space heaters should have the heating element insulated inside the heater itself. That is not all that easy to engineer, especially if you are dealing with ceramic or forced-air heaters. That’s why the safest heaters have a sturdy screen without exposed heating elements. Oil-filled heaters are perfect for this; air-forced heaters are not. You don’t want something coming into contact with superheated parts and accidentally catching fire.
- Slow Heating. Instantly hot heaters might sound perfect because you get warm air quickly. Safety-wise, however, they are the worst. That spike in temperature may present a quick fire hazard. Slow heating oil-filled radiator heaters, for example, are much better than quick air-forced heaters as far as safety (and much else) is concerned.
- Additional Feature: No Hot Surfaces / Cool Touch Exterior. Ceramic heaters or heaters will very few fins will be hot to the touch. The safely designed space heaters should have as much surface area as possible to distribute the heat while being hot to the touch. Oil-filled radiator heaters with many fins are the perfect heater design for safety without hot surfaces because they have a larger exterior surface area.
Most heaters you will see are 1500-watt space heaters, powered by electricity. However, many heaters will lack some of the key safety features such as no exposed heating elements, have a stable position (reinforced by 360-degree wheels), or produce a rapid increase in temperature on the other shell.
In the comparison table of the safest electric heaters, you will see a checklist of the 7 key safety features. With all this in mind (safety tips as well as safety features), let’s have a look at which are the safest space heaters currently on the market:
Safest Electric Space Heaters
1. Safest Space Heater For Bedroom (With Wraparound Protection): Dreo DR-HSH005
Dreo DR-HSH005 checks all the safety feature boxes. It is specifically designed to be the safest possible space heater. It is the only space heater that has both UL and ETL certificates; that may be a bit excessive but with space heaters, the concept of “safety first” should be at the forefront and Dreo DR-HSH005 is the perfect embodiment of that concept.
First of all, most safe space heaters have either UL or ETL certificates. Both of these laboratories – Underwriter Laboratories and Edison Testing Laboratories – have strict safety requirements and put heaters under a lot of excessive stress to test for safety. The ability of Dreo DR-HSH005 to pass both of these strict safety tests is a bullet-proof data-based recipe for safety.
Needless to say, the Dreo DR-HSH005 has a tip-over switch that will automatically shut off the heater if it is flipped. The automatic overheating protection is also there just in case.
The biggest advantage over other safest heaters that Dreo DR-HSH005 has is the cool touch design. It has M-shaped extended fins that are almost 9 inches long. This serves 3 specific purposes:
- With such an extensive surface area (55% more than standard units), the Dreo DR-HSH005 is cool to the touch. The exterior is also made out of UL-certified V0 flame retardant materials. The heater’s exterior will reach about 80°F when running on 100% output; that’s about 30% less hot to the touch than the exterior of similar oil-filled radiator heaters.
- It can generate heat quicker than most oil-filled heaters without the unit itself warming up too much.
- Important: The M-shaped fins cover the heating elements completely. With most heaters, the heat exchanger is not 100% insulated. The Dreo DR-HSH005 uses M-shaped fins to completely shut in the heating elements.
The ECO thermostat switching the heater from 1500W (High) to 900W (Mid) or 600W (Low) is not only cost effective. It also prevents the heater from running at 100% output 100% of the time. That, coupled with the large surface area that fins create, massively decreases the likelihood of the space heater overheating.
If you check the wheels, you see they have a 360-degree rotation. That makes a heater more stable; it can be hit by force from any direction and the wheels will do their best to compensate for that force without falling over.
All these enhanced safety features make the Dreo DR-HSH005 the safest space heater on the market. With a considerably low price of about $120, it is also one of the best-selling heaters in general but it can be out of stock quite a lot during very low temperatures (increased demand in Nov, Dec, Jan, and Feb):
2. Very Safe Electric Space Heater (ETL Listed): RW Flame Heater
RW Flame is one of the safest ETL-listed space heaters. Type-wise, this is an oil-filled radiator heater – the safety type of heater – and has most of the protection features for reducing a fire hazard.
Namely, the ETL certificate means the RW Flame has been rigorously tested for safety. This is an expensive testing procedure that RW Flame decided to invest in to prove that their heater is indeed very safe.
We see that the RW Flame heater has the two necessary safety features – tip-over switch and overheat protection. The tip-over switch will shut off the oil-filled radiator heater if it falls over and the overheat protection will automatically switch the heat off if the temperature inside the heater increases too much.
The casters (wheels) are the safest of any space heater. They are both positioned very wide (check the photo) and have a 360-degree turning range. The wide wheel position means that it will be harder to flip the heater over if you apply a force from the left or right. The 360-degree wheels will also adjust the angle to absorb that blow and help to prevent the heater from tipping over.
You also have an energy-saving thermostat with 3 heating modes, namely 600W, 900W, and 1500W (Low/Mid/High). Once the thermostat set temperature is reached, the RW Flame heater will switch from 1500W mode (100% output) to lower 900W or 600W modes. That means the heater will not run at 100% output 100% of the time.
The heating exchanger is packed inside the unit but the heating is a bit exposed. The fins also don’t have such a massive active surface area for heating distribution as we have seen with the M-fins #1 Dreo heater has.
RW Flame heater does, however, have a lower price. With about a $90 price tag, this is the safest space heater under $100.
All in all, the RW Flame heater is one of the most safely designed electric space heaters on the market. It is budget-friendly; if you need a price-performance safe heater, the RW Flame is the obvious choice here:
3. Safest Pelonis Space Heater (Oil-Filled Radiator): Pelonis PH-14A
Pelonis is one of the most well-known brands, specializing in engineering space heaters. The Pelonis PH-14A is the safest Pelonis space heater; it even features a hard-to-get ETL safety certificate.
Namely, the Pelonis PH-14A is an oil-filled radiator heater. This is the safest type of heater because the electricity warms the oil that is 100% completely sealed inside the heater. Most other air-forced units have more exposed heating elements because they need to heat up the air directly. Oil-filled radiators also heat up slower than ceramic heaters, for example, and present a lesser safety risk.
In addition to 10h heater, you have the “must” over-tip protection and automatic shut off if the Pelonis PH-14A starts overheating. The overheat protection will prevent the heater to go up in flames (the switch will shut it off before that).
We see the same safe wide wheel positioning and 360-degree angle rotation as with the #2 RW Flame heater. This makes the Pelonis PH-14A very stable and minimizes the chances of falling down on its sides (left or right).
A programmable thermostat is also nice to see in the Pelonis PH-14A. This will reduce the heating output from 100% (1500 watts or 5118 BTU) to lower (Low or ECO) heating modes when the thermostat set temperature is reached. Maintaining the indoor temperature is always safer than increasing the room temperature because the output of the heater can be considerably lower (it also reduced the running costs, of course).
The fins, however, are not on par with the #1 Dreo M-shaped fins. The internal heat exchanger will be able to heat these fins a bit too much. They might be hot to the touch, presenting a minor safety risk.
The Pelonis PH-14A is also a safe heater that costs less than $100. It’s quite affordable, has great specs, and is therefore one of the best-selling Pelonis heater as well as one of the best-selling space heaters in general:
4. Safest Honeywell Space Heater: Honeywell HZ-789
Honeywell is the biggest brand that makes space heaters as well. They understand that safety is very important for electric space heaters and with the thermostat, they also invested in energy efficiency for their Honeywell HZ-789 heater.
Honeywell HZ-789 has the must-have over-tip switch and automatic shut-off overheat protection. These are the two main safety features that cut off the electricity if the heater tips over or gets too hot.
Usually, space heater produces will focus on energy efficiency. The Honeywell thermostat in the Honeywell HZ-789 will adjust the heating output (from 100% to a lower heating mode) when the set temperature is met. With less wattage going to the heater, the risk of fires is thus reduced.
The fins have quite a large surface area, reducing the heater’s exterior temperature. In short, it is not as hot to touch as ceramic or infrared heaters would be.
Unfortunately, Honeywell didn’t invest in ETL or UL testing. That means that the Honeywell HZ-789 is not ETL certified, or at least they don’t point that out in most of the descriptions. Companies that value safety will usually include ETL or UL certificate in the description.
The heating element is also not as well sealed as with the #1 Dreo heater (with M-shaped fins). The Honeywell HZ-789 is a bit more expensive as well, surpassing the $100 price tag.
All in all, Honeywell HZ-789 is a reliable and energy-efficient space heater. It has most of the required safety features but doesn’t point out that they have an ETL certificate in most descriptions. Regardless of that, the Honeywell HZ-789 is one of the best-selling and the highest rated space heaters on the market:
5. Good Safe Portable Oil-Filled Radiator Heater: Comfort Zone CZ8008
Comfort Zone is a company best known for their gas or propane-powered space heaters. They have also engineered a good, cheap, and safe electric space heater with a 1500 watt electric input and 5118 BTU heating output (enough to adequately heat up rooms with up to 171 square feet, if you apply the 30 BTU per sq ft heating rule of thumb).
Comfort Zone CZ8008 is the safest type of electric space heaters – an oil-filled radiator heater – and will not rapidly (and dangerously) increase the temperature when you turn it on. The heater will heat up the completely sealed oil inside the heater, which will in turn heat up the surrounding air.
This heater has 6 fins to maximize the surface area and thereby reduce the temperature of the heater to the touch.
Comfort Zone CZ8008 also has a thermostat, over-tip protection, and automatic shut-off safety features. However, the heating element is not completely shut off.
The 4 wheels also have 360-degree angle rotation but they can be a bit rusty when turning in practice (similar to the #4 Honeywell heater’s wheels). The cold-to-the-touch handle makes this quite a safe portable space heater, however.
The Comfort Zone CZ8008 costs less than $100 and is quite popular. Specs-wise, this is a very safe heater but we don’t see any UL or ETL certificate mentioned which is a con here:
6. Best And Safest DeLonghi Space Heater: DeLonghi KH390715CB
DeLonghi is a brand with a very good reputation. They make quite a large variety of electricity-powered products (including coffee machines); in short, they are not specialized in engineering space heaters. However, their DeLonghi KH390715CB space heater looks like a very safe and affordable option if you are looking for an oil-filled radiator heater.
The pre-snap wheels DeLonghi heaters are known for are quite good as far as safety is concerned. They will resist blows from left or right and minimize the chances of the DeLonghi KH390715CB tipping over.
This heater also has the overheat protection, which is great, but we see no mention of tip-over protection, which is not so great.
We also don’t see any mention of a safety certificate – UL or ETL – in the description which is, quite honestly, a bit weird given the good reputation DeLonghi has.
What is undeniable, however, is the safe 6-fin design and a good thermostat.
All in all, DeLonghi KH390715CB is one of the best-selling space heaters. Safety-wise, however, DeLonghi doesn’t seem to mention any safety certificate or even tip-over protection, which is not ideal:
This has been a summary of what a safe space heater actually means. When using any heater, please do consult the 15 safety tips you should follow. When buying a safe heater, consult the 8 safety features such a heater should have. If you need some specific ideas, the list of the safest space heaters we introduced here should help you out quite a bit.