The #1 thing you need to know about space heaters and power strips is to not mix the two!
You cannot – under any circumstances – safely plug a space heater into a multi-outlet power strip.
Every winter, we hear from fire chiefs and the media warning about space heaters and power strips along with reporting on tragedies where people have suffered fires in their homes because their space heaters overloaded and, thus, overheated their power strips, causing a fire to erupt.
The dangers of space heaters and powerstrips
Power strips are not designed or equipped to safely handle the energy load and extra electrical current flow that a space heater generates.
The heating element inside a space heater can reach temperatures ranging from 500 to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Consequently, this extreme heat gets transferred back down to the power strip, causing it to overheat and potentially catch fire.
This is such a serious public safety threat that both the National Fire Protection Association and the Consumer Product Safety Commission urge people to never power a space heater with a power strip.
Both organizations as well as fire safety professionals across the country advise that if people are going to use space heaters to warm their homes during winter – which is a perfectly reasonable thing to do – then they should plug their space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Not into a power strip.
Sadly, space heaters in general (whether they’re plugged into a power strip or not) pose significant safety risks that most people are not aware of:
“Space heaters accounted for more than two in five (44%) of home heating equipment fires, but these fires were responsible for 86% of civilian deaths and 78% of civilian injuries caused by heating fires.” (Source: National Fire Protection Association, “Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment,” December 2018)
Staying warm without using space heaters and power strips
Just because space heaters and power strips can’t be used together in tandem does not mean folks should abandon them as sources during cold, wintery days.
Space heaters can be used if you use them safely.
Below are safety tips for using your space heater that will keep you and your family warm this winter:
- Place the heater in a dry area where there is no moisture.
- Because of the large amounts of electrical current that space heaters draw, don’t plug other devices into the same wall outlet as the space heater.
- Don’t run space heater’s power cord under a rug or carpet.
- Place the space heater at least 3 feet from any items that could possibly burn.
- Unplug the space heater you’re done using it.
- Do not leave the space heater on while you sleep.
- Always keep an eye on the space heater while it powered on and, thus, plugged into the wall outlet.
- Make sure you have smoke detectors and that they work properly.