While electric space heater manufacturers add several safety features to their units, the heaters are not without risk. Surfaces often get hot enough to cause burns and ignite flammable materials while overloaded electric circuits cause fires. Owners should only operate space heaters when they are attending them.
As of 2015, there are more than 25,000 home fires and 300 deaths annually associated with the use of electric and fuel-burning space heaters, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Another 6,000 people visit the emergency room with burns due to space heaters.
The design of most electric space heaters requires operating them on the floor and not a tabletop. When in use, they should be out of the reach of pets and children. The minimum clearance in front of an electric heater is 3 feet, but there are also specific clearances for the sides and back of each particular model.
Owners improve electric space heater safety by plugging the unit directly into a wall outlet without using an extension cord. Placing an electric cord under a rug increases the chances of wearing through the insulation and causing a short. Plugging the heater into an outlet in the room where it is operating reduces the chances cutting the cord with a door.