A thermostat connected to a central heating system is typically far safer than a space heater, according to the United States Energy Department. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that around 25,000 residential fires are related to space heaters each year, resulting in over 300 deaths.
The use of space heaters in homes causes a number of safety concerns. One of the biggest issues results from the use of old or outdated heaters, which can be unsafe. Non-electric heaters, which use alternative fuel sources like propane or kerosene, can create unsafe levels of carbon monoxide within a home. Older heaters than make use of open flames also present a greater risk of fire hazards.
Most experts recommend the use of electric space heaters, which come with safety features designed to prevent fires. However, these units still have their problems. Electric space heaters can cause fires if they are placed too close to combustibles or flammable materials, such as beds or fabric. Heaters can also be tipped over, causing overheating problems that can lead to fires. Many users plug space heaters into extension cords, a practice that is discouraged because it can cause electric problems.
Experts recommend choosing a newer, electric heater that comes with tip-over protection and auto-shutoff features. The heater should be placed on a level surface, away from foot traffic and plugged directly into a wall outlet.