When it comes to the safety of your children, you don’t want to take any shortcuts. From the crib you picked out when he was an infant, to the bike you gave her on her 5th birthday, to the car you’ll someday send them off in - you’ve done your homework to make sure you buy the safest, most reliable product available.
So if you need to supplement your home heating with a space heater, you should use the same level of care in picking out a product. Though space heaters are responsible for a relatively small percentage of home fires annually, it’s not a statistic you want to be a part of. The good news is that it’s easy to find space heaters that are safe to use – even in the bedrooms of our precious offspring. Here’s how.
The Safest Kinds of Space Heaters
The first thing to know is that some types of space heaters are safer than others. Most significantly, any heater powered by liquid fuel – propane, natural gas, or oil – should never be used indoors. These types of heaters emit toxic fumes and that silent killer, carbon monoxide. Don’t risk the health of your loved ones by using one inside.
Electric heaters are by far and away the safest heaters available on the market, but even among electric heaters some are safer than others. For most people, space heaters call to mind the image of a metal box with red-hot glowing coils or heat bulbs inside, with only a flimsy screen to protect it. Not something you want to put in your kid’s room!
However, there a variety of electric space heaters that offer a great deal more protection. These heaters avoid the dangers of exposed heating coils and hot-to-touch external surfaces. For example:
Oil filled heaters – These look like old-fashioned radiators, with coiled fins that distribute heat through natural convection. The heating element is entirely enclosed inside the heater, and the heat-transfer oil never needs replacing, so they are maintenance free. As a bonus, these heaters operate silently, without a fan, so they won’t disrupt your child’s sleep.
Ceramic heaters – In this kind of heater, the metal heating coil is encased in a ceramic plate, which not only makes it safer but also keep radiating heat long after the heater has been turned off.
Infrared heaters – An infrared heater warms objects with electromagnetic rays, so that whatever you point it at feels warm instantly. Because they don’t heat internally the same way other space heaters do, there are many models that feature cool-touch surfaces that are safe around kids and pets.
Space Heater Safety Checks
When you’ve decided what kind of space heater you want to purchase for your child’s room, make sure it has these necessary safety features:
- The unit should be low, with a wide base that makes it less likely to fall over.
- A tilt-switch or tip-over switch shuts the heater off it gets knocked over.
- A built-in thermostat will automatically turn the unit off if it starts to overheat.
- Cool-touch surfaces will protect small fingers and toes from accidental contact burns.
- Safety certification from UL or another national testing laboratory.
As a final step before you buy, check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure there are no known safety problems with the model you want to buy. Their site, SaferProducts.gov, publishes reports of product recalls and safety complaints, so you can be sure your space heater is free of manufacturing defects that can result in tragic consequences.