Can You Leave a Space Heater on Overnight?
With space heaters causing the most home heating fire-related deaths¹ in the United States, operating them with extreme caution is crucial. In many cases, leaving a space heater on while you’re sleeping can be risky, but as technology has improved, certain styles are becoming much safer for overnight use.
To help you find the perfect unit for your overnight needs, we’ll explain what to look for in a space heater.
Can You Leave a Space Heater on Overnight?
In general, you should turn any space heater off overnight if you can. With the right space heater, you may be able to leave it on overnight if you follow the proper safety precautions. The safest heater styles to leave on for extended periods are oil-filled, infrared, or ceramic.
An oil-filled electric heater uses an element to heat an encased oil reservoir. It is silent and efficient, and you won’t have to worry about burning yourself or anything else on it. Oil-filled heaters hold heat well, so they’ll continue to warm the room for a long while, even when you shut them off.
Ceramic heaters are inexpensive and safer than most electric heaters but carry a greater fire risk than oil-filled heaters. These simple machines pass air over heated ceramic plates to warm the room. Meanwhile, infrared heaters use rays to heat objects, warming them directly like the sun. They’re some of the quietest and most cost-effective heaters available.
Which Space Heaters Can You Not Leave on at Night?
Electric and vented propane heaters are two types of heaters that you should always turn off at night. They’re cheaper than the safe-to-the-touch models but carry a constant risk of overheating and, in the case of propane heaters, an added possibility of carbon monoxide exposure. Never leave either type of space heater unattended.
Important Features of a Space Heater
No matter the style of the space heater or your intent to use it overnight, there are several essential characteristics to look for in a safe machine.
- Overheat protection: The heater turns off automatically if it reaches an unsafe internal temperature
- Tip-over protection: The heater shuts down if it tips over
- Thermostat: The thermostat maintains a constant temperature, shutting off and turning on automatically to conserve energy
- Timer: A programmable timer that allows you to control the shut-off time to keep the heater from running too long
- Certifications: Safety certifications from testing authorities such as Underwriters Laboratory (UL) or Intertek (ETL)
If you anticipate needing to use a space heater overnight, buying a high-quality modern unit is critical. Avoid cheap plastic parts, glowing electric elements, and models with poor customer reviews. Investing in a comprehensive array of safety features and well-made components is well worth it if it means protecting your family from a house fire.
Best Practices for Preventing a Space Heater Fire
Even with the newest, most expensive space heater, there is always a fire risk.
- Eliminate the need to use a space heater overnight by warming the room for 2–3 hours before going to bed
- Keep the space heater on wood floors or elevated on a level surface off of carpets to prevent fibers from catching fire
- Make the space heater inaccessible to small children and pets
- Place the space heater at least three feet from drapes, beds, furniture, clothing, rugs, and anything that may present a fire hazard
- Plug the heater into a grounded outlet to reduce the chance of overload
- Ensure your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are functional
Buying a unit with tip-over protection and automatic shut-off is non-negotiable if you plan to leave your space heater unattended for even a second. Ensure the machine is appropriate for the size of your room, and always test your space heater before using it overnight to ensure it doesn’t get hot to the touch or present any other unexpected hazards.
You should turn your space heater off overnight if you can. With the high fire risk they carry compared to any other appliance, it’s crucial to take every precaution with space heaters, regardless of the product’s quality. Use these tips and insights when using your space heater to protect you, your family, and your home against a common threat.
Featured Image Credit: RoberioJr, Shutterstock