Are modern space heaters safe?

I just moved into a new place, and have noticed that my bedroom is usually a lot colder than the other rooms. Rather than jack up the heat for the whole apartment, I thought it might be a good idea to try a small space heater, and I picked up a cheap ($15) ceramic one from Home Depot. So far I’ve been heasatent to let it run unattended or while I’m sleeping, mainly because I’ve heard stories of them being dangerous and people burning down their houses using them. Do I have anything to worry about, or should I be alright letting it run overnight? The room is carpeted, and the heater sits directly on the carpeted floor, but it does have about a 3 foot radius of empty space around it.

I would be afraid of anything blocking the air flow or anything too flammable getting close to the unit.

Because of this, I prefer the oil-filled radiator ones, since there are no exposed elements. I leave mine on unattended from time to time, more concerned with the power consumption than any risk of fire. They really aren’t that much more expensive than the ceramic ones, and the peace of mind is nice. You might consider swapping yours for this type.

(Now someone will come here and tell me that mine is the most dangerous kind…:D)

I think I have a great compromise based on both of your experiences. We let our heat go down to 65 at night, but my 2 year old son doesn’t get the concept of blankets yet, so we have a space heater in his room. It’s a ceramic convection model.

The benefits are that it is ultra quiet, it heats more consistently (we have a ceramic forced air heater as well, but it was wildly inconsistent in where it kept the temp), and is near impossible to burn yourself with. We got ours at costco, it’s a DeLonghi, and I think it was about 50 bucks.

Not to hijack the thread, but which kind is more efficient (electricity wise)? Ceramic or oil-filled radiator type?

I can’t imagine why there would be a difference in efficiency: electricity is being converted into heat, and the heat eventually must make it into the space being heated.

Usually devices suffer in efficiency because they convert some of the power into heat. Since the entire purpose of this device is to generate heat, then how could one be less efficient?

Perhaps the motor of the fan in the ceramic heater might tip the balance a little, since the oil ones use convection—no fan, but only by the tiniest amount.

The key difference I can see is how fast these devices heat up a space. A ceramic fan-driven space heater will have an almost immediate effect on the heat in a room, while an oil radiator type will take fifteen or twenty minutes before it really gets going.

I use a small space heater for spot heating in our chilly house (we keep it that way because we like it); my recommendations would be get a good quality one, one with a thermostat, and one with a shut-off for tipping over. I don’t run mine at night - I just heat myself up before going to bed, then shut it off, but you could run one with a thermostat all night. My husband bought me another cheap one for heating another room so I wouldn’t have to move mine around, but it was so cheap that it smelled like burned plastic as soon as I started running it, and I’m pretty sure that damned thing would have caught fire in short order. Moral of my story - don’t cheap out on buying a space heater. :slight_smile:

ETA: Make sure you get one with a fan to blow the heat around, not just radiate it. The heat has to move around to fill the whole room, not just heat up the small space around the heater.

ETA: I realized my location isn’t filled any longer - I live in Calgary, where it was -27ºC this morning. :slight_smile:


Perhaps the oil ones are just fine in Trenton, NJ (~0C this morning, IIRC), but just don’t have the oomph needed for Calgary!

If you’re afraid to let it run while you’re sleeping, consider a heated mattress pad. Aaaahhhh…warm bed :slight_smile:

FWIW, I had an unattended small ceramic heater catch fire in my sailboat. It wasn’t an inexpensive one, probably at least $50 (in early 1990s). Fortunately, the boat did not catch fire, nor did anything else inside, but it caused a sooty mess. I use a similar version in my house at times, but never leave it unattended. I’d also recommend an oil-filled type.

I use a ceramic with a thermostat. No issues with it sitting on a rug. Reach down and feel the floor while it is in operation, the heat is blown out above that level. It doesn’t get hot. I wouldn’t put it where anything is in the 180 plane in front of the heater or directly above it, and make sure the back is open for airflow.

The reason these are safer is the heating element is contained and nothing is incandescent. Used to have one of those old type and it used elements like toaster oven coils. Yes, they glowed red hot, and as a small tyke I almost started a fire putting something too close and getting it too hot. Melted a plastic doll. Can’t do that with the electric.

I try to turn it off when I leave home, mostly energy savings. I have no concern leaving it on all night in the bathroom. The thermostat keeps it in check.

I have used several types, for continuous unintended running, I would buy a oil filled one, this is the type that doesn’t get too hot if it messes up. The ceramic fan type and direct radiant (glowing metal) I use in the bathroom where I am there and just want heat in the morning while I shower. I would not like to leave them unattended.

Nope that is the safest type. And most of the oil filled ones also have a safety switch that will shut the heater off if tipped over.

The need for this depends on the size of the room and the bTU output of the heater. We use a convection heater (no fan) in my son’s room and it works fine. If your rooms are 500 square feet, it might not work as well.