Every year the temperatures drop, and homeowners look for simple ways to reduce their monthly heating bills. With an aisle full of space heaters at your favorite big box store, it’s only natural to give them a minute or two of your attention. Should you invest in one?

Overall, space heaters are safe to use and must meet certain consumer safety standards before they ever make it to market. Where safety factors come into play is when they aren’t used properly or in a safe manner.

What You Don’t Know About Space Heater May Hurt YouSince 2009, space heaters were responsible for 40 percent of home heating fires. Top causes of space heater fires are:

  • Operating a space heater too close to flammable items
  • Leaving the room when a space heater is running
  • Operating a fuel-burning space heater with a dirty chimney

To reduce the risk of danger, always follow the guidelines below:

Keep the surrounding areas around your space heater clear at all times. Ensure a three foot radius is free and clear from flammable items, such as curtains, blankets, papers, toys, and other materials.

Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Both kids and pets can accidentally tip over a space heater or receive burns from getting too close. Be sure to stick with the three foot radius zone around your space heater at all times.

Never leave a space heater running if you aren’t in the room. If it’s in operation, be sure to have adult supervision at all times. This is especially true if you leave your home to run an errand, or at night while you are sleeping.

Always plug the space heater into the wall socket. Don’t use an extension cord to operate. Be sure to check cords and plugs for fraying and discontinue use if you have any questions.

Update your space heater regularly. Like any appliance with technology, space heaters offer upgrades and safety features with every new year. New models have safety features such as automatic shutoffs when the unit is tipped or flipped over.

Use the appropriate fuels. If you use an oil-filled space heater, be sure to fill it with the type and/or grade of fuel recommended by the manufacturer. If you smell gas, do not light your space heater. Open doors and windows to ventilate the room.

In general, space heaters are not as energy efficient as an HVAC system. But if you are spending time in one location and only need heat in a small area for an extended period, it might help you maintain your desired temperature without heating the rest of the house. If you are using a space heater to compensate for cold spots throughout your home, it might be time to have a professional evaluate your HVAC system.