Radiator Safety Guide: Keep Your Feet Warm Without Starting a Fire

Dale Smith / CNET

An inadequate central heating system can disrupt your comfort, especially during the cold winter months. Whether your whole house is losing heat too quickly, or a specific room just won’t warm up without turning the rest of the house into a sauna, a heater can be a simple fix. These small and powerful heating systems can keep your feet warm, but they can also be a danger if you buy the wrong one or use it the wrong way.

According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters are responsible for more than 25,000 home fires each year, in addition to a number of fatalities and injuries. With the risks associated with using heaters, it’s no surprise that people are reluctant to use heaters in their homes. But as long as you follow best practices, radiators aren’t inherently dangerous. Just make sure you use them with care.

Here’s what you can do to keep yourself and your home safe when using heaters.

What types of radiators are available?

There are four types of radiators:

  • Forced fan: Hot air is blown over metal coils.
  • Infrared: Infrared bulbs create heat.
  • Ceramic: The ceramic heating element heats the air.
  • Filled with water or oil: Heated water or oil is circulating through the unit.

Whatever type of heater you buy, be sure to verify that it is a recent model with an Underwriters Laboratories label. Also check the size of the room the heater is designed for, and usually use fixtures that are suitable for the room you plan to use them in.


Radiators can pose safety hazards in the home, but they can also be useful if you use them with care.


Radiator safety features to consider

When purchasing a heater, consider the following safety features:

  • Toggle switch: Stops the appliance if it is not in vertical position
  • Automatic shutdown / Overheating protection: Automatic shutdown of the device in the event of overheating
  • Thermostat: Monitors the indoor temperature, which allows the unit to determine when to turn on and off
  • Plastic face: Prevents the grill from heating up to the point of burning the skin on contact

There are additional safety features to keep in mind, especially if you plan to use the heater in certain contexts. If you have pets or children, toggle switches and non-metallic faces are important features to consider. Likewise, if you plan to use the heater without constantly monitoring it yourself, you will probably want to consider an automatic shut-off feature or a thermostat that allows you to set a certain target temperature.

Backup heater safety tips

Space heaters have caused many home fires, injuries and deaths over the years. If you plan to use a heater during the cold winter months, you need to make sure you are using it correctly to avoid potentially fatal mistakes.

To ensure your safety and the safety of your home when using a heater:

  • Review the instructions and warning labels to ensure safe operation.
  • Inspect your heater for damage.
  • Place radiators on low, level surfaces.
  • Keep away from high traffic areas or doorways.
  • Keep heaters at least 3 feet away from flammable items and objects, such as papers or curtains.
  • Avoid leaving a heater unattended, especially for long periods of time.
  • Do not connect radiators to extension cords or multiple sockets.
  • Unplug heaters when not in use.

When it’s cold outside, a heater can be the perfect way to create a warm and comfortable living space. While space heaters can be a danger, when used correctly, they are a practical and affordable option when you are looking to quickly and easily supplement your home’s central heating system.

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Susan W. Lloyd

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