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8 Nov 2019

10 things you should never do with an electric heater

Read about the things you should never do with your electric heater, from fire risks to energy efficiency

Winter is on its way in and it's definitely getting colder, so you might have already dug out your electric heater from storage. But there are things to bear in mind when keeping your home nice and toasty, to make sure you're using your heater safely.

In 2018/19 there were more than 1,300 fires caused by space heating appliances. That's why it's so important to make sure you're using your heater correctly and avoid any potential fire risks.

We've rounded up a list of 10 things you should never do with your electric heater - they're not all about safety, there are some tips on energy efficiency too.

Interested in buying a new electric heater for the winter? Read our Best Buy electric heater reviews here.

1. Don't plug into an extension lead

As heaters can use a lot of energy when they regulate temperature and often fluctuate in power as they turn off and on, plugging them into an extension lead might not be the safest bet. This is because the high energy levels can cause the extension lead to overheat. It's best to plug the power cord directly into the wall socket to avoid any potential electrical issues and fire risks.

2. Don't put it in reach of your kids

Depending on the type of heater you have, the elements, or heater itself, can get very, very hot. Make sure your heater is out of reach of your kids to avoid them hurting themselves.

3. Don't have your heater near your pets

Pets love warm, cosy areas and they might be attracted to sitting under, close to, or even on top of your heater. This is really dangerous and could burn your pet. Make sure your heater is far enough away from where your pets like to hang out, and try not to leave them alone with the heater on.

4. Don't forget to check it's in working order

You're likely to store your heater away during the warmer months, but make sure when you get it back out that it's working fine. Cables could have been chewed or damaged in storage - so make sure there's no exposed wires which could be dangerous or cause the device to fail. If it's a convector or fan heater, make sure it's free of dust, too.

5. Don't sit too close

A lot of radiators come with remote controls, which you can use to control it without even leaving the comfort of your sofa.

If you don't have one, don't be tempted to put your heater at arm's reach. You shouldn't sit too close to your electric heater, especially if they're fan heaters, as it can be quite uncomfortable and drying for the skin when you're directly in the hot airflow. You'll also be more prone to nodding off while the heater's still on, which could also be a safety risk. Oil-filled heaters, which radiate more evenly, are far more comfortable to sit close to.

6. Don't leave it in the way

We test every heater for its stability, checking and rating how easy it is to be knocked over. The best are super-stable and it would be really difficult for this to happen. Some also have anti-tip protection, or shut off automatically when they sense that they've fallen over or are getting too hot.

Even if you've got a heater which is sturdy, it's best to place them away from areas where they won't easily be knocked. Always place your heater on an even surface and make sure the wires are tucked away to avoid tripping.

7. Don't leave it on overnight

Leaving on your heater overnight is again a fire risk, and you should always be alert around your device in case anything goes wrong. Bedding and curtains in bedrooms can also catch fire easily if they're too close.

Oil-filled heaters are a good choice as they will continue to radiate heat once the oil is hot (although this can take quite a while), even after you've switched them off. The same rule applies, though: make sure there's a decent gap around the heater away from rugs, clothing and furniture.

8. Don't dry your washing on it

It might seem like a good idea, especially as clothes can take longer to dry in the winter months, but putting your washing to dry on top of your electric heater can be a huge fire risk. A tumble dryer, heated clothes drying rack or even a dehumidifier is a much safer option.

9. Don't use their heat for anything other than warming a room

We've spoken about not using your heater to dry washing, but that's not the only thing you shouldn't use it for. You shouldn't actually use your heater for anything other than warming a room, whether that's warming your towel before a shower, or your socks and underwear.

10. Don't use them to heat multiple rooms at once

If you're planning on heating a whole home, electric heaters aren't the most energy-efficient devices, which isn't particularly great for the environment or your wallet. That's why it's best to just use your heater to warm a particular room you're in at the time. They shouldn't be placed in every room or used as a complete alternative to central heating.

Depending on the size of your home, it may be more economical to set your central heating to low and use a portable heater in the living room, for example. This means that your living room is nice and warm as you snuggle up in front of the television, while hallways and bedrooms are maintained at a comfortable temperature.

That said, there are heaters which are more energy efficient than others, and we do calculate how energy efficient each heater is in our lab - so make sure to check out the energy-efficiency star rating in our heater reviews. You can see the Best Buy heaters that scored four out of five stars for heating energy efficiency in our tests.

Oil-filled heaters, out of all types, tend to be cheap to run. They use their energy to directly heat the oil and continue to radiate heat once hot. Although they can take longer to heat up a room.

Read our advice guide on how to buy the best electric heater to find out more about the different types and which might be best for you.