As we all know, space heaters can be a great solution to keep our rooms warm and cozy during the colder months. However, like any appliance, they can break down over time, leaving us in need of finding the cause and solution.

In this section, we’ll discuss the common reasons why space heaters break down and how to maintain them for optimal performance.

One common reason for a space heater to stop working is a malfunctioning heating element. The heating element is responsible for generating heat by converting electrical energy into thermal energy.

Over time, the heating element can wear down or become damaged, preventing it from effectively producing warmth. To prevent this issue, ensure that the space heater is used in a clean environment free from excessive dust or debris, which can accumulate on the heating element and cause it to degrade.

Another reason a space heater may break down is due to issues with the internal components, such as fans or switches. These parts can wear down over time or become damaged, leading to overheating or the inability to properly regulate temperature.

To keep these components in good working order, it’s important to perform regular maintenance, such as cleaning the heater’s vents and checking for any loose or damaged parts.

In addition to the heating element and internal components, electrical issues can also lead to space heater breakdowns. For example, using a space heater with an extension cord or power strip can cause the cord to overheat and potentially lead to a fire or damage the space heater itself.

To avoid these issues, always plug your space heater directly into a wall outlet, and be aware of any signs of electrical problems, such as flickering lights or tripped circuit breakers.

Finally, proper maintenance is essential for keeping our space heaters in good working condition. This includes cleaning the heater’s filter regularly, ensuring adequate airflow around the appliance, and inspecting its electrical components for any signs of wear or damage.

Causes of Space Heater Breakdown


One common cause of space heater breakdown is overheating. When a space heater is used for an extended period, it generates a lot of heat, and if the internal components are not functioning correctly or if there is insufficient airflow, the unit may overheat. This can lead to a variety of issues, including damage to the heater’s elements or even a potential fire hazard.

To avoid overheating, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for usage, such as not running the heater continuously and ensuring there is adequate ventilation.

It’s also essential to keep the space heater clean, as dirt or debris buildup could obstruct airflow and cause overheating. Regular maintenance and inspection of your space heater can help identify potential issues and prolong the life of the unit.

Electrical Issues

Another frequent cause of space heater breakdown is related to electrical problems. As space heaters require a significant amount of electricity to operate, they often need a dedicated circuit to avoid overloading other electrical devices. For instance, if your heater is drawing too much current for the circuit it is connected to, it may trip the circuit breaker, cutting off the power supply to the heater and other appliances on the same circuit.

Using an extension cord with a space heater can also create potential safety hazards and cause electrical issues. Extension cords may not be able to handle the high wattage demands of a space heater, which can degrade the cord and cause it to overheat. This might result in damage to the heater itself and pose a fire risk. To minimize these risks, we recommend plugging space heaters directly into wall outlets and avoiding the use of extension cords.

Additionally, older circuit breakers may be weak and prone to tripping even when the current draw is within acceptable limits. In such cases, it may be necessary to replace the circuit breaker to prevent frequent trips and ensure the safe operation of your space heater.

Implications of Broken Space Heaters

Risk of Fires

When space heaters malfunction or break, one of the primary concerns is the increased risk of fires. A common cause of such fires is when the heater’s high power demand leads to short-circuits or overheating of extension cords or power strips. To mitigate this risk, we always recommend plugging the space heater directly into a wall outlet that can handle the higher wattage required by the heater 1.

It’s not uncommon for residential fires to be associated with the use of space heaters. In fact, around 25,000 residential fires are reported each year due to space heaters, causing more than 300 deaths and 6,000 injuries2. To stay safe and avoid fire hazards, we should always maintain our space heaters in good working condition and never leave them unattended.

Health Hazards

Beside the risk of fires, broken or malfunctioning space heaters can also pose other health issues. When a space heater that uses gas or oil runs too long without proper ventilation, it can lead to carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning3. CO is an odorless, colorless gas that can quickly build up to hazardous levels in an enclosed space, causing symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and in extreme cases, even death.

To avoid CO poisoning, we should follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure gas or oil-powered space heaters are properly vented to the outside.
  • Set a timer or use a heater with a built-in thermostat to turn off the device when the room reaches a specific temperature3.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors in our homes and check them regularly to ensure they are functioning correctly4.

Additionally, any malfunctioning heating system can cause poor circulation of warm air, which can lead to overall discomfort and health issues related to cold temperatures, such as hypothermia. If we suspect that our heating system is not functioning correctly, it’s essential to address the issue promptly, whether it’s due to a damaged fan, debris buildup, or a tripped circuit breaker5.

By being aware of the potential hazards associated with broken space heaters and taking the appropriate precautions, we can keep our homes warm and safe during the cold winter months.

Financing Your Space Heater: Understanding the importance of maintaining a warm and comfortable environment, especially during colder months, some might be considering investing in a new space heater or upgrading their existing one. However, the upfront cost of a high-quality space heater can be a barrier for some. To address this, several retailers and manufacturers offer financing options, allowing you to purchase a space heater and pay for it in manageable installments over time.

This makes it easier to invest in a reliable and efficient model without straining your budget. Before opting for financing, always ensure you understand the terms, interest rates, and any potential fees associated with the plan.


  1. Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Plug Space Heaters Into Power Strips
  2. Safety Tips for Using a Space Heater – The New York Times
  3. 7 Common Space Heater Hazards You Can Easily Avoid 2
  4. Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention Tips – CDC
  5. What To Do If Your Heating System Breaks in Winter

Space Heater and Household Items

Flammable Material

When using space heaters, it’s important for us to be aware of common household items that can be dangerous when placed too close to the heater. Items such as carpets, furniture, bedding, clothing, and curtains are all flammable materials that can catch fire quickly if exposed to high heat. It’s crucial that we keep these materials at least three feet away from the space heater to prevent any fires from starting (source).

If we have children or pets in the house, it’s also important to keep an eye on them and make sure they don’t accidentally knock anything flammable onto the heater. Regular cleaning of our space heaters will also help prevent any buildup of dust or debris, which can also be flammable.

Extension Cords

Another important safety tip we should follow is to avoid using extension cords with our space heaters. Space heaters often draw a significant amount of power, which can be too much for the average extension cord to handle. Overloaded extension cords can become hot and start a fire.

If possible, it’s best that we plug our space heaters directly into a wall outlet. If we absolutely must use an extension cord, we should make sure it’s a heavy-duty one, rated for use with high-wattage appliances (source).

Home Appliances

Space heaters, while effective at providing supplemental warmth in our homes, are not meant to be used with other home appliances. We should never use space heaters to warm linens, cook food, or dry clothing.

These actions can lead to overheating and eventual malfunction of the space heater, posing a risk of fire or injury (source).

Safety Tips With Space Heaters

Proper Use and Placement

We understand the importance of using space heaters safely, especially around pets and in different rooms of the house. To ensure the safety of your furry friends, it’s essential to follow a few simple guidelines. Always keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything flammable, including pet beds, furniture, and curtains. This will help reduce the risk of fire and ensure your pets are safe around the heater.

In addition, avoid using a space heater in the kitchen or near any water source to prevent the risk of electrical shock. Always ensure you plug your space heater directly into a wall outlet, avoiding extension cords or power strips, as they may not be able to handle the heater’s high power demand.

Some heaters come with an auto shut-off feature for added safety. We recommend looking for this feature when purchasing a heater, as it can help prevent overheating and potential fire hazards.

Heater Certification

When it comes to selecting a space heater, certification by reputable organizations such as Intertek and Underwriters Laboratories (UL) can provide peace of mind. These certifications indicate that the heater has been tested and meets specific safety standards set by the respective organizations.

Handling Heater Emergencies

When winter arrives, we all depend on our space heaters to keep us warm and comfortable. However, sometimes things can go wrong, and it’s crucial to know how to handle heater emergencies to ensure our safety.

If you notice any cracks or damage to your space heater, immediate action is necessary. The first thing we recommend is turning off the heater and unplugging it from the power source. Cracks can be a warning sign that the heater might malfunction or even cause a fire.

Always exercise caution in these situations and consult the heater’s manual before attempting any repairs or replacements.

In the case of a heater that starts to emit an unusual smell or produce smoke, we should turn it off and unplug it as soon as possible. This is a clear indication that something is not right, and ignoring it could lead to a dangerous situation. While it may be tempting to investigate the issue ourselves, we should always seek assistance from a professional to identify and resolve the problem safely.

As a precaution, we should always have an emergency plan in place, especially during the winter months when we heavily rely on our space heaters. Make sure everyone in your home knows where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it. It’s also a good idea to have a working smoke detector nearby and test it regularly.

To avoid most heater emergencies, be sure to:

  • Keep a safe distance between the heater and any combustible materials (at least three feet)
  • Use a heater with a safety shut-off feature
  • Avoid using extension cords with space heaters
  • Regularly inspect your heater for problems
  • Keep the heater on a flat, stable surface
  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my space heater keep tripping the breaker?

When your space heater trips the breaker, it’s often due to the high power demand that exceeds the capacity of the electrical circuit. This can happen if other appliances are also connected to the same circuit. To prevent this, try connecting the space heater to a different circuit or removing other high-powered appliances from the same circuit.

Can space heaters cause fires and how often?

Space heaters can cause fires if not used properly. The leading cause of space heater fires is placing them too close to flammable materials. According to fire experts, it is crucial to keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything flammable. Ensuring proper use and following safety guidelines can significantly reduce the risk of fires.

How do I fix electrical issues caused by a space heater?

First, unplug the space heater and check the surrounding area for any damage or signs of burning. If you notice any issues, it’s best to consult a professional electrician. In some cases, resetting the breaker or replacing a blown fuse might be the solution. But if the issues persist, it’s important to contact a qualified electrician to diagnose and resolve the problem.

Do space heaters require a dedicated circuit?

Although not always necessary, it’s recommended to plug a high-wattage space heater into a dedicated circuit. This can prevent overloading the circuit, tripping breakers, and potential fire hazards. Always check the manufacturer’s guidelines for the specific space heater model to ensure safe operation.

What should I do if a space heater stops working?

If your space heater stops working, there could be a few potential issues. First, check if the thermostat is set correctly and ensure the heater is plugged in properly. If the problem persists, it could be due to a broken heating element or other internal issues. In such cases, refer to the owner’s manual for troubleshooting steps. If you’re unable to resolve the issue, it may be wise to consult a professional technician or consider replacing the heater.

Is a low-wattage space heater safer to use?

Low-wattage space heaters generally draw less power, resulting in a lower risk of overloading circuits and tripping breakers. However, safety also depends on proper use and maintenance. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and adhere to safety tips, such as keeping the heater away from flammable materials and avoiding the use of extension cords, regardless of the wattage.