Please take extra care with portable heaters

Mon 10 Nov, 2014

People are playing with fire in their efforts to find cheaper heating options this winter, research by the charity Electrical Safety First has revealed. It says many are unaware of the dangers that the alternatives can pose. 

With concerns about rising energy prices forcing people to use portable heaters to warm their homes, it is joining forces with Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service to warn of the risks associated with these items as part of Electrical Fire Safety Week, which starts today (Monday 10 November). 

A survey carried out last month found that more than three-quarters of people were worried about the rising costs of energy bills, and more than half would use portable heaters as an alternative to keep warm this winter. 

It was also revealed that many could be putting themselves and their loved ones at risk by using the heaters incorrectly. About two in five people said they would leave a heater switched on and unattended, and one in five would leave one switched on overnight. 

Portable heaters have caused 73 deaths, around 1,000 injuries and more than 3,800 fires in the UK in the past five years. Elderly people are particularly vulnerable, with the over-80s making up nearly 40 per cent of the fatalities caused by portable-heater fires last year.

Emma Apter, from Electrical Safety First, said: “We welcome portable heaters as a low-cost option at a time when energy costs are spiralling. However, it is vital that the dangers associated with these items are understood.”

Neil Boustred, head of Buckinghamshire Fire & Rescue Service’s community safety team, said: “With winter approaching, people will be considering the costs of heating their homes and many will be seeking cheaper alternatives. Please take care and follow this simple safety advice.”

  • Never leave portable heaters unattended.
  • Never leave them on when sleeping.
  • Ensure that they are positioned well away from anything which could knock them over.
  • Ensure they are at least a metre away from any combustible materials, such as paper or curtains.
  • Never buy second-hand halogen heaters.
  • Never power a halogen heater from an extension lead – these can easily be overloaded and cause fires.
  • Regularly inspect your heater for damage. If it’s damaged, don’t use it.

Electrical Safety First is a charity dedicated to reducing deaths, injury and damage caused by electricity. For more information, please visit