side effects of electric heater

Side Effects of Electric Heaters- The Good, Bad, and Dangerous

Most people are apprehensive of using an electric space heater because of the obvious things that could go wrong.

And most people make it a point to be extra cautious with a space heater also.

I say most, because most of us probably know somebody that’s making an unwise decision with a space heater right this minute. And I know that is true because of the insane statistics about house fires that have been caused by space heaters.


According to Safety Health and Security Associates

From 2013 to 2015 there was an estimated $45,900 heating fires and 30% of those were caused by space heaters. But electric space heaters are actually a very needed and useful appliance when you know how to use it right.

What are the side effects of an electric heater?What are the side effects of an electric heater?

Advantages of electric room heater

1.  Warmth.

The ability to keep warm is not a small thing. And some situations,  an electric space heater can be the difference between staying warm and developing some serious issues.

Staying too cold for too long can result in problems like:

a. Hypothermia

When your body gets too cold, it can lose heat faster then it can make it.
You can eventually end up with Hypothermia.

Hypothermia is defined as a potentially dangerous drop in body temperature caused by prolonged exposure to cold. It can cause shivering and fatigue, a loss of coordination and confusion. If allowed to continue, it can cause a loss of consciousness. And eventual death.

b. Frostbite

Frostbite can happen when you walk around with cold feet and cold hands all the time. Getting used to your feet being cold and your hands being cold may seem inevitable in some circumstances but it can eventually be dangerous.

c. Trench foot

Trench foot gets its name because of the soldiers and world war I that got stuck in the trenches with wet feet and no way to dry them or keep them warm.

d. Chilblains

Chilblains is a condition that can cause inflammation, blisters, and redness with itching. The cause of Chilblains is is repeat exposure to cold air.

2.  Supplemental heat

When your home has cold areas that the regular heating system just does not suffice, an electric space heater is an excellent way to supplement heat in those areas.

3.  Convenience

Another side effect of using a space heater is how easy it is to produce warm air in your room. Unlike other types of heat that require extensive ductwork and wiring, electric space heaters are ready to go right out of the box.

4.  Cheaper

Electric space heaters do not cost nearly as much to run as the central heat and air and they don’t require the typical filter changes come with HVAC s. And the price for 1 or even a few electric spaces is what’s cheaper than outfitting your home with central heat. And if you don’t need heat through the whole house, you simply run the space heater where you need to heat.

Disadvantages of a space heater

1.  Limited heat

An electric space heater will not heat an entire room with the same efficiency as a gas heater or central heat.

2.  Take longer

Electric space heaters do not heat up a room nearly as fast ducted central heat. And sometimes of electric heaters like oil heaters take even longer.

The positive side of oil heaters is they also take a longer time to cool down which means less energy to run them.

3.  Fire risk

Electric space heaters tend to get very hot. So hot that anything combustible around them is in risk of catching on fire.
The number one reason space heaters catch fire is they are too close to items that can be set ablaze easily.

4.  Power Hogs

Though it is true that running a space heater is much cheaper than Central heating and Air, that does not negate the fact that nearly 100% of all electric space heaters use 1500 watts on high.

That is also the number one reason that space heaters cause the breaker to trip faster than just about any other appliance. At 1500 w, just adding one more appliance to a circuit will trip the breaker.  And the cost of running a space heater on high will average around $7 a day depending on what state you live in.

5. Toasted Skin Syndrome

Toasted Skin Syndrome, also known medically as Erythema ab igne (EAI), is a skin condition that results from prolonged exposure to infrared radiation or heat at lower levels that are insufficient to cause immediate burns but are enough to cause long-term skin damage. This condition is commonly seen in individuals who sit too close to a space heater for extended periods, but it can also occur from using laptops, heating pads, or other heat sources directly on the skin for prolonged times.

Symptoms and Appearance:

  • Discoloration of the Skin: The affected skin may show a reticulated (net-like) pattern of redness and hyperpigmentation. Over time, these areas can become darker and may have a mottled appearance.
  • Burning Sensation and Itching: Initially, there might be mild warmth, tingling, or itching in the affected areas. As the condition progresses, these sensations can become more pronounced.
  • Texture Changes: The skin in the affected area may also undergo textural changes, becoming thicker or showing signs of mild swelling.

Long-term Effects:

  • Permanent Skin Changes: With continued exposure, the discoloration and textural changes can become permanent, and the skin might have a leathery appearance.
  • Increased Risk of Skin Damage: The affected skin may become more sensitive to heat and sunlight, increasing the risk of sunburn and further damage.
  • Potential for Skin Cancer: In rare, chronic cases, there is a risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer, in the affected areas.

Prevention and Management:

  • Maintain Safe Distance: Ensure a safe distance from space heaters and avoid direct exposure of skin to any heat source for extended periods.
  • Use Protective Barriers: If using a heat source for long periods is unavoidable, consider using a barrier such as a blanket or clothing to reduce direct heat exposure.
  • Regulate Heat Exposure: Limit the time spent near heat sources and take regular breaks to prevent prolonged exposure.
  • Seek Medical Advice: If signs of Toasted Skin Syndrome appear, it’s important to consult a dermatologist for assessment and management. Early medical intervention can help manage symptoms and prevent further skin damage.

By understanding and recognizing the symptoms of Toasted Skin Syndrome, individuals can take proactive steps to prevent the condition and protect their skin from long-term damage associated with prolonged exposure to heat sources like electric space heaters.

Safety Measures for Electric Space Heaters:

Safety Feature Description Importance Presence in Electric Space Heaters (Yes/No)
Automatic Shutoff This feature automatically turns the heater off if it overheats, significantly reducing the risk of fire. Crucial for preventing overheating and potential fire hazards. Yes
Tip-over Protection The heater will automatically shut off if it’s tipped over, whether accidentally or due to instability. Essential for preventing fires in case the heater is knocked over, especially in busy areas. Yes
Overheat Protection Sensors that detect when internal components reach unsafe temperatures and shut off the unit. Prevents the heater from reaching dangerous temperatures that could lead to fire. Yes
Cool-to-Touch Exterior The heater’s exterior remains cool during operation, reducing the risk of burns upon contact. Important for safety, especially in homes with children and pets. Yes
Thermostat Control Allows for the adjustment of heat settings to prevent excessive heat and energy use. Helps maintain a safe and comfortable temperature, reducing the risk of overheating. Yes
Timer Enables setting the heater to turn off automatically after a certain period. Prevents the heater from running unattended for extended periods, reducing fire risk. Yes
Non-glowing Elements Heating elements that do not glow red or expose open flames, reducing the risk of ignition of nearby items. Minimizes the risk of igniting nearby combustible materials. Yes
Certified Safety Standards Compliance with recognized safety standards like UL, ETL, or CSA. Ensures the heater has been tested for safety and meets specific safety benchmarks. Yes


  1. Automatic Shutoff Features: Be sure to choose space heaters with built-in safety features, such as automatic shutoff mechanisms that activate if the heater tips over or overheats. This is crucial for preventing fires and ensuring the heater does not become a hazard if left unattended.
  2. Certification and Standards Compliance: Only choose space heaters that are certified by recognized safety organizations, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL), or the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Certification ensures that the heater has been tested and meets specific safety standards.
  3. Proper Placement: Do not forget the importance of placing space heaters on a stable, level surface away from foot traffic, and at least three feet away from combustible materials like curtains, furniture, bedding, and papers. This minimizes the risk of fires and accidents.
  4. Avoid Using Extension Cords: Use extreme caution with the use of extension cords with space heaters, as they can overheat and potentially cause a fire. If an extension cord is absolutely necessary, be sure to choose a short, heavy-duty one that is rated for the heater’s power requirements.
  5. Supervision and Timers: Never leaving a space heater unattended while in operation. If the heater does not have a built-in timer, suggest using an external timer to ensure the heater turns off automatically when not needed, especially during sleep or when leaving the room.
  6. Smoke Alarms and Fire Extinguishers: Recommend installing smoke alarms in rooms where space heaters are used and checking them regularly to ensure they are working properly. Also, advise keeping a fire extinguisher readily accessible and ensuring household members know how to use it.


    There are good and bad side effects to using an electric space heater.

    The good effects include warmth. Not to be understated. Without a way to keep warm, we human beings can be in a world of hurt.

    Electric space heaters provide an excellent service by doing exactly what they are made for. Providing heat. When you stay too cold too long, many issues can arise including hypothermia, and frostbite.

    Electric heaters can also help lower the cost of the bill by supplementing the heat in your house so that you do not have to run the whole house heater the whole time. And unlike other types of indoor heat like chimneys, it is much easier and convenient to plug in a space heater than build a fire or install a whole house system.

    But of course there are some downsides to using an electric space heater.

    The number one downside is the risk of  a house fire.

    People running space heaters too close to combustible items that can ignite are the number one reason of fires caused by space heaters. Space heaters, though in comparison to using the whole house system may not appear to be, but they can be very expensive to run. The typical wattage of a space heater is 1500 watts on high which can result in your bill being as much as $7 higher per day while you’re in the season.

    And there is just no getting around the fact that electric space heaters offer limited heat compared to centralized heat and take much longer to warm a room.

Published by

Dennis Reed

Dennis Reed Owner and Author @