space heater while you sleep

What Heaters are Safe to Leave Unattended Overnight?

Easily one of the most important questions you can ask about a space heater is whether or not it is safe to be left on all night while you’re sleeping?

Safety is and should be one of the main features you search for in a space heater.

Especially when it comes to needing a space heater to warm up a room that will be unattended.

It’s a touchy subject. And no one wants to suggest a product or a way of using a heater that causes a fire and God forbid an accident of death.

And you’re not going to find a manufacturer that doesn’t tell you to “never leave a space heater unattended”. That’s just asking for a lawsuit.

However impractical,

When you’re talking about leaving a space heater on while you sleep,

You’re going to cross a line. So make sure you do it gently.

There are certainly some types of heaters that lend themselves to keeping a room warm with less worry than others.

For instance, an oil heater doesn’t get nearly as hot to the touch as say a ceramic heater. And it is encased in steel whereas most space heaters are made out of plastic these days.

But if you are wanting to use a room and need it warm, you will have to turn the oil heater on a while before you use it.

Because oil heaters do take a while to heat up a room. And unless they are on a dedicated circuit, they tend to auto shut off pretty fast if you turn them on high.

Which all pretty much adds up to leaving the heater unattended while the area warms up.

It’s a built-in problem because no one  is going to sit in a freezing room waiting on an oil heater to make a difference in a room.

And let’s face it, sleeping is practically the same thing as ” left unattended” for most people.

Most any type of “electric” space heater will be safe provided it has the proper safety protection features installed. 
  I say electric because fuel type room heaters that use propane or kerosene are not meant to be used in a closed off space. 
 The risk of carbon dioxide poisoning comes with burning fuels.
 Leave those for the shop and garage.


Perhaps a better question than:

 ” What type of heater is safer?”

 is instead

 “What heaters provide the best safety features?

Space heaters have improved remarkably since I was a kid.

I remember having a steel contraption that glowed orange and buzzed loudly sitting on my carpeted bedroom floor. You didn’t want to touch it either. It was super hot.

It was a different time with a whole different mentality towards safety.

(But I’m glad I was a kid then instead of now).

The safest heaters that you can get away with sleeping with them on, are going to be the ones that have the better safety features.

What types of safety features should you look for in a heater?


1. Long Enough Cord
2. Tip over protection
3. Cool to the touch
4. Thermostat/Auto Shut-Off
5. Timer
6. Thermostat

1. Long Enough Cord

  One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to space heaters is that they call for being centered in a room away from anything that could possibly be a fire hazard.

  But the cord that they come with is usually so short that you have to have the cord stretched through the air to come anywhere close to long enough to get centered on the floor.

That makes the cord on a heater a major tripping hazard that can easily lead to Knocking your heater over.

Getting a heater with a long enough cord is definitely a must for using a space heater safely.

2. Tip over protection

A pretty standard safety precaution that comes on nearly all space heaters these days is tip over protection.

This is a safety feature that turns the heater off as soon as it tilts.

This keeps the heater from starting a fire on the floor or even burning it.

And as we discussed before, the cord on a heater can easily become a tripping hazard because of its length.

Tip over protection is put in place for just this type of problem.

3.  Cool to the touch

Modern space heaters are much cooler if you happen to touch one then they used to be.

  A space heater that doesn’t burn you when you touch it is a feature that no one should do without.

And certainly an added protection if you decide to run your space heater while you are sleeping.

4. Thermostat / Auto Shut-Off

A thermostat and auto shut off go hand in hand. Without them your heater would just continue to heat.

Auto shut off keeps from overloading the breaker as well.

Both of these features are a requirement if you are going to leave the space heater unattended for any length of time.

5. Timer

A timer is a great protection feature that will allow you to run the heater for a period of time and shut down.

Some timers offer a scheduling feature that will periodically turn the machine on and off during the night.

Though “smart heaters” are not be as available as say a smart air purifier or humidifier, smart plugs offer the capability of scheduling when a certain outlets are powered.

unattended space heater overnightOther precautions

Easily one of the most prevalent and dangerous things you can do with a space heater is to drape something over it like clothing.

Using an electric space heater to dry clothing is asking for a fire accident.

The best rule of thumb is to keep the heater at least 3 ft away from anything considered the least bit flammable.

As over dramatic as it may seem, this would include things like curtains, coats, especially boxes, fake plants, etc.

  Even sitting a heater on carpet is a scary proposition. A much safer option is the place it on a large cookie sheet.

To keep it away from anything remotely flammable is the ideal.

Leaving a space heater unattended sitting on a desk is a recipe for an accident.


A space heater you can leave on while you sleep is not an easy thing to shop for.

No one wants to be responsible for a fire. Nor does anyone want to be on the butt end of a lawsuit.

So using a room heater while you sleep is a personal choice. But one you can make some good decisions about if you absolutely need to.

First, the safest heaters come pre-installed with the best safety features including: auto shut off, tip over protection, cool to the touch, and a long cord that doesn’t have to be stretched through the air.

Other precautions include never draping anything over a space heater. Never using a space heater to dry clothes, and keeping a space heater at least three feet away from anything combustible.

And if you have to place it on the carpet floor, use a buffer like a large cookie sheet between the heater and the carpet.

The point being, take the utmost of precautions if you are in a situation where you need to have a space heater running while you sleep.

Published by

Dennis Reed

Dennis Reed Owner and Author @