Skip to Main Content


Heat smart: Using space heaters and generators safely

Dec 1, 2023 | By: Gloria Haydock, Manager, Consumer & Industry Relations, Atlantic, IBC
Heat smart: Using space heaters and generators safely

“Oh, the weather outside is frightful,” as the old song goes, but we don’t all have a “delightful” fire in our home to warm up to. Today, we’re much more likely to turn to modern conveniences such as an electric space heater to add a little extra coziness to the chillier parts of our homes and a generator when the power is completely out. While these devices may give you toasty temperatures before you can say “let it snow,” they can also present a dangerous fire hazard if used incorrectly.

Five tips to consider when using an electric space heater

  1. Be mindful of electrical safety: The safest way to use your space heater, and all your electrical devices, is by making sure that your electrical wiring is up to code and your fuses or circuit breakers work properly. If your home has aluminum wiring, have a licensed electrician periodically inspect the electrical connections.

  2. Ensure the heater is in good shape: Before plugging in your heater, give it a quick check to make sure there are no cracks, loose connections or other broken parts. If the heater doesn’t appear to be in its original condition, get it repaired or replace it.

  3. Keep it away from flammables: Set up your heater a safe distance from anything that could burn, such as fabrics, bedding, paper or furniture.

  4. Use only one cord: Using an extension cord or power strip can increase the risk of a fire hazard with a space heater, so ensure yours is plugged into the wall outlet directly. And, as with any electrical cord, never run it under a rug or carpet, or use one that is damaged or patched with tape.

  5. Keep it upright: Space heaters should always be placed on a surface where they won’t be knocked over. The heater should also never be left unattended in case a child or pet accidently bumps into it. Models that automatically shut off when tipped over are safe options.

Tips to keep in mind when using a generator

  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning: Never use a generator inside your home, garage or any enclosed space.

  • Keep your generator dry: Create a shelter, such as a tarp propped up above the generator, to protect it from wet weather and only use it on a dry surface. Never touch the generator unless your hands are dry, too.

  • Be fuel smart: Store your fuel in a can specifically designed to hold fuel and use the fuel recommended by the generator’s manufacturer. Fuel should be kept out of your home and away from fire hazards. Consult your local bylaws or fire department for specific rules on storing fuel.

  • Never top-up the generator’s fuel while it’s still hot.

  • If you must use an extension cord to connect the generator to your appliances, ensure the cord is heavy duty and outdoor-rated with a grounded three pronged plug.

Staying warm and comfortable is essential, but so is fire safety. Before heaters or generators are even needed, it’s a great idea to check on other fire-safety tools in your home such as fire extinguishers, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms to make sure everything is in working order before that frightful winter weather arrives.

Check out our winter safety resources for more seasonal tips.

About This Author

Gloria Haydock has over three decades of experience in the property and casualty insurance industry. With her extensive industry knowledge, Gloria acts as a bridge between consumers and the industry, providing information and support to the public while sharing emerging trends and issues with IBC’s executive team. She lives in Halifax.