Secondary Heat Sources Safety

Secondary Heating Sources Safety

Secondary heating sources like fireplaces, wood burning stoves, space heaters, or electric blankets can produce comfortable heat for smaller, more targeted areas of your home. They can be especially useful for heating rooms that tend to be cooler than the rest of your home, or for enduring the occasional chilly night. These heat sources also pose their own unique risks, and it's important to take safety precautions when using them.


While it can't heat a whole home, the fireplace can provide a comfortable and aesthetically pleasing space for a few people, even if the thermostat is turned down to a cool temperature.

Fireplaces and chimneys require regular maintenance, so conducting an annual chimney inspection and cleaning is crucial. A careful inspection can catch cracks that might leak dangerous gases into your home, and a thorough cleaning removes the buildup of creosote, a residue that can catch fire if ignited by a spark.

Other tips include:

  • Always keep the fireplace area clear of flammable materials and liquids and use a fireplace screen to prevent sparks and embers from escaping into the room.
  • Use only natural wood or artificial fireplace logs. Never burn charcoal, newspapers or trash in your fireplace.
  • Open the damper before building a fire and ensure the fire is completely extinguished before closing it again.
  • Never leave a fire unattended.

Wood-Burning Stove

Though not as popular in the modern era as fireplaces, wood-burning stoves have their own aesthetic appeal and are still used as efficient heat sources in many homes and cabins. Like fireplaces, these stoves must be connected to chimneys, which require annual inspection and cleaning.

Consider the following:

  • Make sure the wood-burning stove is installed on a fire-resistant base and is clear on all sides from any flammable materials.
  • Only burn dry natural wood or fuel designed specifically for wood stoves, such as wooden pellets.
  • Don't let fires burn unattended.

Space Heaters

When it comes to safety, space heaters have come a long way in recent years. Some older models increased the risk of house fires, particularly models operated with liquid fuel. Today's space heaters are mostly electric and often have built-in safety features that turn the heaters off if they tip over, overheat, or have been left turned on for too long.


  • Always operate heaters on a flat surface away from flammable materials and walkways.
  • Plug heaters directly into wall outlets. Do not use extension cords or power strips.
  • Dispose of a space heater if the cord or plug becomes damaged.
  • Don't operate heaters unattended or overnight.

Electric Blankets

As economical as they are cozy, electric blankets can provide comfort all night even with the heat down low.

Be sure to:

  • Examine blankets before each use for exposed or damaged wires and dispose of blankets that have any damage.
  • Avoid using blankets more than ten years old, even if they appear to still be in good shape.
  • Consider using an electric blanket to pre-heat a bed and then removing it before going to sleep to minimize fire risk.