Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 5: Facilities, Supplies, Equipment, and Environmental Health

5.2 Quality of the Outdoor and Indoor Environment

5.2.1 Ventilation, Heating, Cooling, and Hot Water Portable Electric Space Heaters

Portable electric space heaters should:

  1. Be attended while in use and be off when unattended;
  2. Be inaccessible to children;
  3. Have protective covering to keep hands and objects away from the electric heating element;
  4. Bear the safety certification mark of a nationally recognized testing laboratory;
  5. Be placed on the floor only and at least three feet from curtains, papers, furniture, and any flammable object;
  6. Be properly vented, as required for proper functioning;
  7. Be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions;
  8. Not be used with an extension cord.

The heater cord should be inaccessible to children as well.

Portable electric space heaters are a common cause of fires and burns resulting from very hot heating elements being too close to flammable objects and people (1).
To prevent burns and potential fires, space heaters must not be accessible to children. Children can start fires by inserting flammable material near electric heating elements. Curtains, papers, and furniture must be kept away from electric space heaters to avoid potential fires. Some electric space heaters function by heating oil contained in a heat-radiating portion of the appliance. Even though the electrical heating element is inaccessible in this type of heater, the hot surfaces of the appliance can cause burns. Cords to electric space heaters should be inaccessible to the children. Heaters should not be placed on a table or desk. Children and adults can pull an active unit off or trip on the cord.

To prevent burns or potential fires, consideration must be given to the ages and activity levels of children in care and the amount of space in a room. Alternative methods of heating may be safer for children. Baseboard electric heaters are cooler than radiant portable heaters, but still hot enough to burn a child if touched.

If portable electric space heaters are used, electrical circuits must not be overloaded. Portable electric space heaters are usually plugged into a regular 120-volt electric outlet connected to a fifteen-ampere circuit breaker. A circuit breaker is an overload switch that prevents the current in a given electric circuit from exceeding the capacity of a line. Fuses perform the same function in older systems. If too many appliances are plugged into a circuit, calling for more power than the capacity of the circuit, the breaker reacts by switching off the circuit. Constantly overloaded electrical circuits can cause electrical fires. If a circuit breaker is continuously switching the electric power off, reduce the load to the circuit before manually resetting the circuit breaker (more than one outlet may be connected to a single circuit breaker). If the problem persists, stop using the circuit and consult an electrical inspector or electrical contractor.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a program that recognizes Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories. Private sector organizations are listed on their Website at

Manufacturer’s instructions should be kept on file.

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RELATED STANDARDS Barriers/Guards for Heating Equipment and Units
  1. U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). 2001. What you should know about space heaters. Washington, DC: CPSC.