'In the blink of an eye your property can be gone' - Fire safety warning over electric heaters

Electric heaters can pose a real risk to your home and your life if not used safely. Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Millions more households will turn to electric heaters this winter in an effort to cut energy costs, despite concerns they could pose a safety risk.

The charity, Electrical Safety First, found 42% of people will either definitely use or are considering using an electric heater to warm up a single room in their home due to concerns over the cost of central heating, an 8% increase on last year.

Of this group, 37% will be using an electric heater for the first time.

Some 90% of those surveyed said they were concerned about the cost of heating their home this winter, up from 78% last year.

A fifth (22%) of those concerned about rising energy costs have bought an electric heater in the last year, 45% of them from an online marketplace.

Electrical Safety First warned shoppers to buy heaters directly from reputable retailers.

Chief executive Lesley Rudd said: “Heating your home should never come at the expense of your own safety.

“While portable heaters can be useful to heat a small space, they can pose a real risk to your home and your life if mistakes are made when using them. With the significant number of people set to turn to these appliances this winter, it’s vital we use them safely.”

Powering a heater from an extension lead can easily cause fires, according to Electrical Safety First.

The charity is urging people not to leave electric heaters turned on unattended for long periods or overnight, never to plug them into extension leads, never to dry clothes on them and to keep them well away from fabrics to ensure they do not put themselves at risk of a fire.

The latest research was released as the charity launches a new campaign video to mark Electrical Fire Safety Week, with members of fire and rescue services recounting devastating fires they have attended caused by electric heaters.

Richard Poole, crew manager at West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, said: “In the blink of an eye your property can be gone.

“We were walking through this home that was destroyed when a plug-in heater was accidentally knocked over. Everything was black, everything was charred and smoke damaged. It’s heart-wrenching.”

West Sussex Fire Service warns your property can be gone in the blink of an eye.

Electrical Safety First’s advice on the safe use of electric heaters is:

  • Put your heater on a level surface, well away from anything or anyone that could knock it over

  • Make sure your heater is at least well away from combustible materials, such as paper, furniture or curtains

  • Never use it to dry your clothes

  • Never leave your heater unattended for long periods whilst in use, or while you are asleep

  • Never power a heater from an extension lead – they can easily be overloaded and cause fires

  • Regularly inspect your heater for damage and deterioration. If it isn’t in good condition, don’t use it

  • Make sure you buy from manufacturers or retailers that you know and trust. Avoid second-hand heaters but if you do then ask sellers what safety checks have been carried out.

  • Register your appliance and ensure you check your heater has not been recalled

  • Ensure you have a working smoke alarm on every floor in your home and test it regularly

Censuswide surveyed 3,010 UK adults between October 17-19.