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Fire safety warning after people turn to electric heaters in cost of living crisis

(FILES) In this file photo taken in Dortmund, western Germany, on October 4, 2022 shows the temperature display of an electric fan heater in a flat. - Residents learn about saving energy in a context of soaring energy prices that has pushed tenants to be more concerned about their energy consumption. (Photo by Ina FASSBENDER / AFP) (Photo by INA FASSBENDER/AFP via Getty Images)
They may save you money, but can cause devastating fires if they are not used with care (Picture: AFP via Getty Images)

People may be risking their household safety in a bid to save money by using electric heaters this winter, a charity warns.

Some 4.3 million more people – an increase of 81% year-on-year – are planning on using electric heaters to say warm through the cost of living crisis.

But Electrical Safety First, as part of its annual Electrical Fire Safety Week campaign, says heaters could cause devastating fires if they are not used with care.

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.

‘We are reminding people that it is crucial you stay safe as you stay warm – if mistakes are made it could pose a risk to household safety.

‘With more heaters likely to be used this winter there is increased likelihood of misuse, so it is imperative that people are careful when using them to avoid a devastating outcome.’

Many people are ditching their central heating this year in a bid to save money, and looking at alternative methods of heating their homes (Picture: Getty Images / iStockphoto)

A survey carried out by the charity of more than 3,000 adults across the UK also found 42% of people are either definitely using or considering using an electric heater this winter.

But more than a third of these people have never done so before, prompting the safety warning.

Although using electric heaters is not inherently dangerous in itself, fire services have warned of the potentially deadly consequences of using them.

Ben Turner, safety manager at Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, said: ‘We were called to a house fire we later discovered was caused by an electrical heater.

‘Whilst tackling the fire the breathing apparatus team discovered the gentleman, still in his armchair.

How to stay safe while using an electric heater

Electrical Safety First advises:

  • 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 while 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, and don’t use it if its in poor condition
  • Make sure you buy directly from manufacturers or retailers that you know and trust
  • Avoid second-hand heaters but if you do then ask them 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

‘The fire had started by the heater being too close to the fabric of the armchair, which has ignited and engulfed it in flames. Nothing prepares you for that.’

Richard Poole, crew manager at West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service, warned: ‘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.’

People are turning to electric heaters amid overwhelming worry and concern about the cost of energy.

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

More than a fifth of people said they had purchased an electric heater in the last year, with 45% having done so from an online marketplace.

Electrical Safety First also warns shoppers to purchase directly from reputable retailers.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at

For more stories like this, check our news page.


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