Space Heaters

Can Portable Heaters Explode?

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Portable heaters are pretty handy, especially considering your central heating system’s cost. Small heaters such as portable heaters work great if you only want to heat a small space.

However, portable heaters have been getting a negative rep because of reports that they tend to combust. So, can portable heaters explode?

Portable heaters do not explode but can cause fires when people do not use them correctly. In that sense, they are just like any other electrical appliance that produces heat because you must ensure that you use them carefully and keep them away from flammable objects.

The bad rep that portable heaters have is often a product of misuse. However, you have to treat them like a fireplace because you have to keep the heaters away from anything that can quickly burn up and cause the entire house to go up in flames! Don’t worry. We are here to discuss portable heaters further to ensure that you use them well and safely.

Are Portable Heaters Dangerous?

When talking about anything that produces heat or something with any electrical components that can heat up, it’s normal to think that they can be dangerous, primarily when they have so much heat that they can burst into flames. This includes portable heaters, which are known to be very hot.

However, when you think about home appliances that can produce heat or have electrical components that can get hot, they may be dangerous due to misuse and overuse. For example, you wouldn’t leave an oven turned on an entire day now, would you? 

It’s the same thing with a portable heater because it won’t be dangerous unless you put it in a situation wherein it can be hazardous.

Anything can be dangerous, but a portable heater doesn’t need to be hazardous as long as you are using it correctly and following the minimum safety standards that need to be followed.

Can Portable Heaters Explode?

So, if portable heaters aren’t dangerous, why are some people believe they are unsafe? Why do portable heaters have a lousy reputation, especially regarding their safety issues?

For starters, there have been reports wherein portable heaters have caused fires or have burned some people. The Chicago Fire Department reported that a man was severely shocked by his portable heater when he tried to turn it on after getting out of the shower.

There was also a case where a family of four died when their portable gas heater emitted much harmful gas that remained unvented. In one incident, someone died when his portable heater exploded after he tried to light it.

The Chicago Fire Department said that they, at one point, saw a rise in the fires that were due to portable heaters. In most cases, the heaters that tended to cause fires were portable electric heaters.

In general, however, portable heaters are not dangerous and are not likely to explode. If portable heaters were likely to explode, they wouldn’t even be on the market due to how difficult they could be. So, why do these portable heaters explode in some cases? There are a couple of reasons why:

Yes, that is right. Portable heaters can be dangerous, cause fires, or even explode because some people misuse them. 

However, this could also spark a fire hazard if your home has wires from 40 or 50 years ago. Make sure to keep your wires up-to-date and follow the safety precautions that your portable space heater provides in their manuals.

Most Common Reasons For Fires

1. Putting Your Heater Near Flammables

Space heaters are kept close to furniture, beds, or anything that can be explosive enough when placed close to an appliance that produces a ton of heat.

It’s similar to how you shouldn’t keep something flammable to an oven or a gas range, right? Portable heaters need space and shouldn’t be kept in a corner close to your home’s other furniture and objects.

2. Improper Ventilation

Gas or kerosene portable heaters produce open flames and emit harmful gases that can be dangerous when not vented out properly.

Those who encountered exploding or flammable gas portable heaters kept them indoors. They were not vigilant enough to keep them away from anything flammable and vent out the harmful gases they emitted. That’s why it is best to use gas or kerosene portable heaters outdoors or in a spacious and open place.

3. Your Heater May Have Tipped Over

There are also cases where some families keep their portable heaters close to places with a lot of foot traffic. What happens is that some people may run into them and tip them over, which then causes them to ignite the carpet or anything flammable nearby.

In such a case, it is recommended that you keep your portable heaters in places that don’t see a lot of foot traffic. It might be best to keep them in a safe corner away from drapes, carpets, and furniture.

So, in summary, using a portable heater is all about following the proper safety procedures. You should always take reasonable precautions to potentially become dangerous enough to ignite something or explode if you are not careful.

Is It Safe To Leave A Portable Heater On Overnight?

Similarly, while it might be tempting to use a portable heater and leave it overnight during the winter season when the nights can get chilly, it might not be advisable.

It would help if you didn’t leave a portable heater overnight because you don’t want to keep it unattended for extended periods.

After all, there can be a lot of things that can happen while you are sleeping. Your portable heater might produce so much heat while sleeping that you cannot notice it getting too hot. 

In all cases, it still is better to keep your portable heater attended to by someone. That’s why it is never recommended for people to sleep while keeping their portable heaters on for the entire night.

It might be better to let the portable heater do its job before you sleep and ensure that your room is properly insulated so that the heat won’t dissipate quickly while you are asleep.

What Are The Safest Portable Heaters?

If you are looking for the best and safest portable heaters that money can buy so that you can be sure that you won’t end up with a house fire during the cold seasons of fall and winter, here are the ones you should consider:

Dyson Hot + Cool Jet Focus is one of our favorites for portable heaters because it is safe and can be used for any season, whether hot or cold.

This heater is a fan and is excellent at dispersing the heat throughout the room without any exposed heating elements.

It is almost entirely safe since it doesn’t tend to ignite flammable objects near it. Still, it is better to be safe than sorry by ensuring you keep it away from anything flammable.

Best Electric Ceramic Heater
Lasko 755320 Ceramic Space Tower Heater
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03/11/2024 08:09 pm GMT

As one of the more affordable portable heaters you can find on the market, the Lasko Ceramic Portable Heater is our favorite for those looking for a budget-level heater.

It is excellent for smaller spaces and is very easy to carry due to its small frame. It also has safety features that protect it from overheating even when used for extended periods.

You don’t have to worry about igniting something that touches this heater because it stays cool to the touch even when used at its highest settings.


Space heaters do not explode, but they can cause massive fires. It is essential to take all safety precautions to ensure your household is safe. We wish you the best of luck in your winter endeavors, and, as always, stay safe.


Hubert Miles | Licensed Home Inspector, CMI, CPI

Hubert Miles is a licensed home inspector (RBI# 2556) with more than two decades of experience in inspection and construction. Since 2008, he has been serving South Carolina through his company, Patriot Home Inspections LLC. As a Certified Master Inspector, Hubert is dedicated to providing his expertise in home inspections, repairs, maintenance, and DIY projects.