The Hidden Danger of Portable Heaters and Extension Cords or Power Bars

The Hidden Danger of Portable Heaters and Extension Cords or Power Bars

As the temperatures drop and winter approaches, many of us turn to portable plug-in heaters to keep our homes warm and cozy. While these heaters are a convenient way to supplement your central heating system, they come with a hidden danger that often goes overlooked: the use of extension cords or power bars.

Understanding the Fire Risk

Portable plug-in heaters are designed to generate heat, and they draw a considerable amount of electrical power to do so. When used improperly, especially with extension cords or power bars, the risk of fire increases significantly. 

Here's Why

Overloading Circuits

Extension cords and power bars are typically designed for low-power devices like lamps and chargers. Plugging a high-wattage heater into one of these can overload the circuit, causing overheating and potential fire hazards.

Melting and Fraying

Extension cords and power bars can degrade over time due to wear and tear. When exposed to high temperatures generated by heaters, they can melt or fray, exposing wires and increasing the risk of sparks and fires.

Poor Connections

The junctions between the plug, extension cord, and power bar are potential weak points. Loose or damaged connections can generate heat and sparks, which may ignite nearby combustibles.

Blocked Vents

Portable heaters have built-in safety features like overheat protection and tip-over switches. When obstructed by extension cords or power bars, these features may not work as intended, increasing the risk of fire.

Safety Tips for Using Portable Heaters

To stay warm and safe this winter, follow these guidelines when using portable plug-in heaters:

Read the Manual

Always read and follow the manufacturer's instructions for your heater. This includes guidance on proper usage, clearances, and electrical requirements.

Direct Plug-In

Whenever possible, plug your portable heater directly into a wall outlet. Avoid using extension cords or power bars.

Use Appropriate Extension Cords

If you must use an extension cord, choose one that is specifically designed for high-wattage appliances. Look for a heavy-duty cord with a sufficient amperage rating.

Inspect Cords and Outlets

Regularly inspect extension cords, power bars, and outlets for signs of wear, damage, or overheating. Replace any damaged components immediately.

Keep Clearances

Ensure that your heater has adequate clearance from combustible materials like curtains, furniture, and bedding. Follow the manufacturer's recommended clearances.

Don't Overload Circuits

Avoid plugging multiple high-wattage devices into the same circuit. Distribute them across different outlets to prevent overloading.

Unplug When Not in Use

When you're done using the heater, unplug it from the wall to eliminate any potential hazards.

Install Smoke Alarms and Fire Extinguishers

Make sure your home is equipped with working smoke alarms and fire extinguishers in case of emergencies.


Portable plug-in heaters can be a valuable addition to your home during the colder months, but their use comes with a serious fire risk if not handled properly. Extension cords and power bars should never be used as a permanent solution for powering these heaters. By following the manufacturer's guidelines, using appropriate extension cords when necessary, and taking precautions to ensure safety, you can enjoy a warm and cozy winter without putting your home at risk of fire. Prioritizing safety is the key to a worry-free heating season.