Space Heaters

Space Heater Guidance and Safety for NPS


The following guidance is for Naval Postgraduate School personnel. If you are from another command, please seek guidance from your command safety office.


Portable space heaters are devices employed to heat a small, partially enclosed area. The majority of space heaters are powered by electricity and are used when individuals are unsatisfied with the building’s heating system. Unfortunately, space heaters are highly inefficient and pose a serious fire hazard in the workplace when not used properly.

Proper Use of Heaters:

Using a portable space heater properly requires careful placement and monitoring:

  • Space heaters should be kept away from water and wet environments to avoid electrical shock.
  • If an electric space heater is used in an area with running water, like a kitchen or bathroom, make sure to plug the device into an outlet with a ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) to protect against electrical shock.
  • Space heaters must be kept at least three feet away from any combustible items, such as paper, furniture, draperies, etc.
  • Make sure to only plug one space heater into an individual electrical circuit. The use of multiple heaters could overload the electrical circuit and cause injury or property damage.
  • Space heaters can be dangerous if too many appliances are plugged into an outlet, causing the circuit breaker to trip. The amount of power needed for space heaters is often far greater than typical appliances and this can strain an electrical system.
  • Space heaters should also not be used if they have missing or broken parts, such as knobs, grills, or stands.
  • Inspect the power cord and base of a space heater before using it to make sure the cord is in good, serviceable condition and is not pinched, worn, frayed, or missing the ground prong.
  • Always make sure to turn off your space heater every time you leave your workspace; it should never be left on while unattended. (ie. do not leave them on when you leave your office or academic space to heat the room in your absence!) - and unplug when you leave for the day!
  • Spot checks will be conducted to ensure that they are in compliance.  

Heater Requirements:

When choosing a portable space heater to use in the workplace, there are a few requirements that must be considered:

  • Space heaters must be approved by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL), such as Underwriters Laboratory, Inc. (UL) or ETL. Those not approved, should not be used.
  • Space heaters must have an automatic safety switch (tip-over switch) that turns the unit off if it is tipped over.
  • Space heaters must have a thermostatic control which ensures that the unit will turn itself off and prevent overheating or creating an electrical hazard. 
  • Space Heaters built in thermostats and cannot be capable of reaching more than 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Space Heaters must be Energy Star® or a FEMP recommended products


Although space heaters appear to be harmless to some, many hazards can still exist no matter where they are used. In 2005-2009, space heaters caused 32% of home heating fires or structural fires and resulted in thousands of injuries as well as deaths. The most serious hazards associated with space heaters are fire hazards. The majority of space heater fires are caused when combustibles (e.g. paper, clothing, and curtains) are placed too close or come in contact with the heater causing them to catch fire. Portable electric space heaters have a higher risk of fire than fixed electric heating devices.

Acquiring Space Heaters at NPS:

If a Department or School is requisitioning Space Heaters for their employees, then the heaters must be labeled with the commodity code “SAFETY” in KFS, or ERP so the NPS Safety Office may review/approve the heaters prior to purchase to assure they meet standards.   

GSA Advantage has many space heaters available and it is recommended that one purchased through there (and not on Amazon!).  A GSA Search of the following will return hundreds of results: “space heater UL ETL” 

After the heaters arrive, you may contact the NPS Safety Office at and request that we inspect the space where the heaters are intended to be used and we would be happy to provide guidance on proper use but this is not a requirement.


**Because of the hazards and inefficiencies of space heaters, the preferred course of action is to make adjustments to the central heating for the area. Before acquiring a space heater, please submit a submit a trouble ticket to NAVFAC accounts email include the following information listed below:

  1. Name

  2. Phone number

  3. Email address

  4. Building No. or Facility

  5. Room No. or Work Location

  6. Work Description (for example: “Need adjustment to central heating’)


Space Heater Side



Fast Facts:

Estimated Damages Caused by Space Heaters (in the home) during 2005-2009:
32% of home heating fires

  • 79% of space heater fires associated with civilian deaths
  • 66% of space heater fires associated with civilian injuries
  • 52% of space heater fires associated with direct property damage

*Source: National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Journal report, “Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment” by John R. Hall, Jr., January/February, 2012.