Last reviewed 27 October 2020

London Fire Brigade is urging people to take extra care with portable heaters in advance of what is likely to be a winter of homeworking for many.

The Brigade recently warned that in the last five years, portable heaters have caused over 700 fires and injured more than 140 people.

As a result, fire chiefs are concerned about a possible spike in fires as people turn to cheaper ways to heat their homes, without properly considering the fire risks.

With many British workers preparing to work from home this winter and into the New Year, it’s likely that the heating will be on for longer (some estimates indicate the average household energy bill could climb by £107 this winter for those working from home five days a week).

Portable heaters are often used as an alternative to turning on the heating while working in just one room, but they can cause devastating fires.

Already, fires in London involving heaters are showing significant increases compared to the same period last year.

Managers may wish to share with staff the following firefighters’ tips for using portable heaters safely:

  • Make sure heaters are well maintained and in good working order.

  • Check that your heater isn't on a recall list — there have been many fires in the past year due to heaters that have been recalled.

  • Never install, repair or service appliances yourself. Make sure anyone who does is a registered professional.

  • Don't take risks with old heaters — if it's sparking, wires are loose or if it’s showing signs of damage, replace it with a new one or get it tested and repaired by a qualified electrician.

  • Keep heaters well away from clothes, curtains and furniture and never use them for drying clothes.

  • Always sit at least one metre away from a heater as it could set light to your clothes or chair.

  • Before attempting to move your heater, turn it off and allow it to cool first.

  • Gas heater cylinders should be changed in the open air — if you have to change them indoors, make sure all rooms are ventilated and open the windows and doors.

  • Never store cylinders in basements, under stairs or on balconies and get empty cylinders collected regularly.