While space heaters are useful around the home, if you’re concerned about EMF, you might be wondering do space heaters give off radiation? Here’s a quick answer:
Space heaters that use infrared energy (electric space heaters) do give off EMF radiation. Infrared is part of the electromagnetic spectrum and so counts as EMF radiation. Radiation exposure can be reduced by limiting how long you use your space heater.
In this article, I’ll go over how space heaters work and how this relates to EMF radiation. I’ll then look at some ways to minimize your exposure risk.
Also read: EMF Radiation from Electric Blankets
How Do Space Heaters Work?
Space heaters come in several different varieties, but all either use electric or combustible fuel to create heat.
Considering we’re talking about EMF radiation, I’ll only focus on electric heaters in this article.
An electric space heater uses an electrical current to heat nichrome wires in the heating unit.
Nichrome is useful for heating elements because the alloy is heat resistant (meaning it won’t melt) but has high resistance. This means it heats up quickly when exposed to an electrical current.
Some space heaters have a fan built in to the heating mechanism, and these are called convection heaters. Standard space heaters don’t have a fan and so just radiate heat into the surrounding air.
Whatever the mechanism for dispersing heat around the room, space heaters rely on infrared radiation. This is simply the scientific way of describing heat energy.
All objects that produce heat emit it as infrared radiation, so this isn’t unique to space heaters. But it’s important to note that the levels of infrared radiation given off by space heaters generally aren’t dangerous to the human body.
It takes a lot of infrared radiation to heat our bodies to the point that it causes injury.
What’s more, infrared radiation is much less harmful than things such as UV or x-ray radiation, but it does still have potential dangers.
The bigger dangers from space heaters are:
- The infrared radiation being warm enough to set fire to nearby objects.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning if the heater uses fuel.
That said, it can be possible for space heaters to burn the skin if you sit too close for too long.
Are Electric Space Heaters Bad for Your Health?
Electric space heaters are potentially bad for your health, but not necessarily because of the infrared radiation. The 2 biggest health impacts are the heat drying out your skin and the potential for poisoning due to fumes.
Also, you can burn yourself if you sit too close to it. Infrared radiation from space heaters is one of the least harmful kinds of radiation you’ll experience in your everyday life.
After all, these heaters are designed to warm a room rather than cook food (for example). A cooker also uses infrared radiation to heat food, but to much higher temperatures.
If you make direct contact with the heater you’ll likely burn yourself, but this is one of the biggest dangers you’ll face from an electric space heater.
Just be aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning if you have an electric heater that uses fuel (such as oil).
These are different to fuel-burning space heaters because they warm oil inside a radiator, rather than burning it for heat.
While carbon monoxide poisoning isn’t a big issue, it’s always worth using the heater in a ventilated space.
How to Minimize the Dangers of Electric Space Heaters
While infrared heaters pose almost no danger from a radiation perspective, it’s worth taking some steps to protect yourself from other risks.
The biggest dangers are burning your skin and creating a fire hazard. Here are my tips for avoiding these problems.
1. Buy a good quality space heater
The first step in avoiding space heater problems is to buy a good quality space heater.
Higher-end models usually have features like overheating protection and ceramic fans, which are good for distributing heat more evenly.
2. Keep your distance
While it might be tempting to get as close to the space heater when you’re cold, this really isn’t a good idea.
Touching it can cause burns, and sitting too close for too long can damage your skin and the shallow veins underneath.
While this isn’t particularly damaging for your long-term health, it can create dark spots on your skin, which just aren’t nice to look at.
3. Buy a space heater appropriate for the room size
This might seem obvious, but make sure your space heater is suitable for the room size.
If it’s too small, not only will it not heat the room, but it could also overheat and burn itself out.
When heating a large room, ensure you have a suitable sized space heater (Amazon link).
4. Place it on an appropriate surface
As I mentioned earlier, one of the biggest dangers with infrared space heaters is that they set fire to objects near them.
The easiest way to avoid this is to start by placing the heater on a surface above ground level. This prevents it from being kicked over.
If you want to be extra safe, place the heater on a silicone heatproof mat (Amazon link).
Also make sure there aren’t any flammable materials in its immediate area. The most common ones are:
- Paper or books
- Soft toys
- Carpets or rugs
While it’s unlikely that a heater will be on long enough to start a fire, you can never be too careful.
If your space heater has a filter, make sure you clean it regularly. A dirty filter could cause it to break down or even catch fire.
You shouldn’t leave a heater unattended, and it’s never a good idea to leave it on overnight while you sleep (unless it’s got a shutoff timer).
Some Final Thoughts
While space heaters do give off radiation, it’s only infrared. This is one of the least harmful sources of radiation and so doesn’t require much protection.
That said, I recommend taking precautions to reduce the risk of fire and burns, as these are much more common problems when using space heaters.