Should You Allow Space Heaters at Work?

Just like the office thermostat war in the summer, the same battle may occur over the thermostat in the winter. Uneven temperatures throughout your office may prompt your employees to consider using a space heater at work. This can raise questions about safety, costs, and efficiency on your current HVAC system. Here are the things you should consider before allowing space heaters at work.

Are Space Heaters Safe?

Space heaters in officeWhen used correctly, space heaters are safe to use at work. However, if anyone doesn’t use them correctly, this could cause many issues. Make sure you issue clear guidelines for space heater use and all space heaters need approval before being used by employees. We recommend that all approved units must be listed or labeled by nationally recognized testing laboratories. Such facilities include Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) or Intertek (ETL).

Employees should make sure there is a 36-inch perimeter of clearance around all space heaters, in addition, only use in areas free of flammable liquids or combustible materials. Heaters must not impede traffic areas and make sure to contain chords so they are not a tripping hazard. Do not plug a space heater into an extension cord or power strip. By plugging the heater into the wall directly, you can avoid overheating.

Lastly, do not leave space heaters unattended. Turn off the space heater when you leave the room and unplug it at the end of everyday. By doing these tasks you can avoid fires and other hazards.

Are Space Heaters Cost Effective?

The short answer is, it depends. According to the U.S. Department of Energy space heaters are 43% less efficient than your HVAC heating system. Comparatively, estimates have one space heater using as much electricity as 20 fluorescent light fixtures with two lamps, making them relatively expensive to operate. This also begs the question, if your employees need space heaters, what is the efficiency of your HVAC system? Do you have preventative maintenance on your system regularly? If the answer is yes and you are still considering space heaters here are a few things to consider without blowing up your costs.

The location is everything. If you use the heater in an area too close to the thermostat, it will negatively affect the temperature in the entire space. Because of that, the HVAC unit may not turn on when it should, consequently causing the system to malfunction. Staff will then turn up the thermostat, the room will quickly become too warm, then staff will turn it down, starting the cycle over again. Avoid this roller coaster ride and never place space heaters near the wall where the thermostat is.

Yes or No?

So, should you allow space heaters at work? Yes, if it makes sense for your office layout, costs and doesn’t hurt your current HVAC system. Practicing safety and having guidelines in place may help reduce the risk of fire or injury to your property and employees. Want to learn how your company can save money this winter, and avoid using space heaters? The Severn Group will evaluate your HVAC system for any flaws, perform maintenance and tune up. Our team will make sure your staff is comfortable all year long.