Can You Use a GFCI Outlet to Plug in a Space Heater?

Space heaters are a valuable tool for local heating, allowing you to save some cash by heating only the areas you need instead of your entire home. Especially in the winter, they’re a crucial piece of temperature-managing kit. But you may be wondering if, like other high-heat-producing gadgets, you should be plugging them into a GFCI outlet.

Space heaters should be plugged directly into wall outlets or heavy-duty extension cords that can handle the large amount of electricity they use. You can use a heater with a GFCI, but it may simply cause it to trip constantly.

Let’s look at where to plug your space heaters in the home safely, and also discusses the safety precautions to take note of and follow while using a space heater to avoid electrical shocks or fire accidents.

What is a GFCI Outlet?  

Exterior Electrical Outlet

Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter(GFCI) outlets (example on Amazon) are also known as GFIs or Ground Fault Interrupters. The primary function of a GFCI is to monitor the balance of electrical current moving through a circuit.

How it performs, this function is to cut off electricity when the power goes into where it should not like in short. GFCI is also very useful for eliminating sustained current draw when a short occurs, and this helps to prevent fatal electrical shocks.

Promote your safety and that of your loved ones by ensuring your sockets, circuits, breakers and switches are GFCI protected.

Is it Safe to Plug a Space Heater into a GFCI Outlet?

On the one hand, manufacturers advise against plugging space heaters into extension cords, surge protectors, GFCI outlets, plug timers, or basically anything that is not a basic 120v wall socket.

The reason is that they test their systems with these simple plugs, and basically don’t want you to be doing anything different than how they testing and designed the units.

That said, there’s no reason the think a GFCI will make a space heater’s use more dangerous, and in fact it’s much more reasonable to expect using a GFCI to introduce a little more safety as it can trip with tne pull of electricity becomes to much, indicating the heater has failed.

On the other hand, some people report that they simply can’t use their space heater with a GFCI because the initial surge of electricity causes a trip on the GFCI. Nothing has broken in this situation, but it can be very frustrating.

What’s the Safest Place to Plug in a Space Heater?

Space heaters consume a large amount of electricity and, as such, need to be plugged safely when it’s in use to avoid exposing your home to unnecessary danger. As a rule, space heaters should be plugged directly into a wall outlet.

This is because wall outlets have strong power cords that can withstand the strain of transmitting large volumes of electric current that space heaters need. This makes the wall outlet the safest place to plug a space heater.

If you do not have a choice and the nearest wall outlet is still quite far from your heater, your only option would be to use an extension cord. However, you should use a heavy-duty extension cord like this one (on Amazon) with durable and thick cables. They can transmit large amounts of electrical current without overheating.

Space Heater Safety Tips You Should Know

Woman plug in modern electric fan heater indoors

Modern-day space heaters have several safety features that have been built into them to ensure the safety of their users. However, regardless of the safety features in place, improper use of space heaters can cause fire accidents.

Therefore, one is advised to use it carefully and follow safety precautions. The following safety tips are essential, and as such, you should know them and have them at your fingertips if you are looking to buy a space heater;

  • Use the space heater in a dry location as moisture can damage it.
  • Do not keep space heaters close to anything that can burn or ignite, such as furniture, curtains, blankets, or paper products. At least keep flammable and combustible items 3 feet away from the space heaters.
  • Ensure you don’t overload the outlet. For example, plug only one heat-producing appliance like a space heater in the outlet at a time, and make sure you don’t plug other devices into the outlet.
  • Plug portable heaters into outlets directly and not into a power strip or extension cord.
  • Before you make use of an existing heater, you must check the heater for damages. For example, check the cords if they are frayed or stiff. Also, check if the heater is cracked or dented and should be replaced.
  • Do not run the cord under a carpet or rug on any occasion, as this can trap heat from the cord and increase the fire risk.
  • If possible, use a GFCI, or AFCI protected instead of the general-purpose outlet to reduce the risk of fire or electrocution.
  • Ensure the heater is located on a level surface away from foot traffic.
  • Have smoke detectors in the house that are working and properly installed.
  • If you must use an extension cord, you must use the shortest possible heavy-duty type.