Key takeways

  • Homeowners insurance typically covers damage to and caused by space heaters, but claims will likely be denied if the space heater is the primary heating source.
  • Home insurance rates may be affected by the type of heating equipment used in a home.
  • Fire safety features such as sprinklers, fire alarms and fire extinguishers can potentially earn homeowners discounts on insurance premiums.
  • Taking safety measures when using space heaters can help to prevent fires and save money on insurance claims.

Space heaters can be an inexpensive solution for cold and drafty spaces, especially in the winter. However, most home insurance providers have insurance requirements for heating. It is crucial to understand if and how your homeowners policy covers damage to — and caused by — space heaters due to the inherent fire risk space heaters pose.

Does homeowners insurance cover space heaters?

As a homeowner, it’s important to be mindful of what your homeowners insurance policy does or does not cover so you may be better prepared in the event of a catastrophe. A typical home insurance policy includes three types of coverage, among others:

Fire is a standard covered peril under most homeowners insurance policies. Therefore, a space heater itself and damage caused by a space heater are likely covered up to your policy limits.

There is one significant exception all homeowners should be aware of, though. From the perspective of many insurers, alternative heating sources cannot be the primary heating source of a home. Fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are not efficient enough to safely heat an entire modern home. Using them as such is more likely to cause a fire.

When you file a claim, your homeowners insurance company will investigate the circumstances that caused the fire. If your insurance policy has exclusions or limitations involving primary and secondary heating sources, any claim where the space heater is the primary heating source could be denied. Other reasons for potential claim denials are intentional acts and failing to have equipment installed by a professional.

Space heaters and homeowners insurance

A supplemental heating device can be useful for keeping the house warm during cold weather and offsetting costly heating bills. But space heaters are a known cause of residential fires and cost insurance companies every year in claims. The following mistakes may result in a fire:

  • Using an extension cord
  • Using an old, outdated or malfunctioning heater
  • Running the cord under a rug or carpet
  • Leaving pets or children in the room unattended
  • Placing the heater on furniture or in close proximity to fabrics
  • Exposing the device to moisture
  • Running the heater overnight

As such, your insurance company should be notified when you plan to install a heater or wood burner, and you are also obligated to ensure that the equipment adheres to all safety standards, has an Underwriters Laboratories (UL) or Intertek label and undergoes regular checks and inspections. The National Fire Protection Association indicates space heaters should only be placed on the floor, plugged to a wall outlet and never left unattended. Keep in mind that not all home insurance companies will continue coverage for homes with wood-burning stoves, so you may need to seek out a different company.

Do space heaters increase homeowners insurance rates?

Heating systems may have a direct impact on home insurance costs. The kind of heating equipment you use will typically affect your premiums, although the specific impact may vary from one company to another. The reason for this is simple: The greater the risk of a fire posed by your heating system, the higher you will likely pay in insurance premiums.

When you use a central heating system in your house powered by electricity or natural gas, it may not have much of an effect on your insurance costs because such systems have a lower risk of causing a fire. However, many providers do not offer policies on homes without a permanently installed central heating system. When they do, oil-based furnaces and wood stoves may cause your insurance rates to rise because of the increased risk of a home fire. Since prices vary across the industry, the best way to find out about the impact on your home insurance costs is to speak with an agent.

Fire safety home insurance discounts

Homeowners can save on insurance premiums by leveraging discount opportunities. You may be eligible for fire safety discounts from certain insurance companies by equipping your house with the following:

  • Sprinklers: Having a sprinkler system installed in your house can potentially earn you a discount on home insurance.
  • Fire alarms: Even when fire alarms are not a mandatory requirement, having them fitted in your house may lead to discounts from your insurer.
  • Fire extinguishers: Not only should fire extinguishers be placed around the house as a safety measure, but having them on your property may also equate to a price cut on your insurance premium.
  • Fire-resistant materials: When your house is made of fire-resistant materials, such as concrete, brick, or gypsum, it is deemed safer than a house made of wood frames or logs. This may earn you a home insurance discount.

How to prevent space heater fires

When used correctly, space heaters are not as likely to cause a fire. The following safety measures should be observed when using a portable heating device to prevent accidents:

  • Always place the heater on the floor: Never put the heater on top of furniture where it can fall, dislodge or break.
  • Supervise pets and children: Never leave children and pets unattended near a space heater or wood stove, as any contact with the equipment can cause burns and toying with the cord can result in sparks and flames.
  • Keep away flammable materials: From bedding to paper to perfumes and sprays, keep the heater away from anything that can catch on fire or trigger a fire.
  • Plug heater into a wall outlet only: Never use extension cords for a space heater, and if you absolutely must, make sure it is compatible with the device.
  • Check for auto shut-off features: Heaters that shut off automatically prevent overheating and reduce the likelihood of causing a fire.
  • Keep the device in good condition: Never use an old heater that has not run in a long time. When storing away the heater for the season, make sure it is in a cool and dry space.
  • Adhere to manufacturer guidelines: It’s important to use the header according to manufacturer guidelines to avoid unnecessary risks to your home or family.

Taking safety measures will not only allow you to run your space heater without endangering life and property but also help you avoid an insurance claim and save some money.

Frequently asked questions

    • Obtaining homeowners insurance without central heat can be challenging. The best way to find the right company is by shopping with multiple carriers or working with an insurance broker familiar with the underwriting guidelines of many companies. A common stipulation of insurance companies that accept wood-burning stoves is that the homeowner must provide proof that a professional installed the stove. Doing so limits the risk of the stove malfunctioning and causing a fire.
    • Homes that impose too much risk for an insurance company to take on may be uninsurable. However, unless your home is in a high-risk disaster location or is deemed condemned, some form of coverage is usually available. The most popular form of home insurance is an HO-3 policy. An HO-2 or HO-1 policy may be your best bet if your home does not meet underwriting guidelines. An HO-2 policy is similar to an HO-3 policy, except it covers 16 perils on a named peril basis. An HO-1 policy is harder to find since it has such limited coverage — it covers 10 named perils and does not provide other standard policy coverage types like liability and personal property coverage.
    • The best homeowners insurance company is different for everyone. Factors that vary between owners and homes, such as location, square footage and claims history, all play a part in determining home insurance costs. Shopping for similar coverage with several providers can help you identify the company offering the lowest rates for the coverage you need.