Space Heater Use Guidelines

A joint goal of the Department of Facilities and EHS Office Safety Program is to provide a safe and comfortable work environment for the MIT Community. We have created guidelines to minimize the fire hazards and power outages associated with the use of space heaters, which are not environmentally friendly. We ask for your cooperation to resolve heating problems instead of using space heaters.

  1. The customer will submit a web request using the Department of Facilities webpage. Facilities will determine if the temperature can be adjusted using the building’s HVAC systems. The Repair and Maintenance (R&M) zone will adjust/ repair the heating equipment and seal up drafts to resolve the problem. (This dbase will send an email to the customer.)
  2. If Facilities can not correct the situation promptly, the R&M supervisor will determine if it is necessary to use a space heater until the repairs are completed and will keep the customer informed about the time frame.
  3. If necessary, the R&M supervisor will have a space heater from the Facilities Stockroom taken to the customer’s location. The R&M supervisor will provide the customer’s account #, location, email/phone to the Stockroom. When the repairs are completed and the heater is not needed, the zone will return the heater to the stockroom and the customer’s account # will be deleted.
  4. The R&M supervisor may ask the R&M Electrical Controls Team to determine if the electrical circuit for the area is adequate for the space heater. If it is not adequate, the R&M supervisor will ask the dept contact for a requisition to install a new circuit. If the cord won’t reach the outlet, a requisition will be required to install an outlet where the heater will be used.
  5. The customer will use the space heater by following these safety guidelines:
  • Plug the heater directly into an outlet. Do not plug a heater into an extension cord or a multi outlet strip/ surge protector.
  • Place the heater so there is a 3 foot safety zone: not under your desk, nothing is draped over it and 3 feet away from curtains, blinds, hanging materials, boxes and piles of paper/plastic.
  • Position the heater to prevent it from tipping over.
  • Run the power cord so that no one steps on or trips over it.
  • Turn off the heater when you leave the room and unplug the heater when you leave for the day.
  • If the heater will be used in a space that is carpeted, place the heater on non-heat conducting surface such as ceramic tiles. This surface should provide a 12 inch safety margin on all sides of the heater.  There has been a fire at MIT that burned the carpet.
  • When unplugging Space heaters follow these guidelines:
    • Ensure area is dry, and turn off heater using normal heater controls.
    • Inspect area, electrical cord and plug outlet for signs of misuse, overheating, charring or cord /plug damage. If any of these conditions exist, STOP and contact the customer service center (617)253-4948 to dispatch an electrician.
    • Firmly grab the plug housing, and pull plug straight from the outlet. Do not pull plug at an angle. Never pull the cord of a plug in effort to remove plug from outlet.
    • When removing plugs, never touch or come in contact with the conductive prongs. If plug is excessively difficult to remove, contact the customer service center to dispatch an electrician.
    • After safely removing the plug, check all equipment for damage or misuse. Report any unsafe conditions to the customer service center.

Propane Heaters

Portable, unvented propane or natural gas fired space heaters are prohibited by 527 CMR 30.  The risk of a fire is high.  The carbon monoxide concentration increases quickly.  These heaters are not safe to use even in tents, covered verandas, and similar spaces.  Patio heaters have a large carbon footprint. Please consider other options for outdoor events.


Links To NFPA, UL, And CPSC Space Heater Guidelines:

Note: These space heaters will meet the Underwriters Laboratory standard 1278 (UL listed) and will be reviewed/ approved by Facilities and the EHS Safety Program.