portable electric heater on hardwood floor

Space heaters are an excellent resource for heating small areas and increasing temperature and comfort. These small units are convenient and easy to move around if you can’t have a fully heated house. Unfortunately, they can be a bit temperamental. So it is good to be aware of the common problems that prevent them from working and how to fix a space heater before you toss it out and buy a new one.

How Do Space Heaters Work?

Space heaters, like most appliances with heating elements, operate with electricity, kerosene, or gas.

They use a heating method called Joule heating that moves air over a heating element to make it hot and then uses convection to push the air out of the unit and into the room.

The heat comes from whatever is used to power the heater, whether it is liquid propane or electricity.

Different Kinds of Space Heaters

Here are some of the most common space heaters people like to use:

  • Ceramic space heater
  • Propane space heaters
  • Panel space heaters
  • Oil-filled space heaters
  • Infrared space heaters
  • Fan space heaters
  • Electric space heaters

Knowing what kind of space heater you have makes it easier to determine the problem and find the solution.

Common Reasons for a Broken Space Heater and What to Do

Before fixing your space heater, you need to identify what’s wrong with it. Knowing the most common problems people with space heaters experience is the first step to diagnosing what is wrong with yours.

How to Fix a Space Heater When The Unit Isn’t Turning On

how to fix a space heater

An electric space heater not turning on is one of the most common problems with space heaters. When you flip the switch, and it doesn’t come, it doesn’t necessarily mean the space heater broke.

The best way to fix a space heater that isn’t turning on is to check the plug and make sure it is snugly in the outlet. If the plug doesn’t fit tightly, you may need to find a different outlet for your space heater.

You can check for a blown fuse to see if that is the source of the problem. To check the space heater fuse, you can follow the user manual instructions. Every space heater is a little different, so the fuse may be located in different places for varying models or brands.

How to Fix a Space Heater When Heat Isn’t Coming Out

A lack of heat radiating from the unit is the most common issue and the most difficult to fix yourself. If the heater seems to be working just fine other than not producing heat, you may need a new heating element for the unit. The problem could be the thermostat.

Check the thermostat. Sometimes space heaters get turned down without anyone realizing it. Honestly, this is far more common with thermostats than one would think. Make sure that if it is a free-standing space heater the back isn’t pushed up against a wall.

How to Fix a Space Heater When The Fan Isn’t Working

If the fan on your space heater isn’t working, it usually isn’t too difficult to fix. But if your fan stops working, there is nothing to push the heat outside of the unit and into your space.

Not only will the space heater not work, but it can be dangerous to allow the heat to build up inside of the unit.

To fix a space heater with a broken fan, you need to check the wiring. The wiring is usually on the back of the space heater, accessible by a panel that is screwed in. Check to make sure all of the wires securely connect to the fan. If one of them is disconnected, this is most likely stopping the fan from spinning.

A simpler issue might be that something is blocking the fan’s rotation. If this is the case, remove the obstruction, and then the fan should work.

Space Heater Safety Tips

Properly maintaining your space heater is the key to keeping it working and keep it safe.

You should dust your space heater often after you have turned it off for at least 30 minutes to prevent burns or accidents.

The safest place for a free-standing space heater is away from a wall or any flammable items like curtains. They should also be placed on completely flat and stable surfaces. If they tip over they can catch fire more easily.

Bottom Line

So if your space heater is on the fritz, don’t give up hope. There are plenty of simple fixes to common problems as long as you have a screwdriver handy and are willing to give it a try.

Despite their potential downsides, space heaters are a wonderful appliance that can help keep you warm and comfortable no matter where you are.


Can I use an extension cord with my space heater?

Do not use extension cords with any appliances that have a heating element. Using an extension cord can create a serious hazard and could blow a fuse, short circuit the space heater, or in the worst scenarios, cause a fire.

Can I leave a space heater on all the time?

It is not a good idea to leave your space heater on all the time. Space heaters can malfunction and cause fires or other hazards if they are not supervised. Don’t leave your space heater on when you leave the house or if you are going to sleep unless it is on a timer. Many space heaters have built-in timers to shut off after a certain amount of time for safety reasons.

Do I need the user manual?

This is a resounding yes. Although many space heaters have similar problems, the user manual will provide detailed instructions on how to disassemble the unit and what tools you will need to do it. So always keep the user manual!