Potential Risk to Households This Winter, as Millions Worried About Energy Bills Will Use Electrical Heaters, Charity Warns

15 November 2022

Millions more people will turn to electric heaters due to concerns about energy costs in a winter that could pose a risk to household safety, a charity is warning.

New research, released by Electrical Safety First during its annual Electrical Fire Safety Week campaign, reveals a drastic change in how households will heat their homes, as energy bills have skyrocketed in the last year.

A new survey of more than 3,000 nationally representative adults across the UK has shown 42%[1] of respondents are either definitely using or considering using an electric heater to heat a single room in their home, due to concerns over the cost of central heating.

The latest figure represents an 8%1 increase, year-on-year, in those planning to use electric heaters this winter to heat a single room in their home, the equivalent of 4.3[2] million people.

Although electric heaters are not inherently dangerous, they can and do cause devastating fires if they are not used with care, with fan heaters posing a greater risk in the home.

Further findings show how, for many, this change in behaviour will be new, with over 1 in 3 (37%) of those who plan to use an electric heater this winter having not done so before, as financial pressures continue to impact more homes.

This new research on likely electric heater use reflects an overwhelming trend of increased worry and concern about the cost of energy, with 90% of those surveyed this year saying they were concerned about the cost of heating their home this winter – up from 78% last year[3].

Shopping for electric heaters has also been popular in the last year, with more than 1 in 5 (22%) of respondents concerned about the rising energy costs purchasing one in the last year – the majority of those having done so from an online marketplace (45%[4]). Electrical Safety First warns shoppers to purchase directly from reputable retailers.  

Devastating fires:

The charity is urging households to be extra careful this winter, given the likely increase in their use of electrical heaters and electric blankets, due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Lesley Rudd, Chief Executive of Electrical Safety First, commented:Heating your home should never come at the expense of your own safety. While portable heaters can be useful to heat a small space, they can pose a real risk to your home and your life if mistakes are made when using them. With the significant number of people set to turn to these appliances this winter, it’s vital we  use them safely.

“We are reminding people that it is crucial you stay safe as you stay warm – if mistakes are made it could pose a risk to household safety. With more heaters likely to be used this winter there is increased likelihood of misuse, so it is imperative that people  are careful  when using them to avoid a devastating outcome.”

Electrical Safety First is urging people not to leave electric heaters turned on unattended for long periods or overnight, never to plug them into extension leads, never to dry clothes on them and to keep them well away from fabrics to ensure they do not put themselves at risk of a fire.

The latest research is released as the charity launches a new campaign video to mark Electrical Fire Safety Week, with members of the Fire & Rescue Services recounting devastating fires they have attended, caused by electric heaters.

Ben Turner, Safety Manager in Operation and Community Risks at Essex County Fire & Rescue Service recounts a heater fire that claimed the life of one gentleman: “We were called to a house fire we later discovered was caused by an electrical heater. Whilst tackling the fire the breathing apparatus team discovered the gentleman, still in his armchair. The fire had started by the heater being too close to the fabric of the armchair, which has ignited and engulfed it in flames. Nothing prepares you for that.”

Richard Poole, Crew Manager at West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service recounts a heater fire that destroyed a home locally: “In the blink of an eye your property can be gone. We were walking through this home that was destroyed when a plug-in heater was accidentally knocked over. Everything was black, everything was charred and smoke damaged. It’s heart wrenching.”

Staying safe:

The public are being urged to use heaters safely this winter, as the cost-of-living bites, and follow Electrical Safety First’s advice on safe use:

  • Put your heater on a level surface, well away from anything or anyone that could knock it over.
  • Make sure your heater is at least well away from combustible materials, such as paper, furniture or curtains.
  • Never use it to dry your clothes!
  • Never leave your heater unattended for long periods whilst in use, or while you are asleep.
  • Never power a heater from an extension lead – they can easily be overloaded and cause fires
  • Regularly inspect your heater for damage and deterioration. If it isn’t in good condition, don’t use it!
  • Make sure you buy from manufacturers or retailers that you know and trust. Avoid second-hand heaters but if you do then ask them what safety checks are carried out.
  • Register your appliance and ensure you check your heater has not been recalled
  • Ensure you have a working smoke alarm on every floor in your home and test it regularly, it could save your life
  • For more information on staying safe visit electricalsafetyfirst.org.uk/costofliving


2022 Survey: The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 3,010 UK adults aged 16+, nationally representative on age, gender and region. The data was collected between 17.10.2022 - 19.10.2022.

2021 Survey: The research was conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 3,033 UK adults aged 16+, nationally representative on age, gender and region. The data was collected between 15.10.2021 - 21.10.2021.

Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

[1] Combining those who said ‘Yes, definitely’ or ‘Yes, possibly’ to: Do you plan to use an electric heater solely to heat a single room in your home because you are concerned about the cost of central heating this winter?

[2] 41.69% (2022) – 33.66% (2021) = 8.03% Increase. 8.03% x 54,098,971 (2019 ONS mid-year population estimate figures) = 4,344,147

[3] *‘Combining those who said ‘very’ and ‘fairly’ concerned.

[4] Combining those who said ‘New from an online marketplace such as Amazon Marketplace, eBay, Wish.com or similar’ or ‘Second hand from online marketplace (e.g. Amazon, eBay, Facebook Marketplace or similar)’