Can You Put a Space Heater on a Desk?

When it comes to using a space heater on a desk, there are several important safety and technical considerations to keep in mind. While it is technically possible to place a space heater on a desk, it is crucial to understand the potential risks and take the necessary precautions to ensure a safe and efficient setup.

Understanding the Risks of Placing a Space Heater on a Desk

Fire Hazard

One of the primary concerns with placing a space heater on a desk is the increased risk of fire. Space heaters can generate a significant amount of heat, and if they are placed in an enclosed or confined space, such as under a desk, the heat can build up and potentially ignite nearby flammable materials, such as paper, fabric, or even the desk itself. According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters are responsible for approximately 43% of home heating fires and 85% of home heating fire deaths.

Electrical Overload

Another important consideration is the potential for electrical overload. Space heaters can draw a significant amount of electrical current, especially if they are high-wattage models. If the space heater is plugged into an outlet that is already powering other devices, it can overload the circuit and trip the breaker or even cause an electrical fire. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends that space heaters be plugged directly into a wall outlet and not used with extension cords or power strips.

Burn Hazard

In addition to the fire and electrical risks, space heaters can also pose a burn hazard, especially if they are placed in close proximity to the user’s body. The surface temperature of some space heaters can reach up to 500°F (260°C), which can cause severe burns if touched. This is particularly concerning for space heaters placed on a desk, where the user’s hands and arms may be in close proximity to the heating element.

Choosing the Right Space Heater for a Desk

can you put a space heater on a desk

Given the potential risks associated with placing a space heater on a desk, it is essential to carefully select the appropriate type of heater. The safest options for a desk-mounted space heater are typically radiant panel heaters or low-wattage fan-forced heaters.

Radiant Panel Heaters

Radiant panel heaters are a popular choice for desk-mounted space heaters because they generate heat through infrared radiation, which is directed towards the user rather than heating the surrounding air. This type of heater typically has a lower surface temperature, reducing the risk of burns. Additionally, radiant panel heaters are generally more energy-efficient than other types of space heaters, as they can heat a specific area rather than the entire room.

Low-Wattage Fan-Forced Heaters

Another safe option for a desk-mounted space heater is a low-wattage fan-forced heater. These heaters use a fan to circulate warm air, which can help to distribute the heat more evenly and reduce the risk of hot spots or localized heating. By using a lower wattage, these heaters are less likely to overload the electrical circuit and cause a fire.

When selecting a space heater for a desk, it is important to consider the size of the desk and the surrounding area, as well as the specific heating needs of the user. A heater that is too powerful for the space may generate too much heat and increase the risk of fire or burns, while a heater that is too weak may not provide sufficient warmth.

Proper Placement and Usage of a Desk-Mounted Space Heater

Even with the right type of space heater, it is crucial to follow proper placement and usage guidelines to ensure safety.


Space heaters should never be placed under a desk or in any other enclosed or confined space, as this can increase the risk of fire. Instead, the heater should be placed on a stable, level surface, at least 3 feet (0.9 m) away from any flammable materials, such as paper, fabric, or furniture. It is also important to ensure that the heater is not blocking any walkways or exits, as this could create a tripping hazard.


When using a space heater on a desk, it is essential to keep the area around the heater clear and free of clutter. The heater should never be covered or obstructed, as this can cause the unit to overheat and potentially start a fire. Additionally, the heater should be turned off and unplugged when not in use, and the user should never leave the heater unattended while it is running.


While it is technically possible to put a space heater on a desk, it is essential to carefully consider the safety and technical implications of doing so. By selecting the appropriate type of heater, following proper placement and usage guidelines, and being mindful of the potential risks, users can safely and effectively use a space heater on a desk to stay warm and comfortable.