Portable Space Heaters

Download the Sample Approval Letter

These guidelines provide direction for the use, specifications, and prohibition of portable electric space heaters, in buildings and facilities at the University of New Mexico and are consistent with the State of New Mexico Fire Prevention and Public Occupancy rule (10.25.5.) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

During the cold-weather months, portable electric heaters are used to supplement a building's heating system. These heaters can pose a significant workplace fire safety hazard, with the potential to ignite nearby combustibles and consume a considerable amount of electricity. The use of portable electric heaters is discouraged, but may be approved under certain circumstances. It can provide a temporary heat source in small spaces or areas where the facility's heating system is not providing adequate heating.

  • When a problem occurs with the building's heating system, or if your room or area is not receiving adequate heat, the UNM Facilities Management shall be contacted via the iService Desk, to report the problem.
  • Facilities Management personnel will evaluate the situation to determine if they can adjust your area to supply it with more heat.
  • If Facilities Management cannot resolve your heating issue, you can submit a space heater request. This will be on a case-by-case basis.
  • The approval will also depend on the electrical system's adequacy in your building to accommodate an electric heater.
  • Once approved, a portable electric space heater may be checked out from UNM Facilities Management if available, or one may be purchased.
  • When you purchase a heater, or if Facilities Management provides one, you will be issued an approval letter with the following information:
    • Your name and UNM ID
    • Building number where the heater will be used
    • Building name
    • Room number and location where the heater will be used
    • The UNM Department you work for
    • See Example Letter for more information on what is being asked.
  •  Once you receive your portable space heater, it needs to go through a physical inspection at the Department of Environmental Health and Safety. You will need to bring a copy of the Facilities Management approval letter and the manufacturer's instructions to the office and your space heater.
  • A copy of the Facilities Management approval letter and EHS permit will be issued. It shall be posted in the room or area where the heater is approved for use.
  • Failure to post the approval form will nullify your heater approval.

Portable electric space heater shall meet the following specifications:

  1. Heaters shall bear a Label from an OHSA recognized testing laboratory(e.g., Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL), FM Approvals LLC (FM), ETL/Intertek, etc.).
  2. Heaters shall have a low center of gravity and shall have a tip-over safety switch to shut off the heater if tipped over.
  3. The heater shall be provided with overheat protection.
  4. The heater shall be limited to 1500 watts.
  5. Manufactures instructions shall be read and followed.
  1. The user shall read and follow the manufacturer's instructions and warning labels.
  2. The heater shall be plugged directly into a wall outlet.
  3. The heater shall not be plugged into extension cords or power strips.
  4. The heater's power cord shall not be run under rugs or furniture and shall be routed in a manner that does not pose a trip hazard.
  5. The heater shall not be used under desks.
  6. The heater shall not be operated within 3 feet of combustible materials.
  7. The heater shall be placed on a stable, level flat surface and located where it will not be knocked over.
  8. The heater shall be continually attended and shall be turned off when space is not occupied.
  9. The heater shall be unplugged at the end of each business day or when unattended for long periods of more than a full business day (i.e., over the weekend or campus breaks).
  10. The heater shall be inspected before each use to ensure the power cord is not damaged.

To obtain a permit from the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) for your existing heater, you will have to bring your heater and an approval letter from Facilities Management to EHS for inspection. Suppose the heater does not meet the specifications outlined in Section D of these guidelines. In that case, it cannot be issued a permit. Any heaters being used without authorization shall be removed from service.

  1. Only approved electric space heater shall be used. Any heater found in use without an approved Permit from EHS and approved letter from Facilities Management shall be removed from service.
  2. The use of portable electric space heaters in any residence hall or dormitory is strictly prohibited.
  3. Heaters shall not be used in any area where flammable vapors may be present.
  4. Heaters shall not be used in damp areas and operated only in locations for which they are listed.

Questions concerning these guidelines? Call either the Department of Environmental Health and Safety at (505) 277-2753 or Facilities Management at (505) 277-7829.

Date Issued: 11-14-2013

Date Updated: 9-14-2020