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

  1. 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.
  2. Facilities Management personnel will be dispatched to evaluate the situation to determine if an adjustment can be made to provide your area with more heat.
  3. If Facilities Management cannot resolve your heating issue you may be approved for a space heater. This will be on a case-by-case basis.
  4. The approval will also depend on the adequacy of the electrical system in your building to accommodate an electric heater.
  5. Once approved, a portable electric space heater may be checked out from UNM Facilities Management if available, or one may be purchased.
  6. When you purchase a heater, or if one is provided by Facilities Management, 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/or location where the heater will be used.
    • The UNM Department you work for.
    • See Example Letter
  7. Once you receive your portable space heater, it shall be brought to the Safety and Risk Department (SRS) with a copy of your Facilities Management approval letter and the manufacturer’s instructions to be inspected and to obtain an SRS permit for its use.
  8. A copy of the Facilities Management approval letter and SRS permit will be issued and shall be posted in the room or area where the heater is approved for use.
  9. 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 it 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 prior to each use to ensure the power cord is not damaged.

In order to obtain a permit from Safety & Risk Services (SRS) for your existing heater, you will have to bring your heater along with an approval letter from Facilities Management to SRS for inspection. If the heater does not meet the specifications outlined in Section D of these guidelines it will not 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 SRS 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 may be addressed to Safety and Risk Services at (505) 277-2753, or Facilities Management at (505) 277-7829.

Date Issued: 11-14-2013