Can You Plug Space Heaters Into Smart Outlets?

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Space heaters are great for warming up rooms in your house, but they can also be dangerous if used improperly, which might have you wondering: Can you plug space heaters into smart outlets? And even if you can, should you?

Space heaters draw a lot of power, and generally aren’t supposed to plug into surge protectors–they instruct you to plug them directly into the wall. And, according to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters are the cause of a third of winter house fires. So it’s normal to question whether or not it’s safe to plug a space heater into a smart outlet–especially one that can turn on and off automatically, even when you’re not home. But don’t worry too much about it, as smart outlets offered by BelkinConnectSense, SmartThings, and more can safely handle pretty much any consumer-based space heater.

Smart Outlets Can Handle the Load

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Most space heaters that you plug into a traditional outlet draw 1,500 watts of power, at most. The Belkin WeMo Switch, one of the more popular smart outlets, is rated at handling a max power draw of 1,800 watts, and anything more than that would likely trip the breaker anyway.

You might be asking, “Then why do the space heater’s safety instructions say to only plug it directly into an outlet?” This is mostly just to prevent people from plugging space heaters into extension cords or power strips that aren’t rated for the high power draw required by the space heater.

However, as long as you use an extension cord or power strip built and rated to handle high power draw, you’ll be fine. For instance, you can buy heavy-duty extension cords made for appliances that draw a lot of power, but it’s not really recommended to plug a space heater into some rinky-dink extension cord that you found in the bottom of a junk drawer.

But Is It Safe to Begin With?

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While smart outlets can handle the load that space heaters draw, is it really a good idea to have it controlled by something that can turn on and off automatically, even if you’re not home?

It’s certainly not something that safety organizations would recommend, but it’s not entirely dangerous either. Plus, most fires caused by space heaters weren’t started because the heater was left unattended–but because objects like clothing, paper, and other flammable things were left too close to the space heater and caught fire.

However, the one nice feature of some smart outlets, like the WeMo Insight Switch, is that you can get notified whenever it’s drawing power, so if you accidentally leave your space heater on (which I’ve done many times with normal outlets), a smart outlet could actually be safer than not having one. Plus, you can have your smart outlet only turn on within a certain timeframe, so that if you do forget to turn off your space heater, the smart outlet will turn itself off at the time you specify anyway.

Still, even if you have your smart outlet programmed to turn on and off at specific times, it’s probably wise to make a habit of manually turning your space heater on and off, and use the smart outlets auto-on/off feature as a backup. It never hurts to be extra safe.

Craig Lloyd writes about smarthome for How-To Geek, and is an aspiring handyman who loves tinkering with anything and everything around the house. He's also a mediocre gamer, aviation geek, baseball fan, motorcyclist, and proud introvert.