How Far Away Should Curtains Be From Baseboard Heaters?

Although homeowners know to be diligent when using space heaters, many overlook safety when using more permanent heating options like electric baseboard heaters. The unfortunate result can be house fires, which commonly start when curtains get too close to these heaters. To avoid this potentially deadly problem, keep curtains and other flammable items 12 inches away from baseboard heaters.

Baseboard heater
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Leave a space around your baseboard heaters to prevent fire.

Why It's an Issue

Any type of heater can start a fire under the right conditions, but fires started by curtains most often occur with electric baseboard heaters. These heaters rely on the room's natural airflow to push the heat they generate into the room. To facilitate this, electric baseboard heaters are installed directly under windows. Cold air comes in through the window and then sinks. As it reaches the baseboard heater, vents in the top of the unit funnel this cold air into the heater, where it is warmed. The warmed air is then pushed out into the room by the ongoing flow of incoming cold air behind it. This warm air then rises to heat the room in what is known as a convection current. Because these heaters are placed under windows for maximum efficiency, draperies are often hung too close to them and catch fire when they come into contact with the heating element.

The Work-Around

The simplest solution for keeping curtains and baseboard heaters from causing a fire is to make sure the two never meet. Unfortunately, chopping off your curtains and re-hemming them 12 inches above your heater doesn't always create the most attractive look. To solve the problem, opt for curtains designed to end just below your windowsill. If you don't like them, consider using Roman shades or decorative wooden shutters on your window. These add privacy without dipping below the windowsill, and they blend well with most decor.

Baseboard Heater Safety Tips

It's important to keep anything flammable away from your baseboard heaters, not just your drapes. Furniture, electrical cords, bedding and toys can all start a fire if left too close to a heater. Keep yourself and your family safe by observing these heating safety tips:

  • Don't use adhesive hangers on the wall above the heater.
  • Don't place the heater beneath a wall covered with paperboard or vinyl wallpaper.
  • Don't install the heater beneath an electrical wall outlet.
  • Don't use or store gasoline or other flammable liquids near the heater.
  • Do periodically vacuum dust out of your heater with a brush attachment.