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.

General Information:

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, contact Facilities Management 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 FM 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.

Heater Specifications:

Portable space heaters should have: 

  1. A label from an OHSA recognized testing laboratory (e.g., Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL), FM Approvals LLC (FM), ETL/Intertek, etc.).
  2. A low center of gravity and shall have a tip-over safety switch to shut off the heater if tipped over.
  3. Overhead protection.
  4. A limit of 1500 watts.

Proper Use of a Portable Space Heater:

  1. Please read and follow the manufacturer's instructions and warning labels.
  2. Plug the heater directly into a wall outlet; do not plug it into an extension cord or power strip.
  3. Please route the cord so that it does not pose a tripping hazard or a fire hazard.
  4. Do not put the heater under your desk; instead, put it on a flat level surface where it won't be easily knocked over.
  5. Please keep the heater 3 feet away from combustible materials. 
  6. Turn off and unplug the heater when not in use or when you are away from your desk. 
  7. Inspect the heater before each use to make sure the power cord is not damaged. 

Existing Portable Electric Space Heaters:

To get a permit from EHS for your existing heater, you will need to have an approval letter from Facilities Management and will need to bring the heater in for an inspection. If your heater does not meet the specifications outlined under the Heater Specifications header, you will not be issued a permit. Any heaters being used without authorization shall be removed from service.

Prohibitions on Portable Electric Space Heaters:

  1. Only an 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.

Policy Effect Date: 11-14-2013

Date Updated: 8-18-21