The use of indoor space heaters is strictly limited due to risk of fire and concerns for energy consumption.


Space heater: A space heater is a self-contained device for heating an enclosed area.


This policy applies to the use of portable space heaters in indoor settings (offices, workshops, etc.) within Amherst College buildings.

This policy is meant to outline the minimum requirements for the use of portable indoor space heaters. 

This policy does NOT apply to the following:

  • The temporary use of portable heaters for construction, outdoor settings, or industrial/research support applications is outside the scope of this policy. Use in these circumstances should be governed by the work hazard planning process in place at the campus.
  • Non-portable area heaters that are wired or plumbed into the building utilities by the campus facilities department or included in building construction are not covered under this policy.

Limited Use Approval

Appropriate adjustment of the building heating system should always be the preferred option for meeting the heating needs for employees, students and guests in Amherst College buildings. When this is infeasible, campus facilities and the Environmental Health and Safety Department shall have the authority to approve the use of certain space heaters in limited situations, such as where target temperatures cannot be maintained, for specific health needs, or for other extenuating circumstances. Under limited use approval, the selection and use of the space heater should follow the criteria below.

Target Temperature Not Maintained

If the central building heat system is unable to maintain a target work temperature, it may be determined that it is necessary to allow a space heater for temporary, supplemental heat until the comfort concern can be permanently resolved.

Specific health needs

The reason for the exemption should be documented. For example, if there is a medical reason, a document from a medical provider should be provided.

Safety and Use Requirements for Space Heaters 

It is essential to ensure the safe and responsible use of the portable space heater in order to reduce the risk of fire. In the event an exemption is granted, only space heaters supplied by the Amherst College service center are permitted. 

Operating requirements

Space heaters may be used only if the following conditions are met:


  • The heater may only be located on the floor. Heaters located on filing cabinets, tables, desks or other surfaces are more susceptible to being knocked over, resulting in accidents or fires.
  • Heaters may only be placed on circuits sufficiently capable of handling the amperage draw of the heater and other equipment on the circuit. 
  • Heaters may not be used in areas where flammable liquids are in use or stored.
  • Keep the heater away from water and out of damp locations.
  • Maintain minimum clearance distances as specified by the manufacturer. Combustible or flammable materials must be kept away from the heater.

Check for…

  • Inspect the heater for broken or damaged parts. Never operate a heater you suspect is damaged.
  • During use, check frequently to determine if the heater plug or cord, wall outlet, or faceplate is hot. If the plug, outlet, or faceplate is hot, discontinue use of the heater, and have a qualified electrician check and/or replace the plug or faulty wall outlet(s). If the cord is hot, disconnect the heater, and have it inspected/repaired by an authorized repair person.

Power Cord

Heaters must be plugged directly into a wall receptacle. Use of extension cords or power strips is not allowed. Electric cords must be kept out of foot traffic paths to prevent tripping.

Never run the heater’s cord under doors, rugs, or carpeting. This can damage the cord, causing it and nearby objects to burn.


The heater must be turned off any time the room or area being heated is unoccupied, especially at the end of the workday.