can you plug a space heater into a timer

Can you Plug a Space Heater into a Timer?

Can you plug a space heater into a timer? This is a question many people ask because you could save so much energy by automatically switching off a space heater.

“Dial outlet timers are simple to employ – just plug them into an outlet, then plug your device into them and set the timer.”

Cecilia Harsch – Hunker

You could, for example, heat your bedroom while you sleep and automatically switch off the space heater at 1 am in order to save some money on your electric bill.

But is that even possible? Are space heaters suited for timer switches?

In this article, you’re going to learn whether you can plug a space heater into an outlet timer and what you should look out for!

But first, the quick answer.

Question: Can you plug a space heater into a timer?

Answer: Yes, you can plug a space heater into a timer as long as it doesn’t surpass the power limits of the timer. Most timers can handle the amount of power a space heater needs. However, you should still check the power requirements of your timer switch for safety reasons.

But to verify whether you can use your timer together with your space heater, you first need to know what’s important to consider.

How much power do space heaters need?

Usually, space heaters draw a lot of power: 1500W to be exact. That is about as much as 3 desktop gaming computers at once.

Oftentimes they also have a medium-heat mode, where you can set the power to be 750W or similar.

It doesn’t matter whether your heater is an infrared, ceramic or electrical heater. Nearly all of them need 1500 watts of power. But why?

Well, in order to heat properly, space heaters draw as much power as they can get. A space heater with less power would not be as effective. So, all companies design their space heater to run at 1500W, which is what your house energy supply can deliver.

How much power can a timer handle?

Usually, electrical timer switches can handle about 1800W of power.

The reason they can handle so much is that they are oftentimes built using a relay, which is an electrical switch that is suited for switching on and off very high currents. Relays are used whenever you need to switch lots of power.

That’s why timers are usually safe to operate with high-power devices. Therefore they can switch on and off fridges, lights (which draw a lot of current) and air conditioners.

But can electrical timers also handle space heaters?

First, let’s take a look at what you definitely cannot do.

Never plug multiple space heaters into a timer

Generally speaking, every time you plug in more than one space heater into your power supply (via power strip), you blow a fuse somewhere. The reason is that your power supply can not deliver more than 15 to 20 Amps of current.

By using only a second space heater, most power supplies will have to surrender.

It’s similar for timers:

Because most outlet timers are rated at 15 to 20A, they can not handle more than one space heater at a time. Most space heaters need about 12.5A (sometimes more, sometimes less).

power strip with multiple space heaters plugged into a timer

Can you plug a space heater into a timer?

Yes, you can plug a space heater into most timers. Just make sure to check the rating of the timer.

Is it rated at 15A? Fine!

Is it rated below 15A? Then, I’d suggest looking for another outlet timer just to make sure you don’t burn or destroy something accidentally.

Usually, you can find the rating of an electrical timer switch somewhere at the side or the bottom of the case. If you can not see it, research your switch online, or just use another one where you’re sure it can handle 15A.

Still, oftentimes people worry about plugging a space heater into a timer switch because the switch is a small resistance.

This resistance causes a voltage drop. Because your house’s power supply wants to deliver the 1500W to your space heater, it has to increase the current.

These effects are, however, negligible and only make a safety risk when you’re using a cheap extension cord with your space heater (see the article: Can I use an extension cord with my space heater?).

Generally, most timer switches are safe to operate with a space heater.

Safety tips for plugging space heaters in timers

Still, you should always keep some safety aspects in mind if you want to keep your house safe while running a space heater.

  • Independently of a timer, you should never run a space heater in your absence. Space heaters draw big currents and produce high heat. It’s possible that something accidentally catches fire. Turn off the heater when you’re not at home.
  • Only use a timer where you are absolutely sure it can handle the amount of power your space heater needs. Check the power limits of your timer and your space heater.
  • Oftentimes, it is practical to sleep with a space heater on. When you use a timer to switch it off at night, you can save some money on your electricity bill. However, I’d suggest the following: While you sleep, use a low power setting on your space heater. Most heaters have a 750W setting which decreases the chance that something overheats.

If you are not sure whether your space heater is safe to run, you could also look for a new one. Modern space heaters are, in my opinion, very safe. Oftentimes they have an overheat protection, an automatic shut off when it tips over and they don’t get hot on the surface.

Especially when you’re using a very old space heater, getting a new one is a good idea.

Which timer should you use?

Generally, I’d say that nearly every timer you can get is fine. You can just go to any supermarket that sells them and buy one. Most timers are safe to use with space heaters.

My attitude:

Don’t overthink.

Timers are designed to handle high power devices. You shouldn’t worry too much about it.

Can you plug a space heater into a smart plug?

Yes, you can plug a space heater into a smart plug. Similar to regular timers, smart plugs are suited for handling high-power devices like fridges, heaters, etc. so you don’t need to worry at all.

Using a smart plug for your space heater is actually a pretty good idea. Not only can you automatically shut it off, but you can also see how much power your heater uses.

In the long run, a smart plug could even save you money. If you see how much energy your space heater requires, you are less likely to overuse it.

Alternative: Get a space heater with a built-in timer

Oftentimes, space heaters already have a built-in timer function. Heaters with built-in timers are reliable, as the manufacturer should have tested that everything works properly.

So you can rely on the timer to work.

In contrast, if you did everything yourself, even if you are not really familiar with electricity, you might miss something and damage your heater accidentally.

Nevertheless, I think regular timers should be suited for nearly all space heaters and you shouldn’t worry too much.

If your space heater doesn’t have a built-in timer already, then I’d only buy a new space heater if you feel really uncomfortable installing a regular timer yourself.

Conclusion – Can you plug a space heater into a timer?

Answer: Yes, you can plug a space heater safely into a timer. Most timers are designed to work with devices that require huge amounts of power. So, using a space heater with an electrical timer switch should be safe.

Just quick-check the amp rating of your timer. If it’s at 15-20A, you’re fine. If it’s below 10A, I’d look for another timer switch, because most space heaters draw more current.

I hope I could help you out with this article! If you like to learn more about space heaters, check out my other space heater guides!

Attributions: title image by jalexartis Photography

About the Author

Daniel Hirsch

Daniel is an electrical engineer, blogger, and author. He studied electrical engineering and information technology and decided to blog about heaters after working in the temperature sensing industry.