Space heaters are one of the most convenient ways to heat up a room. These types of heaters, particularly the smaller ones, are commonly used when the central heating system is too expensive to operate or when the main heating system is insufficient. They help boost room temperature, without having to heat the whole home.
However, they can be dangerous if used incorrectly. The Harvard University Environmental Health & Safety group stated that space heaters are responsible for over 25,000 home fires occurring every year, leading to at least 6,000 emergency room visits.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPE) said that around one-third of home fires occur during the cold months. NFPE confirmed that most of these fires are due to space heaters. This is between the months of December and February, where we need the heater to warm the home. Some cities have prohibited the use of several types of portable space heaters.
Here are some precautionary tips to prevent fires caused by space heaters:
- Always buy safety-tested and UL-approved space heaters.
- Check the unit. Make sure it has heating element guards and an emergency tip-over shut-off feature.
- Read the manufacturer’s manual and follow the instructions on operation and care.
- Ensure that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working properly prior to using a space heater.
- Keep the space heater clean. Make sure it is in good working condition before using it. Have it checked by a heating service provider on a regular basis.
- Install your space heater on level, sturdy, non-flammable floor and in areas with lesser traffic. Do not place it on countertops, furniture, rugs, or carpets.
- Keep your space heater away from flammable items like sofas, curtains, blankets, as well as from combustible liquids like paint, spray cans, and fuels. Observe a 3-feet distance between the space heater and these items.
- Do not use a space heater to dry towels or clothes, to cook food or even to thaw pipes.
- Avoid overloading your circuits. Plug the space heater in a dedicated circuit, not in the same circuit used for other appliances. Do not ever attempt to plug a space heater in an extension cord.
- Turn off the space heater immediately if you plug it in a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) and it trips. Call a professional heating service provider to check the unit. A serious shock could happen if you do not.
- Always turn off the space heater when no one is in the room or when going to bed. Leaving the space heater unattended is dangerous.
- Do not allow your children or pets to go near a space heater. Serious shocks or burns can result if they can accidentally touch the unit.
- Do not use old space heaters. Replace them with newer. and safer models.
- Always check with your local fire department before buying or using any type of space heater to find out if it is legal or approved in your area
Space heaters may be convenient; however, they are not the safest choice. Make sure to follow these safety precautions when using one.