Space Heater Safety Tips

Stay Warm and Safe This Winter!

Now that winter has arrived many of us will be spending more time indoors. The winter months are a great time to curl up with a good book or catch up on your favorite TV shows. If you have a drafty room or chilly area in your house that you need to heat for a brief time a properly used portable electricelectricHeater.png space heater can be a great alternative to turning up the thermostat to heat the whole house. While they can provide welcome warmth in these chilly spots, they can also pose safety risks if not used correctly. With a few simple safety tips and precautions, you can prevent most heating fires and accidents.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), space heaters, whether portable or stationary, accounted for one-third (33%) of home heating fires and four out of five (81%) of home heating fire deaths. The leading factor contributing to fatal home heating fires, accounting for more than half (53%) of home heating fire deaths, was placing heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattress, bedding or paper. Half (50%) of all home heating fires occurred in December, January and February.

Electric Portable Space Heater Features

Modern electric space heaters have many safety and convenience features available. The following are some of the features to look for if you’re buying a new portable space heater.

  • Be sure the space heater you purchase has a label from a recognized independent testing laboratory, such as Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL).
  • Choose a heater that has a tip-over safety switch, which turns the heater off automatically if it tips over. This is particularly useful in areas with active children or pets.
  • An overheat protection switch, which uses a temperature sensor to detect when internal components become too hot. If an unsafe temperature is detected, the switch automatically shuts off the unit to prevent overheating.
  • A thermostat to monitor room temperature and turn the unit on and off automatically, and/or a remote control.
  • A cool-to-the-touch housing to prevent burns if the heater is touched.
  • A heavy duty power cord long enough to reach any outlet.
  • Select a heater that is the proper size for the room you want to heat.
  • A built-in fan, which will spread the heat over a wider area and heat an area faster.
  • Some even have advanced features, such as programmable timers and Wi-Fi connectivity which gives you the ability to operate your heater from anywhere with your Smartphone for added convenience.

Safe Use of an Electric Space Heater

While current models of electric space heaters have many safety features, most fires and accidents are caused by improper use. With a few precautions they can be used safely. The following tips will help keep your family safe and warm.

  • Keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that might burn or ignite, including furniture, blankets, curtains and paper products. Remember “three feet from the heat” or “a meter from the heater”.
  • Before using an existing heater, check for damage. If the cord is frayed or stiff or the heater is cracked or dented, it should be replaced.
  • Don’t overload the outlet. Plug only one heat-producing appliance, such as a space heater, into an electrical outlet at a time and don’t plug other devices into same outlet.
  • Plug portable heaters directly into outlets and never into a power strip or an extension cord.
  • If an extension cord is absolutely necessary, use the shortest possible heavy-duty cord of 14-gauge wire or larger. Remember that with gauge numbers, the smaller the number, the larger the wire (a 12 gauge is thicker than a 14 gauge). Make sure it is rated for the amount of power the heater draws.
  • Never run the cord under a rug or carpet. This can trap heat from the cord, increasing the risk of fire.
  • Turn space heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed. Unplug the heater after turning it off for added safety.
  • Use GFCI or AFCI protected outlets instead of general purpose outlets if possible to greatly reduce the threat of a fire or electrocution.
  • Locate the heater on a level surface away from foot traffic. Be careful to keep children and pets away from the heater.
  • Use in a dry location, as moisture can damage the heater.
  • Make sure you have properly installed, working smoke detectors in our home.

If you keep these tips in mind, your electric space heater can be a great way to stay cozy and warm this winter while remaining safe at the same time. If you need assistance with additional outlets, GFCI or AFCI protection or installing smoke detectors, please contact Gibbons Electric!


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