Space heaters can be a quick way to heat up a room. However, they can be as dangerous as they are convenient if used improperly. Space heaters cause 25,000 home fires and 6,000 emergency room visits a year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Approximately one-third of all house fires nationwide happen during the home-heating months between December and February. Equipment intended to add a little extra warmth, such as space heaters, is the leading cause of winter fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Unvented kerosene heaters are especially dangerous and are illegal in some states.
Your electric cooperative urges everyone in the home to understand the importance of using space heaters safely.
Heed the following precautions when using electric space heaters:
1. Purchase only space heaters that have been tested for safety and approved by Underwriters Laboratories or other reputable testing labs.
2. Make sure the unit is equipped with an emergency tip-over shutoff feature and heating-element guards.
3. Read and follow all of the manufacturer’s instructions for operation and care.
4. Before using a space heater, make sure your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition.
5. Check to make sure the heater is clean and in good condition, and have all problems professionally repaired before using.
6. Space heaters have one purpose: to provide supplemental heating. Never use them to thaw pipes, cook food or dry clothing or towels.
7. Remember to keep space heaters at least 3 feet from combustible liquids such as fuel, spray cans and paint, as well as flammable materials such as draperies, blankets and sofas.
8. Never allow pets or children near an electric heater. Accidental contact could result in a shock or burn.
9. Do not overload circuits. Never use extension cords or multiple plugs with a space heater, and make sure the unit is not plugged into the same circuit as other electric appliances.
10. If your space heater is plugged into a ground-fault circuit interrupter that trips, don’t assume there is something wrong with the GFCI. Immediately stop using the heater until a professional can check it—otherwise, a shock could occur.
11. Never leave space heaters unattended. Turn off your space heater and unplug it before leaving the room or going to bed.
12. Replace older space heaters with newer, safer models. Many people also use electric blankets to keep warm.
Follow these tips for using electric blankets:
1. Before plugging in electric blankets, check for any damage and inspect cords for frays, cracks or cuts.
2. An electric blanket should not be tucked under the mattress, and nothing should be placed on top of the blanket while it’s in use, including comforters and bedspreads.
3. Don’t let pets sleep on top of electric blankets.