During the cold months, people living in Arizona (as well as other places) use electric space heaters to supplement their in-home heating during the cold winter months. But did you know that the a large portion of home house fires that occur between October through April are due to common electric space heater safety violations?
Portable electric space heaters can be a convenient source of supplemental heat for your home in cold weather. Unfortunately, they can pose significant fire and electric shock hazards if not used properly. Fire and electrical hazards can be caused by space heaters without adequate safety features, space heaters placed near combustibles items (like curtains), or space heaters that are improperly plugged in.
Although many people use space heater correctly, here are a few simple safety tips that you should consider anytime you use electric space heaters in order to keep you and your family safe in winter.
Electric Space Heater Safety Tips
Tip #1 – Determine if you need a Space Heater
Many people use space heaters for multiple reasons including:
- To warm up a home that has some cold spots
- To heat their home if their primary heating system is broken or worn down
- To heat their garage, travel trailers or outdoor work areas
If you are using a space heater to warm your home due to a broken heating system, the best safety tip we could suggest is to immediately stop doing this and have your normal system inspected and repaired as soon as possible. Most heating system repairs are more affordable than you’d think, and quite often if you contact a heating repair specialist, you will find that you’ll save more money on fixing your system as opposed to continuing to run your ‘less than energy efficient’ space heater.
Tip #2 – Learn Safety Tips for Purchasing a Space Heater
If you are going to use an electric space heater for outdoor uses or to help warm a cold spot inside your home (like an outdoor casita or apartment that has multiple outside walls), here are a few safety tips for purchasing a new unit that will ensure safety.
- Only purchase new space heaters that feature up to date and current regulations for safety. A great way to determine this is if the space heater has an UL or (underwriter’s laboratory) safety label on the box and actual unit. This will verify that the system and vendor has been inspected by the UL for safety.
- Always buy thermostat controlled electric-operated space heaters. It’s never a good idea to purchase a gas-powered space heater, as these systems tend to cause the majority of fires and also increase carbon monoxide production.
- Make sure you buy a space heater for the intended size of room you want to have heated. Most new space heaters have a general sizing table included on the box that will tell you how large of a room or space it can comfortably and safely heat.
No matter what type of electric space heater you purchase, there are a few common safety tips you need to consider when installing them as well, including:
- Always install a space heater on a level floor
- Never install a space heater near water
- Never use extension cords when plugging your space heater into an indoor area
Here are some guidelines (and warnings) from the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI). ESFI is the premier non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace.
- Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully.
- Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
- Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep, and don’t let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
- Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes.
- Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas and test them once a month.
- Proper placement of space heaters is critical. Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
- Locate space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.
- Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.
- Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
- Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.
If you follow these simple electric space heater safety tips, you’ll be prepared to enjoy winter with peace of mind knowing your home is as protected as possible.
Thanks to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) for some of the safety tips and guidelines included here.
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