Did you know that space heaters cause a majority of home heating fires in U.S.?
Eight family members on the Eastern Shore were killed in a fire sparked by a space heater that was used incorrectly. A fire caused by improper space heater use destroyed a home in Germantown and killed five puppies. We hear grim accounts like these all too often. According to the National Fire Protection Agency’s most recent U.S. Home Fires Involving Heating Equipment report, portable and stationary space heaters were responsible for 53% of the nation’s home heating fires and 80% of all home heating fire deaths. The majority of these home fires occur between December and March, when space heater usage is at its highest.
These small, cost-effective heating devices can be highly effective tools for providing added warmth indoors, but safety should always be a top consideration when using them. Here are 25 important space heater safety tips and recommendations:
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for operation and care before use.
- Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If any parts are frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
- Space heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing, curtains and rugs.
- Place space heaters on level, flat, non-flammable surfaces. They are intended to sit on the floor. Never place them on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
- Locate space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they could pose a tripping hazard.
- Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Don’t plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater, as that could also cause overheating.
- Never leave a space heater unattended. Always turn it off and unplug it when you're leaving the room or going to sleep.
- Establish a three-foot kid- and pet-free zone around the heater, and never put a space heater in a child's room.
- Clean space heaters regularly by wiping them down with a slightly damp cloth and store them properly when not in use.
- Train and teach everyone in your home about how to properly and safely use space heaters.
- Space heaters are meant to provide supplemental heat only and should never be used to cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes.
- Never use space heaters in a workshop or garage near paint, gas cans or matches.
- Do not place heaters under desks or other enclosed areas.
- Never run the cords from space heaters under rugs or carpets, as it can cause overheating.
- Electric heaters should be kept out of wet or damp places like bathrooms and kitchens, as water could lead to a fire or electrical shock hazard.
- Install working smoke alarms on every level of your home and in all sleeping areas, and test them monthly.
- Before using your space heaters, make sure all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working condition.
- If a space heater is plugged into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) and it trips, don’t assume there’s something wrong with the GFCI. Immediately stop using the heater and have it checked by a professional.
- Don’t use your space heater if the cord or unit feels hot to the touch. Turn it off, unplug it and call a professional
- Replace older space heaters with newer, safer models.
- When you purchase a portable heater, be sure to choose one that’s appropriate for your needs. An electric space heater that is too large for a certain area will consume extra energy and lead to higher utility bills. Buying a portable gas or electric heater rated for a small space and expecting it to cover a large area will force it to work harder, also increasing energy usage.
- Ensure that your heater is safety-tested and approved. Some common testing laboratory certifications to look for include UL (Underwriters Laboratories), CSA (Canadian Standards Association), and ETL (Intertek Group). If your product has one of these certifications, you can feel confident that it's safe to use at home when following the manufacturer's instructions.
- Choose a heater with safety features that will shut the unit off under certain conditions, such as overheating and low oxygen levels. A tip-over switch that shuts down the unit if it falls over is also important.
- If you’re using a kerosene or propane heater, make sure it’s rated for indoor use. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious hazard when using gas space heaters.
- Never refuel a gas-powered space heater indoors. Turn the unit off, take it outside and wait for it to cool down before refueling.
Educating yourself about the safety hazards that come with the improper use of space heaters will give you peace of mind as you keep your home warm, comfortable, and hazard-free this winter.
The certified and experienced staff at M.R. Electricians has been keeping homeowners in and around Montgomery County safe for more than 20 years. We’d be happy to help you and your family, too. Please contact our friendly team of electrical professionals today.
About M.R. Electricians: Since 1996, M.R. Electricians has been serving the electrical needs of homeowners and businesses throughout Montgomery County, Washington, DC, Baltimore, and surrounding areas. The company also specializes in commercial fire protection, contract needs from small tenant fit outs to whole building installations, and motor controls for industrial spaces. From major renovations to the smallest of electrical jobs, the family-owned company is committed to providing high quality products, superior results, and unmatched customer service. Regarded as a leader in the electrical industry, M.R. Electricians has set the standard for excellence in the region. For more information, please visit the website at https://www.mrelectricians.us or call 301.871.0477.