Residential Electrician: How to Safely Use Space Heaters
Residential Electrician: Safely Tips for Space Heaters
Until the mid-1960s, most homes were heated by fireplaces and spaces heaters—quite often, that included unvented gas heaters inside homes. By 1965, the addition of central heat and air conditioning became standard building practice. Central heat keeps the occupants warmer and more comfortable with much safer technology than previous heating methods.
Fireplaces still add ambiance and provide emergency heat during power outages. Space heaters have become much safer and are still used to keep small spaces cozy and comfortable.
Still, space heaters are the cause of approximately 15% of house fires each year and must be used with safety in mind. Here are seven safety tips that reduce the risk of fire while using area space heaters.
- Know where to use the various types of space heaters. Space heaters that use combustion must be used in outdoor spaces only! These heaters may use propane, pellets, or kerosene and each of them produce carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, among other exhaust gases. Without ventilation, these gases accumulate inside the house, and they are deadly.
Space heaters that use electricity come in a variety of sizes, designs, and heating styles. Some blow air across a heating element and others heats an enclosed supply of oil, which holds the heat well. Electric-powered space heaters, including electric blankets and heating pads, are designed for indoor use since precipitation can lead to electric shock.
- Electric space heaters create hot surfaces and care must be taken to avoid injury to occupants, including pets. Move space heaters away from doors/doorways and away from play areas for children. Make sure that the heater is on the floor or a low, level surface; it is vitally important that space heaters do not overturn. Know the limits of your heater’s capabilities; the highest setting will not safely warm a large, cavernous space.
- Use the “3-foot rule;” place the heater at least three feet from combustible materials such as furniture and drapes. Some heaters generate enough heat to melt synthetic materials or cause combustion. Allow a heater time to cool before moving it.
- Do not use electric-powered space heaters near water sources or in the presents of paints, fuels, or volatile supplies.
- Electric space heaters require a lot of power and care must be given to provide a safe circuit. The BEST way to power a space heater is by plugging it into a dedicated outlet with no other devices on that outlet. The power being used will cause a long extension cord to get warm. A power strip is not recommended.
- Never leave space heaters unattended, not even to run a quick errand. Do not use space heaters unattended in a room with sleeping children. Do not employ space heaters overnight while adults are asleep; adding a blanket is much safer than the risk of a fire starting while no one notices.
- Become familiar with the safety features of your space heater. Look for the UL or ETL listing. Is there a thermostat that turns the heater off when the space is warm enough? Does the heater have an emergency stop feature should the heater overturn? Become familiar with instructions for safe usage and the list of risks to avoid. Or if you are not comfortable doing this yourself, contact a Residential Electrician for assistance.
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