It’s that time of year when many people will turn on a space heater to help them stay warm. However, it’s also that time of year that fire fighters are responding to home fires caused by improper use of these heating devices. The Safe Electricity program offers tips to help consumers be safe when using space heaters.
“When temperatures plunge, many people take out their space heaters to help them stay warm,” says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council’s Safe Electricity program. “However, they can be deadly if they’re not used with care.”
Based on 2007-2011 annual averages, the National Fire Protection Association reports that space heaters accounted for 33 percent of home heating fires and 81 percent of home heating fire deaths.
Safe Electricity shares the following tips for operating space heaters safely:
- Check space heaters before use. Cords should not be frayed, brittle, or cracked.
- Many fires start when flammable products are placed too close to heating devices, such as space heaters. Space heaters should be kept at least 3 feet from any flammable, such as blankets, clothing, and paper.
- Place space heaters out of high-traffic areas and on a level, hard, non-flammable floor surface—NOT on carpets, furniture, or countertops.
- Plug space heaters directly into the outlet, and never use an extension cord.
- Always remember to turn off space heaters when not in use. Never leave one of these devices on unattended or after going to bed.
- Do not attempt to warm your entire home using only space heaters. Space heaters are useful in small areas, such as a study or living room. However, if you need to keep large areas warm, your home heating system will do the job more efficiently.
If shopping around for a space heater, look for one that has guards from heating elements and automatically shuts off if it is tipped over or overheating. Also be sure to check for safety certification marks to verify that the product has been tested for safety. If a certification mark is unfamiliar, check for the legitimacy online. Some common, legitimate marks are UL, CSA, and ETL. Once you have made a purchase, make sure to fully read and follow the user instructions before using the product.
To learn more on how to avoid electrical hazards while staying warm this winter, visit www.SafeElectricity.org.