Safe Use of Space Heaters

It is getting COLD around here, and people are turning up the heat everywhere.  And a good portion of that heat comes from space heaters.

Sadly, half (50%) of all home heating fires occur in December, January, and February.  The US Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that space heaters are associated with about 21,800 residential fires and 300 deaths every year.

Here are some guidelines for using space heaters to keep warm and cozy without endangering your family.

Where to Plugin

Inspect the unit, cord, and plug for damage before using, then plug the space heater directly into a wall outlet, not into an extension cord.   Make sure the plug fits snug in the outlet.  Although you may want to use an extension cord or multiple outlet adapter, remember that space heaters use more wattage than some standard extension cords are designed to handle.  An extension cord might overheat and lead to a fire.

Also, space heaters require a lot of power, 1500 watts is common, so your space heater might cause a circuit breaker to trip.  Most living room and bedroom outlets are 15 or 20 amp circuits, which are the right size for small appliances and lamps.  If you have a few lamps on the circuit and then add a space heater, it could overload and cause a tripped breaker.  If that happens, turn off other appliances on the circuit so that it is only powering the space heater, and that should solve the problem.  If you can’t do that, move the space heater to a different circuit that has no other electric devices on it.

Clear the area

A space heater can cause nearby items to heat up and catch fire.  Try to keep a cleared 3-foot area around the heater where there are no curtains, blankets, papers, magazines, or other flammable objects.   Make sure the space heater is solidly on the floor, not on a table or footstool where it might trip someone or be knocked over.

Don’t leave it alone

Never leave a space heater running without someone in the room, or when you are sleeping.  Children and pets can get a bad burn from a space heater because the exterior can get hot.   The best way is to turn it off and unplug it when not in use.  Finally, if you want to use a space heater around water, such as a bathroom, be sure you’ve got one designed for that to reduce the risk of electrical shock.

We want you to stay safe and comfortable this winter.   If your space heater is tripping your circuit, contact us today and we can check your circuits and resolve the problem.  At any time you have a question about electrical safety in your home, let us know and we’ll gladly answer them for you.

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