Safety Concerns with Space Heaters:
Small space heaters are typically used when the main heating system is inadequate or when central heating is too costly to install or operate. In some cases, small space heaters can be less expensive to use if you only want to heat one room or supplement inadequate heating. They can also boost the temperature of rooms used by individuals who are sensitive to cold, especially elderly persons, without overheating your entire home.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that space heaters are the source of 21,800 home fires every year and that about 300 people die annually as a result of the related fires.
Other concerns with space heaters include natural gas leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning, burns and electric shock. To keep safe and still enjoy the added warmth that a space heater can provide:
- Keep heaters at least three feet from walls, bedding, clothing, pets and people
- Turn the heater off when you leave the room or when you go to sleep for the night
- Don’t leave a portable heater running unattended
- Never dry socks or gloves on the heater
- Don’t use extension cords with electrical space heaters
How to Install a Space Heater:
1. Every electric heater must carry the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) seal of approval to be considered safe for use. Many antique, poorly wired or homemade heaters can cause a fire without warning. The cords of even approved models must be checked regularly for flaws or insulation breaks.
2. Electric space heaters require high wattage and should not be plugged into outlets using multiple plugs. If the circuit breaker does not shut off power due to the overload, an electrical fire is all too likely. Many mobile homes are warmed only by space heaters. Each year, there are cases where entire families have died in fires due to electrical problems caused by overloading.
3. Extension cords, which readily overheat and ignite with excessive wattage, must not be used with a space heater except in an emergency winter situation with an outside generator. In the latter case, cords must be of heavy gauge (more than necessary for the heater wattage’s), not tightly coiled while in use and kept under constant watch.
4. A 3-foot minimum clearance in every direction surrounding any type of space heater is necessary for safety. Placing any combustible item (including drapes) closer than this to the heater can cause a sudden fire.
5. In a finished basement application, electric baseboard heaters are the best choice. These heaters are sold in various sizes, typically in 4’ and 8’ lengths, dependent on square foot of the space.
What You Should Know about Space Heaters