space heater safety

an assortment of modern electric space heaters

a temporary solution

Unfortunately, even the most reliable home heating systems can have their issues occasionally, and depending on scheduling, staffing and demand, it can sometimes take some time before an HVAC professional is able to arrive for assistance.  When this happens during cold weather, a popular temporary solution is the use of space heaters.  Space heaters can do quite well at keeping certain rooms heated comfortably, and can help in warming open spaces that could prevent frozen pipes.  However, the manufacturer instructions must always be followed carefully to prevent accidents or issues. 

electric space heaters

According to the United States Department of Energy, electric space heaters are the only type of unvented heater that is safe for use indoors.  This is primarily because there is no risk of carbon monoxide production or poisoning from this type of unit. 

safety tips

The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) published the following tops on space heater safety, which should be followed closely anytime you operate an electric space heater indoors:

  • Make sure your space heater has a label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
  • Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully.
  • Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use.  If frayed, worn or damaged, do not use the heater.
  • Never leave a space heater unattended.  Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep, and don’t let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
  • Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes. 
  • Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas and test them once a month.
  • Proper placement of space heaters is critical.  Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing, and rugs.
  • Locate space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways where they may pose a tripping hazard.
  • Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet.  Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire.  Do not plug any other electrical devices in to the same outlet as the heater.
  • Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces.  Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
  • Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.

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