Space Heaters: How To Prevent Fires In Your Home
On a cold, brisk day, nothing sounds more appealing than cozying up on the couch, hot chocolate in-hand in front of a toasty space heater. While space heaters can truly be a life-saver during the winter months, they can prove to be a serious danger if handled incorrectly, resulting in burns and even a house fire.
According to data collected by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, 25,000 house fires every year are caused by the misuse of or malfunction of space heaters. Despite a space heater's ability to cause a fire, you shouldn't be afraid to use them if needed. Just take the time to learn how to use a space heater safely to prevent any dangerous or life-threatening occurrences from taking place. Here are some great tips on how to keep safe when enjoying the warmth of a space heater.
What to know Before you buy a space heater
If you're out shopping for a new space heater, whether it be in a brick and mortar or online store, it's important to read the fine print before you hit the check-out. First off, you need to make sure the appliance has some type of safety certification listed on the box — a mark by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), an ETL label from Intertek, or a nod from CSA International, for example.
According to Consumer Reports, space heater manufacturers run tests on their pieces to ensure they're safe for use. If you look up a space heater online and see they have a safety rating of "poor" (or anything less than good, honestly), you're best to keep looking.
Next, you should be sure the space heater has shut-off features, ensuring that if you forget to turn the thing off after using, it'll just do so automatically. This switch can also shut the heater off if it overheats or gets knocked over by accident. And while you may not think the space heater's cord matters much in terms of safety, it actually is crucial. Be sure the cord is long since it's a fire hazard to connect it to an extension cord (it's more likely to overheat this way).
How to use a space heater correctly and safely
Okay, you've picked a space heater that's certified safe and you're ready to get toasty! Picking a spot to place the space heater is probably the most important decision you'll make when considering issues of safety. According to a feature in Sylvane.com, it's best to seat a space heater at least three feet away from any furniture, drapes, or other household items. "These items can cause a risk of fire if they come in contact with a unit's electric heating element or too-hot surface," the article states.
Just after cooking, The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) declares placing space heaters next to items that can catch fire as the second leading cause of house fires. That's because many people don't know simple fire-preventing hacks like not plugging a space heater into an outlet that currently holds other cords since it can cause overheating. Additionally, don't ever place the things near gas cans or other highly flammable items.
Also, pay attention to what surface you're putting the space heater on. While hard surfaces are ideal, carpeting is acceptable as long as it's not high-pile. And while it may be tempting to use a space heater in your children's rooms, resist the urge. They can easily forget to turn them off or will knock them over without remembering to pick it back up.
Being safe with space heaters: Use your common sense!
While there are plenty of official rules and things to consider when safely using a space heater, a little common sense never hurts. Space heaters are hot, so don't touch them! Only move them when they're off and cooled down to prevent burns and dropping of the unit. It's also a good idea to ensure all the rooms in your home have working fire alarms before using your space heater (although, you should be sure the alarms are up to par all-year-round).
Lastly, don't forget about your pets! Don't put your space heater near your pet or in a room your cat or dog runs around in. You don't want their tale getting suck in there or for them to knock over the unit without you knowing.
Now that you've read through everything, are you feeling more nervous about using a space heater than before? That's understandable. But a well-made space heater used safely shouldn't cause reason for concern. Plus, using one sure beats living with frozen-cold toes on gusty, winter nights!