Space heaters can provide extra comfort during cold weather. If not used properly, however, they can also be a safety hazard. Portable heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States, according to the National Fire Protection Association. With a few simple precautions, you can stay warm and safe all winter long.
Choosing a space heater
Safety starts at purchase. Select a unit certified for safe operation by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or another nationally recognized testing organization. Look for heaters with a guard around the heating element.
Consider the size of the area you want to heat. A heater that's too small or too large for an area can waste energy without providing the extra comfort you need.
Keep your space heater running safely by following these simple tips:
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters — the surface can get very hot.
- Never leave a space heater running when you're asleep or when you leave the area.
- Locate the heater at least three feet away from bedding, furniture and drapes, or where towels or other fabrics could fall on it and start a fire.
- Don't place heaters in areas where they may become wet — such as a bathroom. Corrosion or damage to heater parts can cause a fire or electric shock.
- Make sure your heater is placed on a level, non-flammable surface — not on rugs or carpets.
- Avoid using extension cords when plugging in space heaters. Don't hide cords under rugs or carpet.
- Never store flammable liquids near a space heater — they can be ignited by an electrical spark.
- Don't use fuel-fired space heaters indoors. Without proper ventilation, they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Maintain your heater in safe working condition. Don't attempt to operate a damaged unit in your home. Follow all manufacturer's guidelines regarding operating and storing your heater.