Let’s face it…sometimes our central heating just isn’t enough to do the job. We want heat in specific, localized areas, and so we resort to other means of heating. The most common additional resource is the space heater. While the space heater does its job well, people often underestimate just how dangerous a space heater can be if the proper precautions are not taken. More than 25,000 fires are started each year due to space heaters, and over 5,000 people annually report being burned or experiencing other injuries stemming from space heaters! Those are significant numbers, and should be enough for us to raise our awareness.
Why are electric space heaters so dangerous? Simply because they get extremely hot and they are somewhat portable, and therefore can be placed at the discretion of the owner. That being said, objects placed too close to a space heater can catch on fire. People often underestimate how “close” an object has to be to catch on fire, and they also underestimate the types of objects that can catch on fire. Most people would think, “I’ll be fine as long as no one throws paper into the space heater”. In actuality, a curtain that is placed within 2-5 feet of a space heater can easily catch on fire.
To avoid fire hazards, you can first ensure that your space heater was registered with Underwriter Laboratories. In order to verify this, you’ll need to look for the letters “UL” encircled on the box that the space heater came in. While this will not reduce fire hazard 100%, it will advise you that the product has been tested in UL labs to confirm that it has passed safety standards. Next, do not use an extension cord to plug in your space heater. If, for some reason, you absolutely must, make sure the cord is a three-pronged grounded cord with a 14 wire gauge size. Never run the extension cord underneath your carpet either. This will minimize the potential for fire as well as guarantee that the extension cord can handle the output of the space heater.
Make sure your space heater is on a level area, and never leave it unattended or leave your children around the space heater unattended. Never fall asleep with a space heater on and unattended. This will minimize burn injuries and prevent the space heater from being knocked over inadvertently, potentially causing a fire. Never use your space heater for other than its original purpose. Do not use it to dry clothes or defrost items. By reading the product’s manual and adhering to their specific guidelines (particularly guidelines for where the space heater should be placed), you can prevent a fire and/or injuries within your home.