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Using Space Heaters Safely

Oil prices have dropped from the nosebleed heights they achieved this summer, but with winter coming, many people will continue to look for ways to curb heating costs.

Thrifty consumers may be considering saving money by lowering their thermostats and spot heating living areas with electric space heaters. Those who plan to do so should keep in mind that, according to the National Fire Prevention Association, 32% of home heating fires in 2005 were started with improper use of space heaters.

EMEC urges its members to keep the following space heater safety tips in mind.

  • Buy only heaters approved by Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL). Appliances approved by this century-old safety testing organization are marked with the UL symbol.
  • Buy only space heaters with a safety switch that turns off the unit if it tips over.
  • Put space heaters on a level, flame-resistant surface, especially if the heater is a radiant unit.
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from flammable materials like drapes, papers, blankets, upholstery or flammable liquids.
  • Make sure an adult is present and watchful if children or pets are around a space heater.
  • Do not leave a space heater on when you go to sleep.
  • Keep the space heater in good repair. Discard or repair it if the cord is cracked or worn, a guard is missing, or if controls are missing.
  • Space heaters are best used without extension cords. If one is needed, be sure to use a heavy-duty cord with a three-pronged plug. The cord should also have an amperage rating that is equal to or larger than the amperage of the space heater. To find the necessary amperage, divide the Wattage by 120. (For a 1500-Watt unit, for example, the cord should be rated for at least 12.5 Amps).
  • Do not use a space heater in a bathroom, because there are too many opportunities for the unit to get wet and cause electric shocks.

Space heaters are very commonly used and are generally a safe way to provide targeted heat. The common-sense precautions given above will allow you to stay warm and minimize hazards.

For more information about energy use in your home, follow the link to the Touchstone Energy Home Energy Audit page.



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