Portable Space Heaters
Portable space heaters pose a greater risk of causing a fire than central heating units. Space heaters also have greater potential for human error, such as leaving them too close to combustible materials or failing to install, fuel, operate and maintain them properly. Safety must be a top priority when using these portable heating systems.
The U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that each year, more than 25,000 residential fires are associated with the use of space heaters, causing more than 300 deaths. An estimated 6,000 people receive hospital emergency room medical care due to burn injuries associated with coming in contact with space heaters.
If you must use a space heater, please observe the safety precautions listed below:
- The space heater selected must be tested by an independent testing laboratory such as Underwriter's Laboratories (UL).
- The preferred style of space heaters is fully enclosed by design and have no external surfaces that reach temperatures capable of igniting, such as an oil filled radiant heater.
- Keep the space heater accessible - do not store anything within three feet of the unit. The leading cause of space heater fires was combustibles too close to the heater.
- The unit must have thermostatic controls and automatic shutoff features.
- The space heater must be plugged directly into an outlet. Do not use a light-duty extension cord or a multi-outlet strip/surge protector; it can start a fire with a high-wattage appliance. The unit must be grounded with a three-pronged plug.
- Do not use an extension cord or strip plug.
- Run the power cord so that no one steps on or trips over it.
- Turn off the heater when you leave the room - unplug the heater when you leave for the day.
- Make sure that the portable space heater has a tip-over alarm feature built in.
More Heating Safety Tips
- Keep anything that can burn at least three-feet away from heating equipment, like the furnace, fireplace, wood stove, or portable space heater.
- Have a three-foot "kid-free zone" around open fires and space heaters.
- Never use your oven to heat your home.
- Have a qualified professional install stationary space heating equipment, water heaters or central heating equipment according to the local codes and manufacturer's instructions.
- Have heating equipment and chimneys cleaned and inspected every year by a qualified professional.
- Remember to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.
- Always use the right kind of fuel, specified by the manufacturer, for fuel burning space heaters.
- Make sure the fireplace has a sturdy screen to stop sparks from flying into the room. Ashes should be cool before putting them in a metal container. Keep the container a safe distance away from your home.
- Test smoke alarms at least once a month.