Harmless, or Fire Hazard? How to Use a Space Heater Safely

 In Staying Warm, Winter Topics

During the cold winter months, a space heater is a quick and simple way to add a little warmth to your space. If you’re thinking about using one in your home this season, you may be wondering, is a space heater a fire hazard, and if so, how worried should I be? Here’s the truth about these small-but-mighty devices, and how you can use a space heater safely this winter.

Harmless, or Fire Hazard?

Unfortunately, the reputation of a space heater as a fire hazard is not just a myth. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, these devices are connected to more than 1,000 home fires every year. It doesn’t mean that you can’t use a space heater safely – but it is enough to encourage you to use caution when running a space heater in your home.

Space heaters can cause fires in a number of ways, largely because of the heating element involved. They use large amounts of electricity, which can become dangerous if there are problems with the wiring or device itself. They have certainly become safer in previous years, as is the case with many devices, but there are still risks involved. It’s vital to read the instructions that accompany a space heater and follow them accordingly to avoid risk of injury or fire.

How Can I Use My Space Heater Safely?

If you want to use a space heater, there are certainly precautions you can take to make usage a little bit safer. Here are a few general rules to follow to reduce the risk.

Stay away from water.

One of the biggest risks surrounding the use of a space heater is the risk of electric shock. To use a space heater safely, never place it in rooms with water involved. This includes bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms.

Choose a reliable model.

Not all space heaters are created equal. Be sure to look into a particular model before you purchase it, and read reviews from other customers online. Choose one from a reputable brand that has been tested for safety.

Plug directly into an outlet.

While surge protectors are handy, they can be a risk when it comes to using a space heater safely. These devices become overloaded easily which can result in blown fuses or worse. To be safe, always plug your space heater directly into a wall outlet and not a secondary device.

Avoid extension cords.

Extension cords come with risks similar to those of surge protectors. If your extension cord is old, damaged or otherwise compromised, it may not be able to handle the large amounts of electricity a space heater requires. Always plug your space heater’s cord directly into a wall outlet instead of using an extension cord.

Never leave it unattended.

You would never leave your home with a fire in the fireplace or a candle burning on the counter. While space heaters don’t have an open flame, they do have a heating element. This means they should never be left unattended, either. This includes when you leave the house, when you are sleeping or in a room with unattended children or pets.

Be mindful of placement.

To reduce the risk of using your space heater, you need to place it in a safe location. It might feel convenient to place it on a shelf or other surface for accessibility, but it’s far safer to place a space heater on the ground. Also avoid carpets, if you can, and stick to smooth, flat surfaces.

Remember the three-foot rule.

You may know that it’s important for there to be three feet of clearance all the way around your HVAC unit. The same goes for using your space heater safely. To avoid risk of fire, follow the three-foot rule: There should never be any objects within three feet of your space heater to avoid risk of fire.

Space heaters are a quick fix, and when used properly, they can be used to heat a small space within minutes.  As is the case with many devices, however, the bottom line is to use common sense when using a space heater to keep safety risks at bay. If you are running your home’s heating system and still feel the need for a supplemental space heater, it may be time to get your HVAC unit checked out. Call Barineau Heating and Air Conditioning today at 850.580.4029 or click here to schedule an appointment so you and your family can stay warm and toasty for the holidays – without the fire hazards.

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