A reliable space heater can be an incredible benefit in an emergency or in an area that doesn’t have regular heat run to it. However, a space heater is also dangerous if used wrong. This devise that can do so much good is the leading cause of home fires from December through February and among the leading causes of fires, second only to cooking equipment year round.
This warrants a caution to use it with a great deal of respect. Because many of these are increasingly used for emergency heat they can be used when people sleep. Half of home heating fire deaths were due to a space heater and in a quarter of those it came in contact with bedding or clothing that was flammable. As the temperatures dip it’s worth using caution with these appliances that hold benefit and danger in equal portions.
Many heaters have an automatic shut off that will turn off if the space heater is tipped over, which is an important safety feature but it still bears noting that although turned off it is still HOT and can ignite.
Pets and children simply do not understand the dangers of space heaters so keeping them away from the appliance is key. Maintain at least three feet of open space between the space heater and anything flammable.
Many people in an effort to get that heater in the middle of the room compound the danger of a space heater with the bigger danger in overloading a lightweight power cord. Small household cords often are not heavy enough for the amount of power a space heater needs and often lack the grounded wire also. By using too light of a cord it leaves the space heater drawing power above the capacity of the cord, resulting in overheating the cord. With a lack of proper ground this can also create a fire hazard. Never put a rug or other cover over this cord either the amount of heat can build up to create an ignition point.
Consumer Reports found the highest priced models of space heaters were not necessarily the best and indeed two of these had the lowest scores! The oil filled heaters are a popular option for many and although safer in many situations it still bears using safety measures.
When looking for an electric space heater make sure it has the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) evaluation and is labeled as such. Never put clothing next to or on the heater although this sounds like common sense it’s also far too common to put a wet coat or sweater in front of the heater to dry, until something tips the heater and it becomes an ignition point.
Kerosene and propane heaters are also available and used as a space heater. These too should have national laboratory evaluation. Never substitute gasoline or camp stove fuel for kerosene and even with pure kerosene use in a well ventilated room, taking care to not overfill the heater.
The misuse of these heaters results in deadly fires and tragic losses that simply do not need to be. Unfortunately the life lost is sometimes that of a responder trying to put the fire out. With the increase in economic hardship a space heater is sometimes a necessity for a short term heat or even in some areas a longer term. With bringing these heaters into the home it is oh so important to respect them and treat them not with fear but as the killer they can be if mishandled.
A space heater is a valued source of heat. Use safety measures to make sure this does not become a deadly source of heat that costs your family their home or, worse, a family member. Use space heaters wisely!