Portable electric space heaters come in handy when you’re trying to warm a specific room in your house or take the chill out of a drafty workspace. But if they’re not used properly, they can be more hazardous than helpful.
Portable and fixed space heaters are responsible for two of every five home heating fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association, and account for 84 percent of related civilian deaths.
That doesn’t mean you need to retire yours (after all, we still have several weeks of winter left – thanks, Punxsutawney Phil!) as long as you’re more mindful when using it. These tips from Electrical Safety Foundation International can help you extinguish the risk of fire and electric shock when you use a portable electric space heater:
- Use a heater that’s certified by an independent testing laboratory, like Underwriters Laboratories (UL), Intertek (ETL) or Canadian Standards Association (CSA).
- Check the heater for signs of damage before each use – and don’t use it if you spot anything suspicious. Red flags include cracked, frayed or broken plugs and loose connections.
- Position the heater at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs. Keep children and pets away from it.
- Place the heater on level, flat surfaces. Never put one on cabinets, tables, furniture or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
- Locate your heater away from high-traffic areas and doorways where it may pose a tripping hazard.
- Plug your heater directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire.
- Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.
- Never leave an operating space heater unattended. It should be turned off and unplugged at the end of the work day, when you leave the room or when you go to bed.