As temperatures dip, and space heaters fly off the retail shelves, Heartland Rural Electric Cooperative (REC) encourages you to use space heaters safely. Many people turn to space heaters—both electric models and those powered by kerosene or propane— as a convenient source of warmth in winter months. However, space heaters can be dangerous if not used properly.
Excessive use of a space heater is not just unsafe, it can also be expensive. A standard 1,500 watt space heater that runs 10 hours each day can add $50 to your monthly utility bill.
More than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with space heaters. More than 300 people die in these fires. In addition, an estimated 6,000 people annually receive hospital emergency care for burn injuries connected with space heaters.
Space heater hazards stem not just from fires caused by contact with or close proximity to heating elements. They also include fires started by flammable fuels used in the heaters; defective wiring in the appliance; and carbon monoxide poisoning caused by improper venting or an incomplete combustion of fuels.
Here are some tips for using your electric space heater safely:
- Use space heaters to provide temporary warmth to small areas.
- Keep the heater at least 3 feet from flammable items such as curtains, furniture, or bedspreads.
- Select a space heater with a guard around the heating element.
- When buying a heater, choose one that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing institution such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Buy a heater that can handle the area that you want to heat.
- Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- Never leave a space heater unattended.
- Never go to sleep with a space heater on.
- Never use or store flammable liquids near a space heater.
- Be careful when using a heater in a bathroom–it’s a high-moisture area that could cause damage.
- Keep heaters away from water to prevent electrocution.
- Do not use an extension cord with a space heater.
- Do not use the heater to dry clothes.
- Be sure the heater’s plug fits snugly in an outlet. The cord and plug may feel warm when operating since the unit draws so much power, but they should not feel hot. If they do, unplug the heater and have a qualified repair person check for problems.