The hidden dangers of space heaters and how to avoid them
During these cold months, we’re always on the lookout for ways to keep ourselves warm. One of the most common methods is using a personal space heater, due to the comfort provided as well as its portability and ease of use. These qualities make space heaters a great holiday gift, but many people don’t know the dangers that can arise from improper use. If you plan on giving someone a space heater this holiday season, or if you received one yourself, here’s some tips to minimize the risks.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, as of 2021, portable heaters are involved in about 1,700 fires per year, resulting in about 160 injuries and 80 deaths annually. In addition, space heaters can cause hyperthermia, or overheating, to people exposed to the heat for too long. Especially vulnerable are children and the elderly, as they have limited ability to act or react to the higher temperatures. Most incidents occur when space heaters are left unattended in confined spaces.
How to mitigate risks when using a space heater?
Now that we know the facts, how can we minimize the risks of space heaters?
For once, please read the instructions
The first, and probably most important, step to take is to actually read the warnings accompanying the heater itself. While people often forgo reading the instructions for their new devices, taking a look at the guidelines for your space heater can tell you just about everything you need to know to stay safe during use. Check the writing on the box or inside the user manual for safety warnings. Additionally, search the internet for recall notices on your specific heater.
Don’t space out, pay attention!
Another important safety tip is to never leave a space heater unattended while it is running. While it may be tempting to leave it on during the night to keep you warm while you sleep, you also won’t be able to react quickly in the event of something going wrong. Think of it like a fireplace, you wouldn’t want to leave it on all night with nobody watching, would you?
Keep the power under control
Other important safety tips have to do with the power source for a space heater. For instance, you should never plug a space heater into a power strip or extension cord. Because of the high power draw of a space heater, they must be plugged into a wall outlet to support the necessary current flow, otherwise it can lead to the device overheating and potentially catching fire. The same goes for any other appliance that draws large amounts of power. In addition to this, frequently check the power cord, faceplate and outlet to see if they are hot, as it is a sign of overheating.
Give it some personal space
Finally, be sure to keep flammable or heat-sensitive objects at least 3 feet away from the heater in all directions. Objects such as curtains, blankets, rugs, clothes, paper and more can catch fire from the heater. Even the cord can cause fires. Never run the cord under a rug or carpet, as it can damage the cord and burn nearby objects.
A space heater can be a great purchase for yourself or as a gift to others this winter, but be sure to exercise caution when using it. Most incidents involving space heaters arise from improper use, so be sure to educate yourself and others on the proper usage methods. Most importantly, read the user manual or product information about the guidelines for the specific make and model of heater purchased, as they can vary greatly. Take the time to learn the do’s and don’ts of your space heater to ensure the best possible experience.