Electric space heaters are a convenient option for heating the home or office. There is a wide variety of options available for electric space heaters depending on the size of space you have to warm and what style of space heater best compliments the room you’re heating.
It’s estimated that more than half of the energy used in homes across the nation is for either heating or air conditioning. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 37% of American households supplement their primary home heating system with an additional heat source, with roughly half of those households using portable electric heaters for extra heat.
During the cold winter months, electric space heaters become a handy solution when more conventional home heating options like natural gas or central heat fail to provide a comfortable level of heating on their own.
Sharing a thermostat with someone who prefers brisk temperatures around the home or office also makes electric space heaters a tempting solution for fighting toe-chilling temperatures.
While convenient, space heaters can be dangerous when used incorrectly.
Space heaters cause household fires
There are an estimated 1,100 fires every year that are a result of a portable electric heater. These fires result in approximately 50 deaths per year with property damage adding up into the millions of dollars.
By following a few simple safety steps, many of these disasters could have been avoided. Below are 6 steps you can take to reduce the risk of fire and property damage when using an electric space heater. Remember to always follow manufacturer’s recommendations when using a space heater.
6 tips for space heater safety
- Make sure your space heater is plugged directly into the wall. It’s recommended that space heaters not be plugged into surge protectors.
- Do not use an extension cord to power an electric space heater. Most extension cords used for household purposes are not rated for the high amperage needed to safely run space heaters. The safest bet is to avoid using extension cords entirely for powering you space heater.
- Purchase space heaters that have a tip-over safety switch that will automatically shut the heater off if it is tipped over. This will kill the power to the space heater in the event it’s knocked over by accident.
- Only operate a space heater when it is sitting on the floor. Positioning your space heater so that it will blow directly on you can be tempting, especially if you’re sleeping in a cold room. Do not operate a space heater if it is setting on a shelf, nightstand, work bench, etc. Place your electric space heater on the flattest, smoothest flooring surface you can find, preferably not on a rug or a carpet.
- Keep your space heater away from flammable objects. This seems obvious however it can be easy to overlook curtains, bedding and furniture when operating your space heater. The 3-foot rule is a general rule for safely operating a space heater. Always consult manufacturer’s recommended use before using your space heater.
- Never leave your space heater unattended. Anything can happen, even if you take all the outlined precautions and follow manufacturer’s recommendations. A child or pet can knock over or move a space heater to an unsafe location. If there are children in the home, unplug and store any unused space heaters in a secure location. Not only are electric space heaters a potential fire hazard, but they can also cause electrocution.
Electric space heaters are a convenience, but they are also potentially dangerous.
According to Kevin Copeland of Copeland Electric, improper use of electrical space heaters is one of the more common electrical hazards his company sees during the winter months.
“If not used properly, they can be very dangerous and potentially burn your home or building down,” Copeland says. “Everyone should be aware of the dos and don’t of operating an electric space heater. Unfortunately, a lot of people use these heaters incorrectly. It’s a common thing that we see.” Copeland adds that if you would like to have the electrical system inspected at your home or business, he will be happy to do so. Copeland Electric will be able to give you recommendations on how to operate electric space heaters this winter properly and safely.