While electric space heaters won’t beat your central heating system in overall efficiency, they do make sense (and cents!) in certain situations. According to the Energy Smart Program of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, a space heater is a cheaper option than cranking up the thermostat for warming isolated areas or a single room.
However, the use of electrical heating equipment increases the likelihood of home fires. A March 2016 report from the National Fire Protection Association named space heaters as the type of heating equipment that most often plays a role in home heating fires. The report also stated that 75% of those fires result in injury. According to Dr. Mike Hoaglin from Duke University Medical Center, “An estimated 6,000 people receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting the hot surfaces of room heaters.”
Here are some tips for keeping your home toasty with a space heater without getting burned.
Avoid the dangers of old electric heaters. New heater models have safety features that make a big difference. Travelers.com recommends looking for safety features that shut down the space heater under certain conditions, such as overheating or tipping over. When shopping around, choose certified safety over style. “Look for a label from a recognized testing laboratory verifying that the heater’s construction and performance meet voluntary U.S. safety standards,” recommended Peter Duncanson, director of system development with ServiceMaster Restore.
Also keep in mind that bigger isn’t always better. “Do not purchase oversized heaters,” advised Dr. Hoaglin. Check the space heater’s sizing chart and follow this sizing guide for reference.
Set Up Safely
Although it may be tempting to place a space heater on a chair or bookshelf, keep the heater safely grounded on a flat, level surface to prevent it from falling or igniting objects closer to the ceiling. Don’t use your space heater in the bathroom or near any other potentially wet surfaces. And be sure to position your space heater a safe distance from blankets and curtains.
You should also avoid sharing outlets with other electric appliances when using your space heater. According to Duncanson, extension cords and space heaters are a dangerous mix as the cord can overheat.
Shut Off at Night
Space heaters need their shut-eye, too. Remember to turn off your space heater before you go to sleep as well as when you leave the room. If you find you need some extra warmth at night, opt for an electric blanket instead!
The Energy Smart Program recommends that you avoid using space heaters for “comfort heat” on top of central heating systems. Never underestimate the power of layers – an extra sweater is a much safer choice. So go ahead and rock those double socks!
Single Task Masters
Your space heater has one job and one job only: to keep you warm. They are not designed to function as drying machines or storage shelves. Drying clothes or stashing other items on top of space heaters is a serious fire hazard.
If your heater does start a fire, you should have a plan in place. According to Duncanson, the first step is to pull the plug on the space heater. Small fires can be put out with a fire extinguisher. But it may be necessary to evacuate: “Always put safety, not your possessions, first. Assess your surroundings and judge whether to evacuate,” advised Duncanson.
If you decide it is necessary to evacuate, you can determine a safe exit route by feeling the door handles. “If they are warm, do not open them. Find another way out of your room,” Duncanson added. Stick to the stairs and call the fire department as soon as you’re out of danger.
For those living in a cold-weather climate, space heaters can be a little sliver of sunshine as long as they’re used safely. Get the rose back in your toes and select the perfect space heater for your space today!
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