Space Heater Safety: The Real Truth

Are you concerned about space heater safety? Every week or so during the winter, there’s a story online or on the news about a home burning down because of an electric space heater. But check out the story more closely and you’ll often see that the problem was either caused by a heater being used inappropriately or a heater being used in close proximity to furniture, debris and other combustible items.

When you take the right actions and make the right decisions, you can become an expert at using electric heaters safely. Here are some tips about space heater safety that will serve you well:

part of space heater safety is buying a name brand like heater like this one
part of space heater safety is buying a name brand like heater like this one

Choose a name brand. Today’s name-brand space heaters are safer and work better than ever before. And models have evolved a long way from where technology was just a few years ago, so get a new heater if the one you have seems weak. You’ll save money and decrease risks when you use the latest model from a respected brand.

Never buy a used electric heater. It’s great to save money at garage sales and support local thrift stores, but a space heater isn’t something you should buy used. Used heaters may have been damaged, been left out in the elements, experienced a malfunction or been repaired by someone who didn’t know what they were doing. In general, buying a used electrical appliance is a bad idea.

Get the placement right. Even the best electric heater won’t work well if it’s used inappropriately. Place the heater away from the wall and as indicated in the directions. That usually means not using the unit on a table where it could be knocked off or in a confined space where airflow could be obstructed. And a heater in a large open area may never generate enough heat to do you any good.

Consider a cool-touch unit. If you have cats, dogs or children, choosing a cool-touch electric space heater is a smart idea for space heater safety. Many modern heaters get very hot and even have metal grates or elements that can burn little hands and paws. Choose a model that stays cool on the outside — and you don’t have to compromise quality to get one.

Don’t leave a heater unattended. While most heaters now have tip-over switches that turn them off if the unit is tipped, debris, bedding or curtains falling on a unit can quickly start a fire without triggering any of the unit’s safeguards. If you’re there, you can take action. If you aren’t, you can’t. And that could mean the total loss of your home.

Allow three feet around heaters. In fact, there shouldn’t be anything within three feet of a space heater — including curtains, socks or furniture. Items can fall over onto a heater or be pushed nearer to the heater by a pet or child, so keep everything well away.

Know your home’s circuitry. In most homes, the circuits will only support one heater per circuit without tripping a breaker. That often means one heater per room. Know how the circuits are arranged in your home — and take advantage of unused circuits intended for a freezer or washing machine, if available.

When you take the right actions, buy the right units and use a bit of common sense, you can accomplish complete space heater safety. It’s also important to teach everyone in your home respect for electricity and how it can help or harm you for the safest household. And make sure you have an evacuation plan so you can get out of your home quickly and safely if an electric space heater or any other appliance or devices causes a devastating fire you can’t control yourself.

There’s no reason to worry when you know the real truth about space heater safety — and act upon what you know.

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