Space heaters, if used safely, can add an extra level of comfort to the frozen winter months. If not used safely however, they can be one of the most dangerous items in your house. Each year space heaters cause over 15,000 house fires, usually because a heater was placed too close to flammable objects such as furniture and bedding. 80% of all deaths due to home heating issues can be attributed to space heaters. To keep yourself and your family safe during the coldest parts of the winter when you may need to use a space heater, follow these important rules:
- Never use old heaters. Always choose newer heaters that have appropriate safety features and have been properly inspected and labeled. Heaters purchased more than 5-10 years ago are likely not up to modern safety standards.
- Never use portable propane heaters or other unvented heaters indoors. Not only do they present a fire risk, the carbon monoxide build-up from them can cause serious illness and even death.
- Leave at least three feet of clear space around heaters. Items closer than this may overheat and catch fire.
- Always place your heater on a flat, stable surface so that it can’t accidentally be overturned; never place one on a table, chair, or similar surface.
- Turn your heater off when you go to bed or if you leave. Unattended heaters are a leading cause of fires.
- Keep children and pets away from heaters. Not only can they get burned, they may knock heaters over.
- Never use space heaters near potentially flammable items such as upholstered furniture, bedding, clothes, or curtains; and never put a space heater near a sleeping person.
- Always plug your heater directly into an outlet—plugging your heater into an extension cord is a serious fire risk.
- Make sure you have working smoke alarms, especially in your bedrooms, and test them once a month.
- If you use propane or natural gas heaters, have them inspected by a professional every year.
- Don’t use space heaters near paint or gasoline—the fumes can ignite.
Don’t be a statistic. 50% of all home-heating related fires happen during December, January and February—and one-third are directly caused by space heaters. Space heaters come in many different styles and sizes. Choose the right heater for your space, use a few simple safety precautions, and a heater can be a warm addition to your winter home.