During the fall and winter seasons, the use of electric space heaters increases as the temperature decreases. Increases in home heating costs may cause some consumers to explore alternative ways, including space heaters, to heat their homes.
In a recent year, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimated there were at least 25,000 residential fires associated with the use of space heaters, resulting in more than 300 deaths and 6,000 burn injuries. Because space heaters may cause fires due to misuse or manufacturing and design flaws, it is important to follow safety precautions to protect your family while keeping your home warm this winter season.
1. Purchase newer model heaters that have all the safety features, such as a tip-over safety switch which shuts off the unit if it tips over.
2. Buy only those units with the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) label.
3. Do not use space heaters as the only source of heat in your home. They are not intended to replace your furnace.
4. Choose a unit that is thermostatically controlled to avoid wasting energy by overheating a room.
5. Do not leave a space heater unattended. Unplug the heater when it is not in use. NEVER leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or place one close to a sleeping person.
6. If you must use an extension cord to plug in your heater, use a grounded heavy duty cord marked with #14 gauge or larger.
7. Place the space heater on a level, hard surface (like ceramic tile), not on a rug or carpeting, and keep at least 3 feet away from flammable surfaces such as draperies or bedding.
8. Keep babies and small children away from space heaters as they may be attracted to the glowing elements and sustain burn injuries to their tender skin.
9. Place smoke alarms with fresh batteries on all levels of your home and in each bedroom.
When used correctly, space heaters can provide an additional source of heating for your home. However, the use of space heaters can result serious injury and death. The U.S. CPSC has recalled numerous electric space and oiled-filled heaters: one was recalled in July 2010.
In tough economic times, many individuals are struggling to pay their utility bills. If you face the likelihood or possibility that your natural gas may be disconnected, contact your utility company prior to termination of service to ask for help. Many local charities and state agencies can provide assistance.