Space Heater Safety
It may not be officially winter in New England but it is sure has not stopped mother nature from delivering us some snow and arctic blasts. With century breaking cold coming for Thanksgiving this year we really need to look at home heating. Many in Massachusetts are not even in their homes due to fires in the Merrimack Valley area. That means more people will be using space heaters to stay warm. They are small, portable and cost effective. That alone does not make them safe.
Space heaters and other heating equipment causes almost 70,000 fires every year. Damages both monetarily, physically and emotionally are insurmountable and sadly as is the case in California can often times spread having devastating results. Winter is a dry season with a lot of leaves on the ground. That being said let us focus on how to stay safe while we all try to stay warm.
Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States. More than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year. These fire result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.
When you get a space heater making sure that the new one is the right fit for you needs will help with keeping everyone safe. Space heaters use electricity which means these is a risk of sparks, frayed or faulty wiring. Below you will find some key point to use as consideration when using them.
Choosing the right heater for your space can go a long ways in terms of keeping you safe. There is a little bit of math involved but it is relatively easy. Get the square footage of the room, it takes approximately 10 watts per square foot. So a 12X12 SQ Ft room needs about 1,440 watts to heat. Ok but the packaging for the heaters say BTU’s so now what. Multiply the watts by 3.41. A single watt is equivalent to 3.41 watts. So that sized room needs about 4,910 BTU unit heater. Guess what unless your room is much bigger than that most heaters run in at 5,100 BTU’s or 1500 watts. Pretty convenient right. Yes we thought so to. Just like a lot of products out there are counterfeit or knock offs. It is important to avoid these as they will have not been safety tested properly.
So now you have the proper sized space heater. Let us take a look at where the best place is to put it, along with what are some basic safety tips.
Make sure your space heater has the label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
- Make sure you are familiar with how your specific unit works. Read all the warnings and labels. The instructions can vary from unit to unit so do not assume the one you had years ago functions the same. Technology and requirements change. .
- Before use it is important to inspect the unit for broken cords, frayed wires, any damage or cracks. If any of that is found DO NOT USE
- Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you're leaving a room or going to sleep, and don't let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
- DO NOT use these units to try and cook food, dry anything or warm up a bed. Space heaters are only meant to provide heat to a space only. Woman in Lowell caused a fire 2 day after she was given a space heater for misusing it.
- Change all batteries in every smoke alarm in the house before using a space heater. There needs to be one on every floor. Make sure you conduct monthly tests to ensure proper working order.
- Keep them at least 3 ft away from anything flammable. This includes rugs, curtains, blankets and paper products.
- Keep cords and placement location out of main high traffic areas of your home. If you have to run the cord through an area that is walked through a lot tape the cord down. As flush against a wall as possible.
- They go directly into WALL outlets. DO NOT ***DO NOT*** use an extension cord or power strip. It is also important to not plug other high energy draining devices into the outlet. Sudden surges such as a toaster oven can cause overheating and start fires.
- The best places for a space heater is on the floor. For a few reasons. One of which is that heat rises and you want as much warm air to move throughout the room. The other is that it is a flat surface. If placed on a table or piece of furniture you run the risk of something else being placed on or near it increasing the risk of fire.
- If you are not using the space heater, make sure it is always unplugged.
Ok so now that you know how to stay safe and properly use a space heater lets get to enjoying the warmth. Have a safe and happy holiday season.