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Stay Warm This Winter With These Space Heater Safety Tips


Portable Space Heater

The temperatures in the St. Louis region recently plummeted to subzero temperatures. With the dramatic drop in temperature, many residents purchase space heaters to add warmth to their homes and take pressure off the main HVAC system. Some residents lack proper central heating and must rely on these heaters.


Personal heaters (aka space heaters) are convenient but pose a fire hazard when used incorrectly. Stay warm (and safe!) this winter, and follow these space heater safety tips. 


Table of Contents:

The Fire Hazard of Space Heaters

Types of Space Heaters

  • Natural Gas Space Heaters

  • Baseboard Space Heater

  • Ceramic Infrared Heater

Space Heater ‘Do’s’ and ‘Don’ts’

Leaving the Space Heater on Overnight

Why is a Space Heater Extension Cord Unsafe?

How to Avoid a Space Heater Burn


The Fire Hazard of Space Heaters

According to the Missouri Department of Public Safety, portable heaters (personal space heaters) contribute to 25K house fires and hundreds of deaths yearly. Misuse of these smaller heaters can lead to a fire quickly spreading out of control. 

Space heaters increase the fire risk for numerous reasons. In some cases, the outlet cannot handle the usage capacity of the heater. If the outlet isn’t equipped with a GFCI (that trips the power), the excess heat and power surge lead to sparks that ignite nearby furnishings or other flammable materials in the home. Heaters also could be placed near flammable items.


Infrared Space Heater

Types of Space Heaters

Using space heaters properly helps minimize the risk of a house fire. Still, the numerous personal heaters available might lead homeowners to question which type offers the safest heating option. When shopping for a space heater, the most common options available are: 


  • Natural gas space heaters

  • Baseboard space heaters

  • Ceramic infrared heaters


About Natural Gas Space Heaters

Natural gas space heaters require propane or another type of gas for power. These heaters are convenient for outdoor events and gatherings but can be dangerous to use indoors. Natural gas poses a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning; this gas is colorless and odorless, and exposure can be fatal. 


Baseboard Space Heaters

These space heaters are installed at the base of walls (thus, the name). They are powered by electricity, allowing users to add more warmth to a space. These heaters can be safe but should never be left unattended. 


Ceramic Infrared Heaters

Ceramic infrared personal heaters are among the most popular portable heaters on the market. They use electricity for power, are extremely efficient in generating heat, and are inexpensive. These heaters often include timers that control their usage; ceramic heaters are energy efficient, too.


Space Heater Do’s and Don’ts

Using space heaters safely helps minimize fire risk and protect people and property. While using a personal or space heater is never the ideal solution to heating a space, these portable heaters can be utilized safely. Misusing these heaters leads to problems and an increased risk of fire.


Learn the do’s and don’ts of space heaters before relying on them for home heating.

 

Plugging in Space Heater

10 Space Heater Do’s:

  1. Place the heater on a level surface; this minimizes the risk of the heater tipping over and igniting a fire.

  2. Always plug a personal heater directly into an outlet.

  3. Keep flammable materials at least three feet away from the personal heater.

  4. Teach children to stay away from small heaters and protect pets, too.

  5. Unplug the heater when leaving the room or going to bed.

  6. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors before using a personal heater.

  1. Inspect the cord for any issues before using the heater.

  2. Unplug and cool off gas heaters before adding more fuel. 

  3. Check all heaters for a verifiable testing lab report.

  4. Read the instructions before using!




Space Heater on Fire

Avoid These 10 Space Heater Don’ts

  1. DON’T use a power strip or an extension cord with a space heater.

  2. DON’T place heaters close to any flammable item.

  3. DON’T leave the heater unattended.

  4. DON’T use a personal heater when asleep.

  5. DON’T let children or pets near these heaters.

  6. DON’T refuel a gas heater when it’s still warm.

  7. DON’T use a personal heater if the cord is damaged.

  8. DON’T use a heater without reading the instruction manual.

  9. DON’T use a personal heater to dry clothing.

  10. DON’T use a natural gas personal heater indoors.


Why Leaving a Space Heater On Overnight is a Safety Hazard

One of the most important ‘dont’s’ of personal heaters relates to leaving these heaters on overnight. Why is this dangerous?


Unfortunately, these heaters can be unpredictable. Some portable heaters burn extremely hot, which means that they could ignite nearby furniture or materials. During the night, the heater could lead to a power surge and overheat, which poses a fire risk.


Individuals need to use these heaters when necessary and always be mindful when using them. 

Why is a Space Heater Extension Cord Unsafe?

Many space heaters cannot be used with an extension cord or a power strip. Small heaters use too much electrical power, and plugging heaters into a power strip or using an extension cord can lead to a power surge, overheating, and a fire. 


For this reason, users MUST READ the heater’s instruction manual. Personal heaters will specifically state that they cannot be used with a power strip or an extension cord. 


Burning Extension Cord

How to Avoid a Space Heater Burn

Space heaters generate an immense amount of heat. Consider many small heaters to pose the same burn risk as a stove or other hot surface. Never touch the heating element of a personal heater, and avoid touching it if it is in use.


To keep pets and children safe, ensure that heaters are placed in a safe area inaccessible to children and pets. Older children should be instructed about the danger of the heater.


Stay Warm Safely

Black Jack Fire Protection District wants to keep residents safe year-round. During the cold St. Louis winter, be mindful of space heater safety. Abide by the 10 safety ‘do’s’ and avoid our 10 portable heater safety ‘don’ts.’

When used properly, portable heaters add warmth to a space to increase comfort. However, these heaters can also increase the fire risk when used improperly. Protect people, pets, and property, and abide by the safety protocols when using portable heaters!


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