Use Portable Space Heaters Safely

As temperatures drop, many families may use portable electric space heaters to help warm their homes. The Electrical Safety Foundation International warns that space heaters could cause fires and injuries if not used properly.

In fact, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, causing more than 300 deaths. An estimated 6,000 persons receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.

Room gas heaters, portable kerosene heaters and portable electric heaters have the highest risk of death and injuries, including non-fire related deaths due to carbon monoxide. Heating equipment is one of the leading causes of home fires during the months of December, January and February and trails only cooking equipment in home fires year-round.

Following are some basic precautions for using space heating equipment:

  • Check to make sure the heater bears the mark of a certified testing organization; and read the manufacturer’s instruction manual before using.
  • Keep space heaters at least three feet away from any combustible materials, such as bedding, clothing, draperies, furniture and rugs.
  • Test space heaters frequently to ensure the shut-off function works when the heater is tipped or knocked over.
  • Keep space heaters away from water. Check the manual to be sure that the heater is intended for use in such in locations as bathrooms.
  • Don’t use space heaters in rooms where children are unsupervised. Children may stick their fingers or other objects through the protective guards, causing burns or shock.
  • Turn off the space heater and unplug it when not in use.
  • Plug portable space heaters directly into the outlet. Do not use extension cords or 3-in-1adapters.
  • Make sure that the plug of the heater fits snugly in the outlet. A worn-out outlet can overheat, burning up both the outlet and plug. If left unnoticed, this can start a fire throughout the house.
  • Always put heaters in a place where they can’t be tipped over easily. It’s best to keep them on the floor where they have less of a chance of falling and becoming a potential fire or shock hazard.
  • Make sure the heater plug does not get hot. It is okay if the plug is warm to the touch when the heater is in use.
  • Do not run cords under rugs or carpets. Doing so can cause the cord to overheat and start a fire.
  • Broken heaters should be checked and repaired only by a qualified appliance service center. Do not attempt to make any repairs to the heater yourself.

Oak Electric Service is one of southeast Michigan’s leading electrical contractors. We are standing by to answer all of your residential and commercial electrical questions. Give us a call at (800) 964-7070. Be sure to ask about our “Free Electrical Safety Inspection.” We invite you to visit our website at to learn more about us.

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