It's well known that portable space heaters don't have a great safety reputation because they are electric high-wattage appliances with a potential to ignite combustible materials like curtains, beds, sofas, paper, clothing, and flammable liquids in their near vicinity. A major fire could occur if ignition results from a heater left unattended.
Never leave your space heater unattended. Always turn off and unplug a space heater and when you leave the room or go to sleep.
Space heaters causing fire
The U.S. National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) repeatedly reports that the cause of more than half of all home heating fire deaths occured as a result of fires ifnited by heaters positioned too close to flammable objects such as furniture, mattresses or clothing.
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that portable electric heaters are involved in about 1,100 fires per year, resulting in about 50 deaths, dozens of injuries and millions of dollars in property loss. According to the National Fire Protection Association, 32 percent of home heating fires involve space heaters, resulting in about 80 percent of home heating fire deaths in the United States.
Space heaters should always be kept at least 3 feet (1 m) away from any flammable objects.
Oil filled radiators are the safest heaters
Oil filled radiators are the safest choice because of their enclosed system. The heating element inside these heaters heat a factory filled diathermic oil which heats the body of the radiator. The heat is then dissipated into the surrounding space with a combination of radiation and convection. These radiators aren't going to burn your hand if touched and operate on lower temperatures than other space heaters, which means they are less likely to ignite fabrics or other flammable materials that could come in contact.
The heating element inside an oil filled radiator is enclosed in a metal case as opposed to fan, convector and infrared heaters which have their heating elements exposed.
When such heaters get hot, you can see a heating element inside get glowing red which could ignite flammable objects placed too close.
Do not plug the heater into an extension cord. There's a good chance that your extension cord won't be able to handle the amount of power the heater needs, which could lead to overheating of the power cord, wall outlet, and fire.
If possible, always set the heater to low power operation when maintaining the room temperature to avoid overheating of electric wiring and wall outlet. Select the minimum or medium level, the heating effect and electricity consumption will be the same.
Tips on how to use space heaters more safely
- Always keep the heater at least 3 feet from any flammable materials, such as sofas, couches, drapes or curtains.
- Make sure the heater is away from children and pets to prevent tipping over.
- Always place space heaters on a firm and nonflammable surface such as tiles, never on carpets or close to flammable materials such as sofas, couches, drapes or curtains. Also, do not place the heater on other objects, it is best to keep it on the floor.
- Buy only heaters from safe manufacturers, all others of dubious origin are much more dangerous.
- When purchasing a space heater, make sure it's certified by a recognized testing laboratory and tested to safety standards.
- Always follow manufacturer's instructions from the user manual.
- If possible, purchase a space heater with safety features that will shut the appliance off in case the space heater falls or overheats.
- Never leave your space heater unattended for a longer period of time like going out of the house or going to sleep.
- Never use heaters near chemicals or easily flammable substances (gasoline, thinner, ...). Pay special attention to this if you use the heater in the garage.
- Do not place towels, cloths and clothes on them, especially if it is a fan or halogen heater.
- Always plug them directly into a wall outlet, never via extension cords, as it could pose a real fire hazard.
- Unless this is their intended purpose, do not use heaters in the bathroom or in damp places.
- Periodically check the heater cables and never use one with a damaged cable.
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