Space heaters are a great way to get a little extra heat in small areas—especially in the winter months. They are also the second leading cause of house fires in the United States, so it is important that you know how to own and operate a space heater safely. Cates Heating and Cooling doesn’t want you to endanger your family and home or be uncomfortable, so we have some space heater safety tips for you this winter.

Selecting a Space Heater

The first thing to know about space heaters is that there are two different kinds: electric and fuel-burning. Electric heaters are safer gas-burning models, so unless you are just buying an emergency heat source, it is advised that you select an electric space heater.

You should also check to see what safety features the space heater has. Many space heaters will automatically shut off if they are tipped over, they overheat, they are touched, or they aren’t getting enough oxygen.

Selecting a space heater that has been approved by a nationally recognized laboratory is also important. You should only select a heater that has been tested by one of these laboratories because it ensures that the heater meets safety standards for construction and performance. Common laboratories include UL (Underwriters Laboratories), CSA (Canadian Standards Association), and ETL (Intertek Group).

Safety Precautions

There are few simple safety measures you can take to prevent problems with your space heater. First, plug the space heater directly into an outlet. Using an extension cord increases the risk of overheating, electrical shock, and fires. Make sure the power cord is unobstructed as well. Leaving the cord under a rug or piece of furniture can cause a fire in your home.

You will also need to put your space heater in a place that is safe. Space heaters need a certain amount of clearance on all sides, so be sure to follow the rules specific to the model you purchase. Keep them away from furniture, bedding, rugs, clothing, curtains, and anything that is combustible. A good rule to follow is three feet away from other objects.

A few space heaters can be hung on the wall. If you have one of those models, the three-foot rule won’t apply to you.

If you purchase a fuel-burning space heater, be sure you only use the type of fuel it calls for. Using a different fuel could cause major problems including fires. You also should only use fuel-burning space heaters if your home is well-ventilated because dangerous gasses can accumulate in your home.

Never place a space heater on an uneven surface, because it increases the risk that it will fall or be knocked over. You don’t want to place a space heater on an unstable surface either. Tables and chairs are not places that space heaters can safely operate on.

If you aren’t using your space heater, it is a good idea to unplug it. You may think that turning the heater off is enough, but it is better to be safe than sorry, so Cates Heating and Cooling recommends that you take it a step further and you unplug the unit when it isn’t in use. Never leave the space heater unattended. If you are leaving the home or room, it is best to shut the space heater off until you return.

If you think that you want to use a space heater while you sleep, be sure to get one that has a timed shutoff option. While you won’t be able to unplug the heater while you sleep, it helps prevent overheating the unit.

Don’t use your space heater near water or in damp areas. While it can be tempting to use a space heater in the bathroom for when you step out of the shower, the water can cause problems. You will also need to avoid touching the space heater with wet hands as it could shock you.

Inspect Your Space Heater and Home Frequently

It is easy to ignore everyday items in the home, but it is important that you frequently check the cords and other parts of your space heater to make sure it is safe. Make sure that nothing seems loose from the unit and check that the cord isn’t frayed or damaged in any way. If you notice damage, you should replace your space heater.

You will also want to make sure that the space heater is securely plugged into the wall. Plugs can come loose or fall out of the socket, so it is important to make sure that the heater is properly plugged in before using it.

In addition to checking the space heater, you should also check your smoke alarms at least once a month. If something does happen, at least the smoke detector will help alert you to the problem. You also need to check your carbon monoxide detectors to make sure you aren’t inhaling dangerous gasses.

If you have any questions or concerns over operating a space heater in your home, call Cates Heating and Cooling. A technician can help answer any questions you have about operating a space heater in your home safely. Call Cates Heating and Cooling for space heaters questions and any of your other heating needs this winter at 913-888-4470.