As soon as the temperature dips, many folks whip out the space heaters. When some homes' central heating don't cut it, space heaters help to bring warmth to select rooms that could use a blast of heat. But despite their utility, space heaters can be extremely dangerous when users mishandle or use them improperly.
According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, over 25,000 residential fires are the result of space heaters each year; the commission also estimates space heaters cause over 300 deaths a year and send 6,000 people to the hospital due to burns. It's a fact that's front of mind right now in America: on January 9, 2022, a fire in a Bronx, New York apartment building killed 19 people, with the fire commissioner saying a malfunctioning space heater caused the fire.
Most space heaters — the good ones, at least — have built-in safety features — like automatic shut-off or tip-over protection — to prevent anything bad from happening. With many people turning to space heaters to stay warm this winter, it's of the utmost importance to follow a few safety tips to make sure they stay warm and safe. Here are six ways to use your space heater safely and properly.
Don't Leave a Space Heater Unattended
When you're not in proximity to your space heater, don't keep it on. If something were to go wrong, you need to be able to quickly jump into action to prevent anything bad from happening. You can never be too sure that a space heater's safety features will be enough to prevent the worst.
Keep Your Heater Away From Fabrics
Areas close to the space heater will get very hot, very fast. Manufacturers recommend giving space heaters three feet of clearance around the appliance to prevent fabrics — like curtains or upholstered furniture — from catching fire. Also, be sure to keep the space heater away from a wall because the wall can also get hot.
Plug It Directly Into the Wall
Avoid plugging a space heater into a power strip or extension cord. Doing so may overload the circuit and cause overheating, or worse, fire. Plug your space heater directly into a wall outlet. And if you want to be extra safe, unplug the space heater when you're not using it.
Keep Your Space Heater On the Floor
Avoid putting your space heater on a piece of furniture. It may be tempting to elevate a space heater to presumably better help with circulation, but one could easily knock into the furniture it's sitting on and cause the space heater to topple over. While being on the floor won't 100 percent guarantee the space heater won't fall, the floor is definitely a more stable place to be. Besides, hot air rises anyway.
Keep Your Heater On the Floor, But Off Carpet
OK, so your space heater is on the floor. Now make sure it's not on a rug or carpet. Those fabrics can quickly overheat and spark a fire. Hard floors are the way to go.
Be Wary of Pets Around Space Heaters
Clumsy pets may snuggle up to space heaters for their warmth, so keep an eye on your pets before they accidentally cause trouble to your space heater.