When the weather turns cold, it can bring a chill into our homes. If you are having trouble heating up certain rooms of your home, you may consider getting a space heater. Portable space heaters have become a popular way to supplement central heating or heat one room. These are great devices that can make a chilly home office feel like a toasty haven. But when left unattended or misused, these appliances become a serious fire hazard.
The good news is that house fires caused by space heaters are preventable. By buying a quality space heater and following a few basic safety tips, you can stay comfortable all winter without putting your home at risk.
Types of Space Heaters
From small, personal-sized heaters for a chilly office to large outdoor heaters for the garage, space heaters come in a variety of shapes, sizes and styles.
It is important to match the power type and size to your need. Propane and carbon-burning space heaters are best left outdoors while electric and oil-filled heaters work well inside.
Indoor Space Heaters
When you think of space heaters, most people picture the little indoor space heaters that plug into the wall. They can range from personal space heaters small enough for your home office to large units with enough power to warm your living room. Most of the newer space heaters have the safety features you need to look for. Things like overheat protection, timers, long cords and tip-over shut-off.
- Portable Space Heaters: A portable space heater is exactly what it sounds like—a small heater that you can carry with you from room to room. They are typically electric with ceramic or quartz heating elements to generate warmth with infrared, convection or radiant heat.
- Radiant Space Heaters: A space heater that uses radiant heat with infrared waves to warm you directly instead of the air around you. The tiny electric fireplaces that add a homey glow to your living room are radiant space heaters.
- Oil-filled Space Heaters: An oil-filled heater uses thermal convection and radiant heat to warm your space. The oil inside distributes heat evenly through the unit, providing more heat for the room.
Outdoor Space Heaters
A propane or kerosene heater is a good solution for a cold garage or back porch in the cold months, but do not ever use these indoors as they can release dangerous fumes like carbon monoxide.
These are a few common types of outdoor space heaters:
- Kerosene Heaters: A kerosene heater burns a combustible gas and makes a good addition to your stash of camping supplies.
- Propane Heaters: Like your BBQ grill, a propane heater uses a tank of propane to generate heat.
- Patio Heaters: Patio heaters are best for wide outdoor spaces and flat surfaces like brick or cement. Typically, these types of heaters are tall towers that generate heat from burning natural gas through your home’s gas line or a propane tank built into the device.
Setting Up Your Space Heater
Your space heater’s location and surroundings can make the difference between a cozy atmosphere and a fire hazard.
If you plan to use portable electric space heaters, make sure to follow these tips and recommendations:
Plug Directly Into a Wall Receptacle
Nowadays, we rely on multiple different electrical items in our daily lives. It can be tempting to plug a space heater into an extension cord or even a power strip. Neither of these options is recommended as the space heater can overload them and result in a fire. In addition, you do not want to plug anything else into the same plug as your space heater. This could result in an overload of the circuit that the receptacle is attached to since space heaters require a lot of power to generate all that heat.
Be Mindful of Cord Placement
The first time that you use your space heater, you need to take a step back and be mindful of where you place the cord. Be sure that it is not in any walking pathway or stretched across a doorway. You should never run a cord underneath a carpet or through an enclosed space as it can result in a fire.
Provide at Least Three Feet of Clearance
Living rooms and bedrooms are among the most common places for fires to start in the home because of space heaters. When placing your new space heater, you want to put it in an area that gives it a solid three feet of space the whole way around it. It should never be close to flammable items like curtains, blankets, carpeting or furniture. It only takes a few minutes for a blanket to catch fire from a space heater and spread to the couch or curtains. Create a kid and pet-free zone around the space heater as well. Some models have hot surfaces that can burn children or pets.
You will want to place your heater as low as possible in the room so that the heat rises and warms as much air as possible.
Keep Them Away From Water
As you well know, water and electricity do not mix. For this reason, you must keep your space heaters out of any wet rooms in your home, including your kitchen and any bathrooms. You should never touch a space heater when your hands are wet as it can cause electrocution.
Install Smoke Detectors
If you are going to run the space heater in your home, you need to have smoke detectors in place and in good working order. This way, if a fire does break out because of the space heater, you can be alerted to it quickly. You should have smoke detectors installed outside all your bedrooms and at least one on every level of your home. You want to check the smoke detectors on a monthly basis to make sure that they are working appropriately. Also, you want to change out their batteries whenever they alert you that they are low.
Only Use the Unit When You Are at Home
You should never turn your space heater on and leave your house or use a space heater with a built-in thermostat that will turn on when you are not at home. And definitely never use your space heater while sleeping. You want to be fully alert so that you can respond to anything that may happen.
Check the Safety Label
Before you purchase a space heater, you want to ensure that it has a safety label on it. The most popular safety label that you will find is a silver one that has the letters “UL” on it. This simply means that it has been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories for safe consumer use. Some other safety labels include a certification from CSA International and an ETL label from Intertek. If the space heater you are interested in does not have a safety label, do not buy it.
Check It Routinely
Get into the habit of checking over your space heater every time you go to use it. You want to make sure that the wiring is not frayed or damaged in any other way. In addition, you want to make sure that the plastic housing of your space heater is not cracking anywhere.
Give Us a Call
Keeping your Southern California home warm this winter just got easier, with help from Aire-Tech! We give you countless resources to help you explore and learn about HVAC and energy efficient options for your home.
If your system needs repair or inspection, call Aire-Tech on 951-926-1002. You can also visit our Contact page and complete the contact form.