10 safety tips every home owner should know about space heaters

ROANOKE (WSLS) – Now that Winter is feeling more seasonably cold, people are doing what they can to stay warm.

One popular method of home heating continues to be space heaters. Local fire departments as well as insurance companies like State Farm are warning users about safety tips to keep in mind.

Each year space heaters cause more than 25,000 residential fires and send 6,000 people to the ER for treatment of burns, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Help stay safe with these 10 recommendations:

  • Give the heater some space. Placing a combustible object too close to a heater is the leading cause of space heater fires. Allow at least three feet of open space on each side of the unit.
  • Use wall plug-ins. To prevent a fire, never plug a high-wattage space heater into an extension cord or multi-outlet strip.
  • Opt for quality. When shopping for a space heater, select a unit that has all the latest safety features and the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label of approval. Look for cool-to-the-touch housings and automatic shutoff features that turn the unit off if it’s tipped over or overheating. Some units will automatically shut off if their infrared sensors detect a person or object that is too close to the heater panel—making them desirable choices for households with kids or pets.
  • Never run a space heater in an unoccupied room. Always turn off a space heater when you leave the room and before going to bed, especially if young children or pets could come in contact with the device. Unplug the unit as an extra precaution.
  • Size matters. Before purchasing a space heater, check the label to see if it is the appropriate size for the area you want to heat.
  • Keep electric heaters away from dampness. Operating units in wet areas such as bathrooms can cause electric shock. If you need additional heat in a damp location, purchase a heater specifically designed for this purpose.
  • Safety first. Every room in which you plan to run a space heater should be outfitted with a smoke alarm. If you’re operating a gas space heater, also opt for a carbon monoxide alarm.
  • Be sure the plug fits snugly in the outlet; a loose plug can overheat and cause a fire. Even operating correctly the cord and plug may feel warm. If the plug feels hot, unplug the heater and have a qualified repairman check for problems. Using a heater with a hot cord or plug could start a fire
  • Do not hide cords under rugs or carpets. Since the cord and plug generate heat even when operating properly. Placing anything on top of the cord could cause the cord to overheat and can cause a fire
  • Never lay clothes or any other materials on top of a space heater. It can be tempting to dry clothes, socks or shoes near a space heater, but those materials could easily catch fire.

Learn more about safe space heater use from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Savers website.

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