Space Heater Safety: The Do’s and Don’ts
There was a story in the news about 4 days ago about a local pregnant mother who was killed along with her 2-year-old son due to a house fire from a space heater. Firemen believe that the fire was started by one of the five space heaters inside the home, specifically a kerosene space heater that ignited a blanket. The Philadelphia Acting Fire Commissioner said the mother died trying to save her son by going back into the burning home. 4 children and 2 adults were also affected by this house fire, and were taken to a nearby hospital.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 25,000 house fires each year are linked to the use of space heaters, and over 300 deaths are a result of those fires. For those of you who use space heaters to heat certain areas of your home or office, it’s important to know how to properly operate these machines before plugging them in, or filling them up.
Dedicated Circuit for Electric Space Heaters
As electrical contractors, KB Electric LLC wants to emphasize the importance of dedicated circuits. The firemen found 5 space heaters in that home that killed a pregnant mother and her 2-year-old son. Even though the one that started the fire was a combustion space heater fueled by kerosene, there were still a lot of space heaters found in that home. Multiple space heaters in a home, specifically electric space heaters, should be on their own dedicated 20amp circuits. This means that when you have one space heater plugged in, it should be plugged into it’s own wall outlet, and that outlet should be wired to it’s own circuit. When you have multiple devices on one 15-20amp circuit like a lamp, TV, and a space heater, or multiple space heaters on the same 15-20amp circuit, you are setting yourself up for a circuit overload. This causes your circuit breakers to trip, and overtime with many instances of tripped breakers, there is a possibility that those breakers won’t be able to trip anymore, causing the burning of your electrical wires and melting of your wall outlets (FIRE HAZARD). Moral of this rant: Get a licensed electrician to install a dedicated circuit for your electric space heater so there won’t be any chance of a circuit overload.
Let’s take a look at more safety tips that you should be aware of before turning on space heaters so that your household doesn’t become one of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission statistics mentioned earlier.
Space Heater Safety Tips
- Do NOT use an extension cord with an electric space heater: Always use a wall outlet on a dedicated circuit.
- Do NOT leave flammable objects near the space heater (blankets, curtains, paper etc.): Make a 3 foot area clearance for the space heater.
- Always have working, and tested smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors installed in the required areas of your home when using space heaters.
- Keep children away from space heaters: The exterior gets very hot and poses a risk for burns.
- Unplug it when unattended and not in use.
- Never use an unvented, combustion space heater in your home: Vented ones are designed for indoor-use. The only exception to this is an electric space heater. These are unvented and can be used in the home.
- Vented combustion space heaters should always be permanently installed on or next to an exterior wall, so that they can be vented properly to the outside (they release combustion byproducts like carbon monoxide).
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and operation.
- Always have vented combustion space heaters professionally inspected every year: This will ensure that the heater stays well-vented for prevention of carbon monoxide.
- Use only the approved fuel source in the manufacturer’s instruction manual for combustion space heaters: Never overfill the heater, and never fill the heater when it’s still hot.