Using a Portable Heater: Keep It Cozy, Keep It Safe

Posted by Safeco December 3, 2015
Portable Heater Safety Tips

7 Tips for Space Heater Safety

When temperatures drop and you fire up the furnace for winter, it seems there's always a corner of the house—or maybe an entire room—that never gets quite warm enough.

Rather than overheat the rest of the house, you might plug in a portable electric heater to cozy up the space. The versatile units can be effective, energy-efficient tools to help keep things comfortable until spring. But, they’re also a known fire risk.

According to the National Fire Prevention Association, in a recent five-year period, portable heaters accounted for one-third of home heating fires, with half of all such fires occurring during the months of December, January and February.

If you plan to use a space heater this winter, here are seven common-sense tips to help you stay safe:

  1. Do your research. Choose a heater that’s been tested and certified for safety by an organization such as Underwriters Laboratories. Some shut off automatically if the unit overheats or tips over, but don’t substitute such features for careful use. To check for safety recalls, visit the SaferProducts website.
  2. Don’t overload your circuits. Plug your portable heater into a wall outlet that can handle the wattage, and ensure the plug fits tightly. Never plug it into an extension cord or power strip or into the same wall outlet as other heavy-duty appliances.
  3. Establish a perimeter. Place the heater in an open area, not under desks or in other enclosed areas, and keep it at least 3 feet away from anything flammable. Ensure children and pets don’t get too close, either.
  4. Don’t cover up the cord. Never run the heater’s cord under rugs or carpeting. This can damage the cord, causing it and nearby objects to burn.
  5. Monitor for excess heat. During use, check frequently to determine if the heater plug or cord, wall outlet or faceplate is hot. If so, discontinue use and seek repairs.
  6. Set the thermostat. By using a heater with thermostat controls, you can help avoid overheating the room, which wastes energy, as well as the unit.
  7. Don’t leave it unattended. Leaving the room or sleeping? Hit the “off” button, and unplug the heater.

Remember, electrical fires can start inside your walls, too, not just in the immediate area. If you blow a fuse or trip a circuit breaker while using your space heater, it’s a good indication that it’s more than your system can handle. Try a different outlet or a different portable heater to better minimize your risk.


Get Insurance, Get Protected

Whether we rent or own, we’re all at risk for a home fire, especially during the winter. You can help ensure your home and belongings are protected by having the renters insurance coverage or home insurance coverage you want. Work with an independent insurance agent to purchase the coverage that’s right for you so you can enjoy the winter, and every season beyond.

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