Improper use of portable space heaters accounts for approximately 25,000 household fires each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). As temperatures begin to decline this season, and the price of heating fuel rises, more Americans will inevitably be tempted to use space heaters in their homes. Space heaters are widely available in wood, kerosene, gas, and electric models. Regardless of the model, however, CPSC offers the following fire prevention suggestions:
"Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or the heating element. This will help keep children, pets and clothing away from the heat source.
When selecting a heater, look for one that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters have been determined to meet specific safety standards, and manufacturers are required to provide important use and care information to the consumer.
Buy a heater that is the correct size for the area you want to heat. The wrong size heater could produce more pollutants and may not be an efficient use of energy.
Read and follow the manufacturer’s operating instructions. A good practice is to read aloud the instructions and warning labels to all members of the household to be certain that everyone understands how to operate the heater safely. Keep the owner’s manual in a convenient place to refer to when needed.
Keep children and pets away from space heaters. Some heaters have very hot surfaces. Children should not be permitted to either adjust the controls or move the heater.
Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps to prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Even vented heaters require ventilation for proper combustion.
Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep or leave the area. For fuel-fired heaters, dangerous levels of carbon monoxide could accumulate or uncontrolled burning could cause a fire.
Never use or store flammable liquids (such as gasoline) around a space heater. The flammable vapors can flow from one part of the room to another and be ignited by the open flame or by an electrical spark.
Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.
Place heaters at least three feet away from objects such as bedding, furniture and drapes. Never use heaters to dry clothes or shoes. Do not place heaters where towels or other objects could fall on the heater and start a fire."
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