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Safety Tips for Electric Space Heater Use

Posted By Regan Zambri & Long || 24-Jan-2008

There are many instances where a small, portable heater can be useful in a home or garage during the winter season.  Portable heaters are available in many models, including those that burn propane, kerosene or other fuels.  Many homeowners opt for electric models which don’t produce noxious fumes or produce an open flame, because they appear safer.  According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), however, many homeowners exhibit a false sense of security related to electric space heaters — appliances which can, in fact, be very dangerous when used improperly.

One major problem with space heaters, warns the CPSC, is that although they do not produce an open flame, they do produce enough heat to ignite flammable objects nearby — items such as drapes, rugs, paper, clothing and furniture.  Furthermore, the units may also pose electrocution hazards if placed improperly in the home.  If you are using or planning to use an electric space heater in your home this season, take time to review these common-sense space heater safety tips, courtesy of the CPSC:

  • "Look for one that is listed with a nationally-recognized testing laboratory. These heaters have been tested to meet specific safety standards, and manufacturers are required to provide important use and care information to the consumer. On heaters that are not listed, consumers have less assurance that the safety features and operating instructions are adequate.
  • Purchase a heater with a guard around the heating element. A wire grill or other protection is essential to keep fingers or fabrics from touching the hot element. Portable electric heaters that heat by circulating oil or water, however, usually have lower surface temperatures and may not need guards.
  • Before using the heater, read and follow the instructions for its operation and maintenance.
  • If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is a heavy duty cord marked with a # 14 gauge or larger wire An incorrectly-sized cord may create a fire hazard. If the heater’s plug has a grounding prong, use only a grounding (three-wire) extension cord.
  • Never run the heater’s cord (or any cord) under rugs or carpeting.
  • Do not leave the heater operating unat-tended or operating while sleeping. Portable electric air heaters are designed for use only as temporary supplemental heating and only while attended.
  • To prevent electrical shocks and electrocutions, always keep portable electric heaters away from water and never touch an electric heater if you are wet.
  • Do not use an electric heater as a dryer by placing clothing over it and never use it heater to thaw pipes.
  • Keep the heater in safe working condition Replace missing guards and controls at once. Never operate a defective heater.
  • Don’t place the heater where children might play near it or where people might trip over or bump into it.
  • Place the heater on a level surface for stability.
  • Regardless of the type of heating system you have, install and maintain at least one smoke detector that is in good working condition on each floor of your home."

    Previously on the DC Metro Area Personal Injury Law Blog, we have posted articles related to:

    For information about your legal rights, please click here or call the law firm of Regan Zambri & Long, PLLC at 202-759-6699. 

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