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Space Heater Electrical Safety Tips

Using a space heater is a convenient way to heat your home, but if not used properly, it can cause fires, property damage or electric shock.

Did you know more home fires occur during the winter months than any other time of the year? 

When temperatures get low, you’ll want to do anything you can to stay warm and comfortable and that often means using heating equipment to stay warm. Trying to keep your home warm during colder winter months can also increase your risk for heating-related fires. 

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States, with more than 65,000 home fires being attributed to heating equipment each year. 

Home heating fires are also the second leading cause of fire deaths among older adults, according to ESFI. 

You might consider using a space heater because it’s a convenient way to heat your home, but if not used properly, it can cause fires, property damage or electric shock. 

According to the National Fire Protection Association, half of all home heating fires occur in December, January and February. Space heaters in particular, whether portable or stationary, account for four out of five home heating fire deaths, according to NFPA. 

Follow these tips to help ensure you’re using a space heater safely. 

Inspect Your Space Heater
As with any electrical equipment, make sure there aren’t any cracked, loose or broken plugs or connections. Ensure that the wiring is not frayed or damaged. If you spot any of these electrical hazards, don’t use the space heater. You should also make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and any warning labels that come with the equipment. 

Connect it to a Wall Outlet 
Make sure you plug your space heater directly into a wall outlet. Plugging a space heater into an extension cord or power strip could cause it to overheat and result in a fire. You should never plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater, according to ESFI. Be sure to unplug it when not in use. 

3-Foot Safety Rule 
Your space heater should be kept at least three feet away from anything that’s flammable, such as rugs, blankets or paper. According to NFPA, placing a heater too close to upholstered furniture, clothing, a mattress or bedding was the leading factor contributing to fatal home fires and accounted for nearly 53 percent of home heating fires

Flat Surfaces
Make sure your space heater is placed on a dry, flat, leveled surface. You should never place your heater on tables, furniture, cabinets, carpets or rugs because it can cause them to overheat and start a fire. Don’t use a space heater in wet or damp areas in your home unless it is specifically designed for use in wet locations, such as bathrooms, says ESFI. 

Avoid Tripping Hazards
Ensure your space heater is placed in a low traffic area in your home. Avoid placing your space heater in busy areas, like the entrance of a hallway or doorways, where the space heater may pose a tripping hazard. 

Don’t Leave it Unattended
Be sure to turn your space heater off when you’re leaving a room. Be mindful of of pets or children who may come in contact with the heater. 

Use it Only to Keep You Warm
Space heaters are only meant to provide an alternative way to heat you or your room. ESFI reminds you to never use a space heater to warm your bedding or dry your clothes as these activities could pose an increased risk of an electrical hazard or fire. 

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarms
A working smoke alarm can significantly increase your chances of survival during a fire. As a reminder, you should also ensure that you have a properly working smoke and carbon-monoxide alarms by testing the batteries of your life-saving devices. It’s generally considered a good practice to change the batteries every six months

For more electrical safety tips, visit on.sce.com/staysafe