When cold, winter weather settles in, many people turn to space heaters and other devices for extra warmth or to warm chillier sections of their homes. Unfortunately, where there is heat there is often fire, and for that reason safety experts and organizations urge consumers to take extra caution when using home heating devices.
1. When choosing a heater, compare product ratings and reviews. Pay special attention to the lowest reviews, which may tip you off to a rare or seldom-noticed risk. ConsumerReports.org and SaferProducts.gov are two websites where consumers can research products they are interested in.
2. Be wary of old and second-hand heating units, as they may lack modern features such as automatic shutoff, proper guards, and thermostat controls.
3. Although it’s technically illegal to resell a device that has been deemed unsafe by the government or recalled, many such products nonetheless find their way to yard sales and thrift stores. Check for recall information at the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website before you buy.
4. Generally, electric space-heating devices are safer than portable fuel-burning heaters. If using a fuel-powered heater, be sure to use only the type of fuel specified by the manufacturer and always read the safety information that comes with the product. Some fueled heaters have special ventilation requirements.
5. Always put heaters on hard, nonflammable surfaces, never on rugs or carpet. Be sure that all flammable materials stay away from the device by a three-foot distance at the very least. Clothes, bed linens, books and paper, curtains, furniture, and even pet hair are some of the items that could easily catch fire if they were to contact the heating device.
6. Don’t use heaters without sufficient guards around the flame or heating element.
7. Check electric space heaters for frayed or broken wires, signs of overheating, or damaged insulation. The product is unsafe and should not be used if any of these problems are found.
8. Never allow children and pets around space-heating devices. The devices can cause fires and serious burn injuries to children and animals.
9. Never use heating devices in the bathroom or other parts of the house where they may come into contact with water, and don’t use a space heater to dry clothes and towels.
10. Always turn portable heaters off when you leave the room, and be sure they are unplugged when you go to bed or leave the house.
11. Before buying a new portable heater, check the CPSC’s website to make sure the product isn’t the subject of a safety recall. The CPSC currently lists five portable heating devices that have been recalled for safety hazards. To view them, visit Beasley Allen’s Personal Injury news blog.