What are the dangers involved with space heaters?

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that space heaters, including both fixed and portable heaters, are associated with more than 21,000 residential fires every year. About 300 people die every year in fires started by these heaters.

Additionally, fuel-burning space heaters can cause carbon monoxide poisoning and indoor air pollution when they are not properly vented or there is incomplete combustion / ignition.

These inherent dangers are compounded when manufacturing defects make safe operation of the device impossible. Each year, thousands of portable heating devices and fixed space heaters are recalled for flaws or defects that pose the risk of a fire or injury. Manufacturing defects include electrical problems, faulty fans and oscillating mechanisms, lack of guards around heating elements that can result in burns, and faulty thermostats / temperature controls that may lead to overheating.

Follow these safety tips from the CPSC:

• Select a space heater with a guard around the flame area or heating element. Place the heater on a level, hard and nonflammable surface, not on rugs or carpets or near bedding or drapes. Keep the heater at least three feet from bedding, drapes, furniture, or other flammable materials.
• Choose a space heater that has been tested and certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters meet specific safety standards.
• Keep doors open to the rest of the house if you are using an unvented fuel-burning space heater. This helps prevent pollutant build-up and promotes proper combustion. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to provide sufficient combustion air to prevent CO production.
• Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep. Never place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
• Turn the space heater off if you leave the area. Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
• Have a smoke detector with fresh batteries on each level of the house and a carbon monoxide detector outside your sleeping area.
• Be aware that mobile homes require specially designed heating equipment. Only electric or vented fuel-fired heaters should be used.
• Have gas and kerosene space heaters inspected annually.

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