Why a Space Heater May Not Be Your Best Option

by Chris Long - January 17, 2019

Space Heater

It’s a snowy day, and it feels like your heating system just isn’t doing its job. (Maybe it’s time to rethink your choice in home heating contractors.)

So you head to the garage to break out the space heater. Your warm, dependable, potentially dangerous space heater.

It’s true. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, space heaters cause roughly 25,000 house fires each year, typically because someone keeps their heater too close to bedding, curtains or furniture with upholstery.

We aren’t saying you shouldn’t use a space heater.

But as heating contractors, we know the importance of working with safe, reliable heating equipment, which is why we will tell you that if you decide one of these heaters is your best option, you need to make safety your top priority.

Space heater safety features

When looking at a space heater for safety features Consumer Reports suggests asking these questions:

index1. Is it certified?

Check to see if the heater has a safety certification label from an independent testing body, such as a UL mark (for the Underwriters Laboratories) or CSA International.

2. What kind of cord does it have?

Burnt PowerstripMost space heaters come with a six-foot cord. That should be enough for you to find an outlet. Do not try to use an extension cord or surge protector. Anyone who has spent time on social media has probably seen the photos fire departments like to share each winter of melted power strips.

These devices are useful when you need to plug in a few small appliances but aren’t meant to handle the high flow of current needed to power a space heater. This can cause power strips to overheat, melt and catch fire.

GFCI plug3. What kind of plug does it have?

They’re pretty rare but check to see if the heater comes with a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) plug, which prevents shocks. If the heater doesn’t have a GFCI plug, it should not be used around water.

4. Does it have a shut-off function?

A good space heater should have a smart sensor that shuts the unit off when it overheats. You should also look for a tip-over switch that can kill the power if the heater gets knocked over (another leading cause of space heater-related fires).

Using a space heater safely

Electric heater plugged inOnce you get your new heater home, fire safety experts advise following these tips to protect yourself:

  • Keep heaters on a level, non-flammable surface. They are designed for use on your floor, not up on a table.
  • Remember the three-foot rule – Keep the heater at least three feet away from flammable materials like curtains and bedding and establish a three-foot “no go” zone for kids and pets around the heater.
  • Never use a space heater to heat a child’s bedroom, in a workshop or a garage where gasoline, paint or matches are stored.
  • Make sure you have working smoke alarms on every floor.
  • Give the space heater its own electrical outlet.
  • Unplug the heater when you go to bed or leave the room. Pull the plug straight from the outlet and check the cord to make sure it isn’t worn or frayed.

Sometimes the weather gets so cold than an extra heater might be your only option. But other times, that heater is only necessary because your regular HVAC system isn’t up to the job.

If you’re dealing with the latter situation, All Seasons Comfort Control can help. We are professional home heating contractors with years of HVAC expertise at our disposal and can make sure your HVAC system is strong enough that you won’t need an extra heater this winter.

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