Stay safe when using space heaters

Published 12:43 pm Monday, January 6, 2014

Contributed | Central Alabama Electric Cooperative

With the cold weather slipping in, we’re all looking for a way to keep warm, making space heaters popular this time of year.

Unfortunately, space heaters are a common cause of house fires, resulting in more than 25,000 residential fires each year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Before you get yours plugged-in, take time to review these important safety tips.

Always read and follow the instructions for a heater’s operation and maintenance. The heater should be placed on a level, hard, nonflammable surface at least 3 feet away from drapes, furniture or other flammable items and in an area out of reach of children and pets or where people might trip over or bump into it.

Be sure to check the cords of older space heaters, and do not use them if they are cracked or frayed. Remember to keep electric cords out of high-traffic areas, including doorways and walkways, where they can be a tripping hazard.

Also, to prevent electrical shocks and electrocutions, always keep heaters away from areas with water, such as bathrooms and kitchens, and never touch a heater if you are wet.

When buying a space heater, only consider purchasing those that are Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) approved. Choose a unit that is the correct wattage for the area you want to heat with a 10-to-1 ratio of wattage to square feet. Look for a heater that has a timer or is controlled thermostatically to avoid over-heating a room, as well as both a tip-over switch and an automatic shutoff, which turns the heater off if it gets too hot.