Information regarding electric space heater operation and safety.
According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for all fires associated with fixed or portable heating equipment, portable space heaters result in far more fires and losses than central heating devices and have higher risks relative to usage. In 2008, heating equipment was involved in approximately 22,400 reported U.S. home structure fires, with losses of 420 civilian deaths, 1,170 civilian injuries, and $573 million in direct property damage. Space heating equipment accounted for nearly 32% of all reported home heating fires, 82% of home heating fire deaths, and 51% of home heating fire related property damage. Home heating fires peak in the mid-morning and in the mid-evening. Home heating fires are less common during 1:00 AM to 6:00 AM.
Even though electric space heaters don't have an open flame, the heating elements of some types of electric heaters are hot enough to ignite nearby combustibles like draperies, paper, clothing, furniture, and flammable liquids. It is important to check surrounding objects periodically to see if they feel hot. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions to see how far the heater should be placed from combustible materials, and for how far the heater should be placed from the floor so that carpeting or flooring materials do not ignite.
Additionally, to prevent electrocutions, always keep portable electric heaters away from water and never use them in a bathroom or near a sink. If you must use an appliance near water, always use a ground fault circuit interrupter GFCI receptacle.
Following the following rules can greatly reduce the risk for fire.
• Look for a space heater that is listed with a nationally-recognized testing laboratory such as Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (UL). Listed heaters have been tested to meet specific safety standards, and manufacturers are required to provide all necessary use and care information to the consumer. You should never purchase or use a heater that is not listed.
• Purchase a heater with a guard around the heating element. A wire grill or other protection is essential to keep fingers or combustible materials from touching the hot element. Portable electric heaters that heat by circulating oil or water, however, usually have lower surface temperatures and may not need guards.
• Before using the heater, read and follow the instructions for its operation and maintenance.
• If you must use an extension cord, make sure it is a heavy duty cord marked with a # 14 gauge or larger wire An incorrectly-sized cord may create a fire hazard. If the heater's plug has a grounding prong, use only a grounding (three-wire) extension cord.
• Turn heaters off when you go to bed or leave the room.
• Use and purchase portable space heaters with an auto shut off so if they’re
tipped over they will shut off.
• Place space heater on solid, flat surface.
• Plug power cords directly into outlets and never into an extension cord.
• Inspect the heater for cracked, damaged, broken plugs or loose connections. Replace
• To prevent electrical shocks and electrocutions, always keep portable electric heaters away from water and never touch an electric heater if you are wet.
• Do not use an electric heater as a dryer by placing clothing over
• Keep the heater in safe working condition Replace missing guards and controls at once. Never operate a defective heater.
• Maintain a safety zone of at least 3 feet around the heater and keep children out of this area.
• Place the heater on a level surface for stability.
• Regardless of the type of heating system you have, install and maintain at least one smoke detector that is in good working condition on each floor of your home.
Many times people will use space heaters to supplement their fixed heating to save money or when they are having financial problems. Almost every state has a home heating assistance program that will help people pay for electricity and fuel costs. Check your local or state government for more information or forward the information along to someone you know who needs help.