Winter Weather Warning: Space Heaters are Dangerous!

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016 by Joy Padgett

With temperatures dipping down into the single digits, and many homes being poorly insulated, many people will turn to space heaters to provide supplemental heat. There are some things you should know if you are considering using a space heater.

Danger vs. Safety

First, space heaters should not be placed on carpeted or fabric-covered surfaces. If the space heater were to overheat or be turned over, it can rapidly cause a fire. Even though manufacturers say units that are overturned will automatically shut off, this is not a guarantee that no fire will be started as a result of over-tipping. Since most homes have carpet in bedrooms and living rooms, and since most people place space heaters in these areas, the dangers far outweigh the benefits. Losing your home to a fire started by an overturned space heater, let alone losing a loved one in the fire, is not worth using a space heater when safe alternatives are available.

Second, never leave a space heater unattended, even for a minute and especially if you have children in the home. The space heater itself can get very hot and burn little hands. Turn the unit off and unplug it before leaving it unattended. If you are going to bed, or have a tendency to fall asleep on the couch, please turn the space heater off and unplug it. Use extra blankets or clothing to stay warm at night instead of using a space heater. It is very difficult to actually control the temperature of the space heater. If it begins to overheat, you want to be awake and alert so you can take action. Falling asleep or leaving a unit unattended is asking for trouble.

Finally, make sure your space heater is not close to anything flammable. Space heaters emit a lot of heat, get hot themselves, and could cause curtains and other household fabrics to ignite. Many items in homes today are flammable: carpet, curtains, upholstery, fabrics, magazines, newspaper, liquids (such as hair spray) even clothing. Placing a space heater too close to flammable objects is dangerous and could cause third degree burns on a person's body or a house fire. It is very important to be absolutely certain that NOTHING flammable or possibly flammable is anywhere in the vicinity of a space heater. And who can be sure of that?

If at all possible, instead of using a space heater, opt for wearing additional clothing or using blankets to keep warm if you are unable to heat your home properly with your furnace, boiler, or wood-burning stove. Check with your local fire department for more safety tips and call in to your local community action agency for assistance with keeping warm this winter if you find yourself in a situation where your furnace or method of heating your home is not functioning or not sufficient.

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