According to Energy.gov, "Electric space heaters are generally more expensive to operate than combustion space heaters, but they are the only unvented space heaters that are safe to operate inside your home. Although electric space heaters avoid indoor air quality concerns, they still pose burn and fire hazards and should be used with caution." Between 2009-2013, fire departments responded to about 56,000 home structure fires which resulted in 470 deaths, 1490 injuries, and caused $1 billion in damages. Space heaters are the reported cause of 32% (17,680) of the fires and 46% (220) of the deaths between in this time frame, according to a 2016 NFPA report.
The statistics above are horrifying to think about, but are the harsh reality. However, there are ways to protect yourself, your family, and your home from becoming a victim.
Selecting the Right Electric Heater
As with any purchase you make, first be sure that the heater has the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) label or the label from another recognized testing laboratory. Only by newer heater models that have the latest safety features. Purchase a heater that has a tip-over safety switch, which automatically shuts the unit off if tipped over. Choose a heater that is thermostatically controlled and is the right size for the room you are heating, this will save you money and conserve energy by not overheating a room.
Before you Begin use of Your Electric Heater
Before using your unit, read the manufacturer's instructions and warning labels. Some may think, "It's a heater, I know how to use it correctly." However, the manufacturer's instructions will provide the latest information and warnings that can keep you and your home safe. With new and older units alike, inspect them for cracked or broken plugs before initial use and before each use afterward. If the plug or cord is frayed, worn, or damaged in any way, DO NOT USE THE UNIT!!! Electrical failure or malfunction contributed to 7% (3,920) of the home structure fires and 12% (59) of the deaths between 2009-2013, according to the 2016 NFPA report.
Operation of Your Electric Heater
NEVER USE AN EXTENSION CORD OR POWER STRIP IN CONJUNCTION WITH AN ELECTRICAL HEATER!!! This could cause the the extension cord and/or power strip to overheat, causing a fire. Plug the unit directly into the wall outlet and do not plug other electric devices into the same outlet as the heater.
Place the unit on a flat, level surface; never on cabinets, tables, furniture or carpets that could overheat and cause a fire. Keep the unit at least 3 feet (in all directions) from anything flammable; such as paper, furniture, clothing, and carpet. Place your heater out of "high traveled" areas and doorways to avoid a tripping hazard.
REMEMBER: heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes.
When Your Heater is not in Use
NEVER leave your unit unattended. Turn the heater off when you are leaving the room or going to sleep and do not allow your children or pets to play around the unit. If the unit is not going to be used for a long period of time, unplug it and store in in a safe place.
To summarize this information and provide you with a little visual stimuli to break up the writing, check on this YouTube video: https://youtu.be/RIFxWd7DSsg
Electrical Safety Foundation International (EFSI) (2017) retrieved from: http://www.esfi.org/resource/space-heater-safety-tips-146
Energy.gov (2017) retrieved from: https://energy.gov/energysaver/portable-heaters
Campbell, R. (2016). Home Fire Involving Heating Equipment. Retrieved from: http://www.nfpa.org/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/Fire-statistics/Fire-causes/Appliances-and-equipment/Heating-equipment