7 Tips for Safer Space Heater Use in Your Home

It's that time of year when it get very, very cold here in Nebraska.  And while we've had some uncharacteristically warm days - reaching almost 70 degrees -- we've also been part of that notorious "vortex" that has created -30 degree wind chill temps!

All of the cold has reinforced the need for a few space heaters in our home.  As a big fan of "zone heating", I know first-hand that it can be more affordable to just heat those areas of the home you are using, and only when you are using them (rather than sending warm air all throughout the home 24/7.)  Types of space heaters can vary, and I wouldn't use them everywhere.

In fact, there are some important safety tips you should be aware of any time you use one in your home.

1.  Follow the manufacturer's instructions.  If it says to put the heater a minimum of 3 feet from drapery or furniture, for example, make sure you do so.

2.  Don't make modifications.  Space heaters, like other appliances, are designed to run on a certain amount of electricity and and contain elements that prevent fires in many situations.  Tampering with any part of the unit can cause the fail-safes to, well, fail.  And that isn't good.

3.  Keep them clean.  Many of the newer units have fans or blowers that can use a good cleaning now and again.  Look for instructions that came with the unit.  Many times a shopvac or other vacuum can suck out the fuzz that can limit efficiency or potentially even cause a fire.

4.  Don't use extension cords or outlet adapters.  Look for a unit with a cord long enough to reach where you need it to go.  If there isn't already room in an existing outlet, unplug something else, but don't try to overload the outlet.  A hot cord is a a sign that there may be problem at the outlet or you may have an undersized power source.

5.  Keep kids and pets away.  Teach children early on that heaters are "hot".  Show them how far away they need to be in order to keep a safe distance.  If possible, lay out a blanket or rug where they CAN play that is an adequate distance away so that it won't possibly come within the danger zone.

6.  Look for units with safety features.  Most units, like the ones we use in our home, have tip-over safety switches in the bottoms of the feet.  If the unit tips over, it will shut off.  Others have thermostats that turn the unit off when it gets too hot in a room.  Look for the features you want in a unit before you buy; remember that no feature is a substitute for supervision and following directions, however.

7.  Don't use space heaters unattended.  Turn them off when going to bed for the night, if possible.  Never leave them running when you are not home.  Even if you give them proper clearance, a pet or other disturbance can place combustible items within the "danger zone" of a unit, and potentially cause a fire.

If you have older space heaters, make sure that they are still in good working order.  If they aren't, consider buying an upgraded model.  We bought this Fireplace Heater this year to replace an older one that I didn't feel comfortable using anymore.  It really warms up a room, and it looks beautiful, too!

Would you consider a space heater to use in your home or office?