9 Essential Space Heater Safety Tips for the Winter Season

Every home in Cobourg, Ontario needs a reliable, whole-house heating solution. Without a functional boiler, furnace, or heat pump, there’s no way to keep everyone in your household safe and warm consistently. Whether your heater is malfunctioning, ready to be replaced, or incapable of servicing your preferred space, it’s important to use alternative heating solutions wisely. Following are nine space heater safety tips that will help you avoid burns, fires, electrical issues, and many other problems.

1. Take the Time to Set Up Your Heater Properly

Although all modern space heaters are built with automatic shut-off features that engage when they tip over, it’s still important to set yours up on a flat, stable surface. Avoid putting your unit on any carpeted or upholstered surface or any slanted or wobbly table or stand.

Most manufacturers recommend keeping their products at least three feet away from all flammable items. Make sure that no free-floating or blowing items can land on, get caught in, or fall into your space heater. For instance, you don’t want to set your unit up near gauzy curtains or a heavily blanketed bed. Keeping all mugs, glasses, and other containers that hold liquids away from your unit is also a good idea. Taking the time to check your surroundings before plugging your heater in will greatly minimize the risks associated with using it.

If you’re using a new space heater for the very first time, take a minute to read through your owner’s manual. There may be set-up instructions that are specific to the model you own. It is also essential that your new heater has a label showing that a recognized testing laboratory lists it as meeting minimum safety requirements.

2. Give Your Space Heater Its Own Dedicated Outlet

Never plug your space heater into an outlet that’s shared by any other device or appliance. It is always safest to give space heaters a dedicated outlet. With this in mind, you should not use your space heater with an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Finally, it is wise to inspect heaters for cracked or damaged plugs or loose wires before each use. Do not use the heater if the cord is frayed, worn, or damaged.

3. Never Leave Your Space Heater Unattended

Space heaters should never be left unattended. This goes beyond simply ensuring you’re in the home when your space heater is on. You should always be in the same room as this appliance. If you must step away to visit the restroom, take a call, or handle any other business in another area, you must turn off and unplug your space heater first. Although space heaters have built-in safety features, even the best of these units can still malfunction. If you’re physically present when a malfunction occurs, you’ll have the best opportunity to mitigate the issue before it spirals out of control.

4. Do Not Use Your Space Heater Overnight

Using your space heater at night is akin to leaving it on when you exit the room. You must be fully present and awake when operating these appliances. With this in mind, you cannot use a space heater as a long-term replacement for a whole-house heating solution. Space heaters are woefully ineffective in this capacity. They use an abundance of energy and can only warm a single, small-sized room. More importantly, given that you cannot safely run your space heater while sleeping, you won’t have a way to stay warm and comfortable at night. Before going to bed, always be sure to turn off and unplug this unit.

5. Avoid Using Multiple Space Heaters at Once

Given the limited capabilities of a single space heater, you may be tempted to set up multiple units throughout your home. If you have to rely on space heaters for short-term warmth while waiting for a heater replacement or heater repairs, set up a single unit in a sufficiently large communal area and encourage everyone to crowd in. Close all interior doors to other building areas so your designated space can retain its heated air.

Setting multiple space heaters up increases the risk of injury and fires. It’s virtually impossible to monitor multiple space heaters at once properly. The risks of leaving one unattended or having one tip over greatly increase with each unit you add to your heating plan. In many homes, having more than one space heater on at a time will also trip the breaker.

6. Don’t Rely Too Heavily on Built-in Safety Features

Modern space heaters are often marketed with their built-in safety features as their top selling points. These units are frequently advertised as being virtually risk-free. However, it’s important to remember that although safety features are helpful and largely effective, they are not impervious to malfunctions. Buying a space heater with multiple cutting-edge safety features does not eliminate the need to set your unit up correctly or remain physically present whenever the unit is on.

7. Get Rid of Your Old, Outdated Space Heater

Although it’s unwise to put overmuch faith in the merits of fallible safety features, it’s still better to have a modern and feature-rich space heater in your home than an old, outdated model. Not only do older models often lack automatic shut-off switches and other additions for mitigating the inherent risks of space heater use, but most older designs tend to grow hot while in operation.

Setting up a space heater probably isn’t your best bet if you have small, rambunctious children or pets running around your home. This is especially true if your space heater is old and capable of causing serious skin burns on contact. If you’ve got an older space heater that’s been stored in your basement, closet, or attic for decades, toss it out and get a new one. New models stay cool on their exterior even as they expend plenty of heat.

8. Buy Your Space Heater Brand New

When buying a space heater, steer clear of options that are offered at yard sales, garage sales, and thrift stores. In addition to being aged and potentially unreliable, secondhand heaters are often already the subjects of serious product recalls. After you’ve purchased a new space heater, be sure to mail off any required documents for activating your product warranty. Once you’ve submitted these, you’re more likely to receive timely notifications of all recall actions that the product manufacturer takes in the future.

9. Have Your Heating System Repaired

The safest way to use a space heater is always in a limited and short-term capacity. After all, using these units entails many safety risks that using a fixed, whole-house heating solution does not. Although purchasing a low-cost space heater and using it instead of fixing an aging or damaged heater might seem like the most cost-effective choice, it can cost you far more in the long run. Scheduling heater repair will give you a reliable and effective way to heat all areas of your home with a much-reduced risk of fire, burns, or property damage.

Contact the Professionals

Since 2005, Comfort Zone Heating & Air Conditioning, located in Cobourg, ON, has been a trusted provider of heating, cooling, indoor air quality, and water heater services throughout the region. We also offer fireplace installation, heat pumps, radiant heating, and ductless mini-splits. If you’ve been relying on space heaters and need an efficient, whole-house heating solution, give us a call today.

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