Tips for safe use of space heaters

Leilana McKindra OSU communications
Approximately 85 percent of home heating fires involve stationary or portable space heaters. Oklahoma State University

STILLWATER — When families want to ward off winter’s chill in a specific part of the home, electric space heaters may be good option.

“Space heaters aren’t designed to replace your home’s heating system, but they can provide plenty of supplemental heat for contained spaces in your home,” said Gina Peek, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension housing and consumer specialist.

Electric heaters should be thoroughly inspected, including checking the cord and plug for damage, before they are turned on. If there is any damage, do not use the appliance.

Families in the market for a new electric heater should look for a product with the Underwriters Laboratories certification mark. The most recent models will incorporate the most up-to-date safety standards and features.

“While in use, the heater should be on a level, hard, nonflammable surface such as a ceramic tile floor,” Peek said. “The heater should be at least 3 feet from anything, including bedding, drapes, furniture or other flammable materials. Keep children and pets away form the heater.”

Do not use space heaters in damp, wet areas such as outdoors or in bathrooms.

Plug heaters directly into the wall. If the heater’s plug gets hot, it could be a sign the outlet may need to be replaced. Contact a qualified electrician for assistance.

“Unplug space heaters before leaving home or going to bed,” Peek said. “It’s also a good idea to only operate these appliances when you or another adult is in the immediate area.”

According to a National Fire Protection Association Fact Sheet, the leading factor contributing to the start of home heating fires was equipment placed too close to flammable items such as furniture, clothing or bedding.

Meanwhile, 84 percent of home heating fire deaths involved stationary or portable space heaters.

“Electric heaters can do a great job of keeping small areas warm and toasty,” Peek said. “Following a few safety precautions means you can take advantage of that warmth without worrying about fire, electrocution or other hazards.”