We’re about to experience two of the coldest nights we have experienced in North Florida in several years. As a result, many people will be pulling out those portable space heaters. While they may take the chill out of the air, they pose a serious danger if not used correctly. Did you know that portable space heaters are the second most common cause of house fires in the United States?
Most of these fires and the deaths associated with them can be prevented simply by understanding the potential risks and knowing how to use a portable heater correctly. Despite these risks, portable heaters can be economical and reduce energy bills because they allow you to heat the rooms used most instead of the whole house.
Fires are the biggest risk with portable space heaters. Be careful not to place the heater too close to potentially flammable objects, including upholstered furniture, curtains, rugs, paper, trash and books. Pets and small children can knock portable heaters over when playing and they should always be supervised when a portable heater is used.
Electrical overloads are another big risk in using portable space heaters. Many of the portable heaters in use have a maximum wattage of 1,800 watts and draw 15 amps on the high setting. Most bedroom circuits have only 15 amp circuit breaker protection, so if you choose to use a space heater where only a 15 amp circuit is available, set the thermostat selector on a lower setting to reduce the wattage used. I also recommend that you occasionally check the power cord where it plugs into the receptacle. If it feels hot under normal operation, unplug it and consult a qualified electrician to assess whether the wiring and receptacle is acceptable for use with your space heater.
Additionally portable heaters can cause burns and electric shock, and they can be a tripping hazard. Also, do not leave them on when you go to work in the morning.
So try to stay warm the next few nights but be safe as well.