How to Prevent Your Space Heater from Overheating

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A space heater is a great way to keep your home warm this winter season. There are plenty of benefits that come from supplementing your heating with a space heater. They are specifically designed to heat only where you need it, when you need it. This means that using a space heater can drastically cut back on your energy bills. You can even set up outdoor space heaters to keep your patio nice and toasty. Doing this can extend your backyard usage well into the chilly autumn months. However, space heaters also come with certain risks. One of the risks of using a space heater is overheating. This article will help you navigate common mistakes that can make your space heater overheat. Hopefully after reading this article you will feel confident that you can use your space heater safely this winter.

Choosing a Safe Space Heater

First, it is important to recognize that most space heaters these days come with a few safety features built into the unit. These safety features will help you avoid dangerous situations where overheating could lead to a fire. Common safety features include sensors that will automatically shut off your heater if it gets too hot or if it tips over. You should also check and make sure that your space heater has proper certification. Independent testing companies such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL), or Intertek (ETL) will give safety certifications to space heaters they have tested. While a space heater without a safety certification may still be safe, we highly recommend finding a heater that carries a safety certification. Even with safety certifications and manufacturers adding new safety features, space heaters can still pose a risk for overheating.

Clearance Around Your Space Heater

One of the most common reasons that a space heater will overheat is due to the environment in which it is placed. You should only use a space heater if it can have a minimum of three feet of clearance around the space heater. This three foot rule of thumb applies to both indoor and outdoor heaters. If you place a heater near furniture, drapes, or even walls, you run the risk of starting a fire.Make sure the heater is made to go on walls before mounting. If any flammable object accidentally brushes up against the heating element of a space heater it could cause it to quickly catch fire and burn. This three foot clearance should also include small children and pets. If you have small children or pets around your home, consider placing the space heater behind a baby gate if possible.

Tipping Over

As mentioned above, most space heaters are equipped with automatic shut off sensors if they are tipped over. This can take a lot of the pressure of overheating off the user. However, you should still be cautious when using a space heater, if they tip over they can easily overheat. This is especially a problem in areas of high foot traffic or with small pets or children. Another way to avoid tipping over, is to ensure you are placing your heater correctly. Always place it on a non-flammable and even leveled floor. Do not use anything to prop up an uneven space heater. If it sits wobbly, do not use the heater. Even space heaters without automatic shut-off sensors are sometimes equipped with other safety devices. Such as blaring an obnoxious sound if tipped over. If you are leaving the area always unplug and turn off before you leave.  

Misusing Your Space Heater

Using the space heater the way it was intended to be used will also help you eliminate risk of overheating. While it may seem unnecessary, you should always read the owner’s manual or manufacturers instructions before using your space heater. Check and see how big of a space your heater was made to warm, and then use the smallest heater allowed for your space. You should also never use your space heater to dry wet or damp clothes, or drape any type of clothing or textile overtop the heating unit. In fact, Consumer Reports estimates nearly 25,000 fires a year are caused by space heaters in the home. This is on top of the nearly 6000 emergency room visits for space heater burns. Always make sure when you are using a space heater that you are using your common sense and following the manufacturers outlined usage.

Electric Considerations

Another safety concern posed by space heaters are electrical malfunctions. Space heaters with electrical problems are at high risk of overheating and causing a fire hazard. Industrial or outdoor space heaters often use more than 1500 watts. They should never be used in an indoor location. Even space heaters that were intended for indoor use have high wattage needs. They should be plugged into an outlet that does not supply electricity to any other products. Look for a space heater that has a long and sturdy cord. The cord on an indoor space heater is typically around 6 feet long, however, outdoor space heaters may have longer cords. You should avoid using an extension cord whenever possible. Do not use your space heater if you notice that the wiring is exposed or the cord is damaged.

Using Your Space Heater Around Water

While some outdoor space heaters can be used in the elements, you should always double check with the manufacturer before using them near water. If you need a heater that can work around water, you should look for a heater with a ground fault circuit interrupter plug, or GFCI for short. In fact, most electrical space heaters are not equipped with a GFCI plug and should not be used around water. This would include placing them in bathrooms, laundry rooms, or even near entryways. It is also wise to avoid touching a space heater if you have damp hands or clothes, as this can increase the likelihood of electric shock.

In Conclusion

A space heater is a wonderful addition to any home or garden. You will find it so useful as the days get chillier. You and your wallet will appreciate the warmth a space heater can provide without running up your energy bills. Make sure that you are using common sense with your space heater this winter. While it may seem like it is not a big deal, educating yourself by reading the manufacturer’s instructions and following the safety guidelines within is the best way to keep yourself safe. If you follow the few safety tips as outlined in this article you will find yourself much safer and happier in the long run. Go enjoy your space heater!

Related Article: Best Space Heater for You: Our Top 10 Reviewed

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