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Space heaters, use with caution!

Blaze Fire Investigation is now know as Anderson Engineering. (updated 6/28/17)

Space heaters today come in many sizes and varieties.  Models range from small electric units that can plug into an outlet similar to an air freshener, to larger sized units that operate on fuel gas and heat larger areas such as a garage or workshop.  Space heaters can be a safe way to heat an area when used properly, but can become deadly when used improperly.  The US consumer product safety commission estimates that 25,000 fires a year are associated with the use of space heaters.

Space heaters can operate using convection or radiant heating methods.  Convection heating means the heater circulates warm air to heat a space. This type of heater is dependent on a working fan and good ventilation to distribute the heat and keep the housing cool.  Space heaters using radiant heat emit infrared radiation to heat up nearby objects and areas.  They do not contain a fan or blow air. 

Space heaters are heating appliances and like many other appliances, they have a life expectancy.  Space heaters should be replaced periodically, to ensure they contain the latest safety features and are in good working order.  Newer model space heaters have many built in safety features including a tilt or tip over switch that will shut the unit off if the unit is tilted past a specific angle.  Overheating protection devices will shut the unit off if the internal components reach a dangerous internal temperature.  Because space heaters do produce heat, the consequences of a failed space heater might be more significant than the consequences of a failed radio for example.  Using an old rusty space heater with a cloth covered power cord that was found at a garage sale might not be the best choice for your home.

Safe practices for space heater use:

Fuel gas space heaters need to be cleaned and inspected regularly. Improper operation of a fuel gas space heater increases the risk of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.  In addition, never refuel a fuel gas space heater indoors to avoid the risk of fuel spillage and accumulating flammable vapors.

When using a space heater several precautions should be observed;

  1. Use a product rated for the space you intend to heat. 
  2. Read the instruction manual.  Some space heaters may require specific tolerances from walls or other combustible materials.
  3. Never use an extension cord to provide power to a space heater. Using an improper or damaged extension cord greatly increases the risk of fire.
  4. Regularly inspect the space heater to ensure the power cord is not damaged or frayed.  Check the space heater case for cracks and dents, and ensure that any safety guards are properly installed.
  5. When not in use, unplug the space heater from the wall receptacle.
  6. Do not leave space heaters unattended.
  7. Never cover a space heater with clothing or a blanket. Space heaters create heat.
  8. Keep children and pets away from the unit and the power cord at all times.

Do your homework before you purchase a space heater. Check with trusted periodicals and websites for informative product reviews.  Look for recall notices and register your product with the manufacturer. Product registration is the only way to ensure that you will be notified of recalls or other important safety information. Finally, most space heater fires are not caused because the product is defective. Most space heaters fires are caused when the product is used in an improper or unsafe manner.

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