Did you know that space heaters are responsible for 40 percent of heating fires from 2009 to 2013 and 84 percent of residential heating fire deaths during this period? This being said space heaters themselves are safe to use and meet certain consumer safety standards, you just have to use them properly. Safety issues only arise when space heaters are not used in a safe manner. In this article, you will find tips on how to use your space heater safely and how you can improve your energy efficiency in your home.
There are two main types of space heaters: electric space heaters and fuel-burning space heaters. To operate your electric space heater safely and reduce your risk of danger use these safety tips below:
- Keep the area surrounding your space heater clear at all times- The 3-foot radius around your space heater should be free of flammable items, such as curtains, blankets, papers, toys, and other materials.
- Keep children away from space heaters- To avoid accidental burns or tipping the space heater over, keep children away from the space heater at all times. Create a child-free zone in the 3-foot area surrounding your space heater.
- Never operate a space heater unattended- If a space heater is in operation, a responsible adult should always be present. Never leave a space heater running when the house is empty, or while you’re sleeping.
- Use the space heater on a flat surface- Sitting a space heater on an uneven surface may cause it to tip over, and ignite nearby items.
- Always plug your space heater into the wall socket- Do not operate a space heater with an extension cord. Extension cords are not meant to be permanent power solutions. They may overheat, or cause someone to trip, knocking over your space heater.
- Purchase an electric space heater with added safety features- Models are available with automatic shutoff systems which will turn the unit off if tipped over.
The tips above for electric space heater use are great practices for fuel-burning space heaters, too. When using a fuel-burning space heater, you need to take added precautions due to heating fuel use. Check out these safety tips for fuel-burning space heaters:
- Only use appropriate fuels- Fill the heater only with the type and/or grade of fuel recommended by the space heater manufacturer.
- Use with adequate ventilation- Vent your fuel-burning space heater for your safety, as the combustion process can produce carbon monoxide and other potentially harmful byproducts. Use the space heater with an open window, and only refuel it outdoors.
- Don’t use the space heater if you smell gas- If you smell gas, do not light your space heater. Open the windows and doors to vent the home or building. Do not use until it is inspected and repaired by a professional.
- Take precautions when lighting the pilot- If your space heater’s pilot light extinguishes, do not attempt to relight it for a minimum of five minutes. This time will allow gas to dissipate. When reigniting the space heater, light the match prior to turning on the gas.
- Purchase fuel-burning space heaters with enhanced safety features- Look for models with shutoff mechanisms which detect low ambient oxygen. If you’re using an older model without such features, replace it for your safety.
The main reason why most people choose a space heater for an indoor heating option is that they believe they are more cost-efficient but this is not always true. To truly determine which is more efficient you must factor in these main ideas:
- How much energy is consumed by the space heater? How efficient is your central heating system or other HVAC systems?
- What is the cost of utility power used to run each system or fuel costs for fuel-burning space heaters?
- What is the temperature of the home or office?
For a more general answer to this question, electric space heaters tend to not be as energy efficient as an HVAC system. The only exception is if there are only a few rooms which need to be heated, where it can be more efficient to run space heaters than the central heating system. This is true unless you have a central heating system with great efficiencies, such as a geothermal heating system.
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