By Master Electrician Catherine Nazarene, Little Sparkie Electric LLC
Maryland has seen some warm winter days recently, but that doesn’t mean the dangers of space heaters are over. In fact, people may actually use the space heaters more to avoid cranking up the thermostat when temperatures drop. Unfortunately, they can pose significant fire and electric shock hazards if not used properly.
Fire and electrical hazards can be caused by space heaters without adequate safety features, by heaters placed near combustibles, or heaters that are improperly plugged in, or are plugged into receptacles with loose or improper wiring.
Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States, and more than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI).
These fires result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage, says the ESFI.
Put safety first
- Make sure your space heater has the label showing that it is listed by a recognized testing laboratory.
- Before using any space heater, read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully.
- Inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use. If frayed, worn or damaged, don’t use the heater.
- Never leave a space heater unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep, and don’t let pets or children play too close to a space heater.
- Space heaters are only meant to provide supplemental heat and should never be used to warm bedding, cook food, dry clothing or thaw pipes.
- Proper placement of space heaters is critical. Heaters must be kept at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
- Locate space heaters out of high traffic areas and doorways, where they may pose a tripping hazard.
- Plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Do not use an extension cord or power strip, which could overheat and result in a fire. Do not plug any other electrical devices into the same outlet as the heater.
- Place space heaters on level, flat surfaces. Never place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture, or a carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
- Always unplug and safely store the heater when it is not in use.
Little Sparkie offers safety checks as part of our services, and we see scary things just about every day. We check circuit breakers and wire connections, look for deterioration and corrosion, run tests to help ensure that electrical equipment is functioning correctly, and make recommendations to help ensure safety.
And you should always check to make sure your smoke alarms are working; we also install hard-wired alarms to comply with local electrical codes.
If you have any concerns about your home or office’s wiring, please give us a call at 301-606-5181, or email us at [email protected]. We serve Frederick, Carroll, Howard and Montgomery Counties, along with Western, Southern, and Eastern Maryland, and Northern Virginia.