Use Space Heaters Safely

As the weather gets a little bit chillier--but perhaps not cold enough to run the central heat--space heaters in the rooms you use most might be all you need.

            While most models are perfectly safe to operate, how you use them can mean the difference between a convenient appliance and the cause of a house fire.

            Prevent a handy space heater from creating a disaster at your home by following a few simple precautions:

  • If your space heater is old, check the cord for fraying or cracking and notice if it overheats.
  • Consider replacing an older model with a new space heater. Most modern space heaters come with anti-tipping devices and automatically shut themselves off in case they do tip over, which could prevent them from catching the carpet on fire.
  • Check the news and the Consumer Product Safety Commission's Web site (www.cpsc.gov) to keep up-to-date with recalls. Last winter, CPSC recalled one popular brand's models after testing by Consumer Reports revealed that they were quick to catch fabric on fire.
  • Even if your model is rated for safety, keep it at least three feet away from combustible materials like furniture, drapes and beds.
  • If you need to use an extension cord with your space heater, choose a heavy-duty one: at least 14-gauge wire.
  • Keep the heater's cord and the extension cord in plain sight. Tucked under carpets or furniture, they can overheat or become damaged when people step on them.
  • Do not use any gasoline-powered appliance indoors.
  • Avoid plugging two space heaters into the same outlet, which will probably trip the circuit. Same goes for using a space heater on the same circuit as a hair dryer or other energy-intensive appliance.