Friday, October 2, 2015

Portable Warmth: Steps for Space Heater Safety

“Baby, it’s cold outside.” You know what that means? It means it’s time to turn up the heat. The problem with that is:
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The electric bill

That’s why many people are turning to space heaters, but they have their problems too. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are more than 25,000 residential fires each year that can be traced back to space heaters. So, here’s how to use them safely in the home.

Use Heaters with All of the Current Safety Features

Space heaters come with a variety of built-in safety features. However, not all heaters are created equal. The best ones will have a “stay cool” handle that, as the name suggests, will stay cool during operation so that you can move the heater around without burning yourself.

An oxygen depletion sensor or low-oxygen shutoff helps protect you from carbon dioxide poisoning. When the sensor senses a reduction in the amount of oxygen in the air due to CO2, it shuts off operation.

This is an essential feature if you sleep with a space heater in your bedroom.

Overloaded or undersized power cords are a major cause of fires. Your space heater should have a long cord (70 inches or more) which gives you ample placement options. That way, you don’t have to fuss with an extension cord that may be undersized.

If you do need an extension cord, use a 12 or 14-gauge wire, at minimum.

A thermostat in the heater will protect you from overheating the unit and the air. Turning the heater on and off manually is a pain, and you might not be able to hold a consistent temperature.

Finally, a tip-over switch or touch sensor with overheat protection is a must. These features turn the heater off automatically if it’s touched, tips over, or when the unit starts to overheat. This goes a long way towards preventing a fire.

Use Vented Combustion Space Heaters

Vented combustion space heaters are vented so that combustion products are vented to the outside. These units are meant to be placed permanently next to an outside wall. This allows flue gas to be vented to the outdoors, either through a vent in the wall or through the ceiling.

The best heaters draw in outside air for combustion. Less efficient heaters draw in room air for combustion.

Use Electric Space Heaters If You Use an Unvented Heater

If you use an unvented heater, use electric heaters. Combustion units use a fuel, like kerosene or propane. But, electric heaters use electrical resistance as the heating source.

They’re generally more expensive to operate than fuel-based heaters, but you can find energy-efficient models on this website.

For non-radiant heaters, the best types will use a heat transfer liquid like oil. The oil does not ignite, but is heated by an electric element. The heat transfer fluid acts as resistance and heat storage, which allows the unit to cycle fewer times, providing consistent heat and lowing energy usage.

Always Inspect the Heater Prior To Use

Most space heaters, especially electric heaters, are sealed units that require little or no maintenance. Still, you should inspect your unit before each use to make sure that there is no visible or obvious damage and that the electrical cord isn’t frayed or damaged in any way.

Jesse Lyons works as a department manager at a home improvement center. He likes to share his insights on living better at home. His articles appear on many home improvement and family life websites.

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