Turn the Heat up on Space Heater Safety

Winter isn’t quite ready to relinquish its grip on Texas. With freezing temperatures canvassing the Lone Star State this week, many of us are limiting travel and retreating to the warm confines of our homes. If you’re turning to space heaters for relief from the cold, don’t forget that they can cause serious, even fatal, fires.

Space heaters account for 33 percent of home heating fires and 81 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 25,000 residential fires every year are associated with the use of space heaters, resulting in more than 300 deaths.

Texas Mutual encourages everyone to remember these simple safety tips when using space heaters during what’s left of our typically mild winter.

Choose the right unit. Make sure your space heater carries the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) label. Look for newer models that have all the current safety features, including automated shut-off if they are tipped over. When choosing a space heater, check the general sizing table to make sure it is the appropriate size for the room you want to heat.

Remember, location is everything. A portable heater is a good choice if you have a space that requires supplemental heating or is infrequently occupied, but you should not run a space heater in an unoccupied room. If you need to use a space heater in a bathroom or other potentially damp area, make sure it is specifically designed for that purpose. Don’t use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space unless they are specifically designed for indoor use.

Set it up safely. Set space heaters up on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor. Keep them out of walking paths, and make sure the room has a working smoke alarm.

Give ‘em space. Placing space heaters too closely to flammable objects causes 53 percent of home heating fire deaths, according to the NFPA. Make sure there is at least three feet between space heaters and upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, bedding, drapes, furniture and other flammable materials. Keep children and pets away from space heaters, and don’t place a space heater too closely to a sleeping person.

Power them properly. Plug space heaters directly into an outlet, not an extension cord or multi-outlet strip. Always unplug space heaters that are not in use, and never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater. Even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of fire.

Follow directions. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using space heaters.

For more information about space heater safety, visit the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Fire Protection Association. For information about product recalls, visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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