Don’t Burn the House down While You’re Heating It

iStock_000000253824XSmallRegardless of what Punxsutawney Phil saw or did not see with respect to his shadow, several weeks of winter and cold weather are still ahead of us. This is not the time to let up on your vigilance in protecting your home from fire while heating it to a comfortable temperature. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, more than 50,000 residential heating fires take place each year, with the peak occurring during winter months. Many of these fires are the result of a portable space heater. Instead of becoming a statistic, you can take some basic precautions to prevent damage and injury in your home.

The insurance industry website Property Casualty 360 reports that home space heaters are involved in more than 19,000 fires each year. That’s nearly 40% of all residential heating fires. This doesn’t mean that you should completely avoid using space heaters, which can sometimes be very effective when you only need to heat a small area. However, you definitely need to take some precautions when employing the services of such a powerful little device.

Many people keep them under the desk or next to their bed. Unfortunately, that can cause quite a bit of danger. These heaters can become very hot while they are operating and keeping them near fabric such as bedding or window coverings can possibly create an ignition that quickly flames into a much larger fire. Space heaters kept under a desk can often be forgotten as they are out of sight and out of mind and will then be allowed to run continuously.

First and foremost, you should make sure that your heater is in good operating condition. A proper heater is inspected before it’s sold to you, and you should look for the confirmation that it has passed. A good source of testing is the certification from the Underwriters Laboratories, or the “UL” certification mark. However, even if your heater was certified when new, it’s possible that it has deteriorated over time. Take a good look at your device and see if any of the pieces look worn out or are burned. If any signs of wear are visible, it’s not a good idea to continue using the heater. Instead, consider a new device as a small investment in your safety.

Your heater should be placed in an area that is safe from items that can be set on fire. This usually means keeping it somewhere near the center of the room, even if you really want it right next to your bed. Also, everyone knows that you shouldn’t smoke in bed. Therefore, it’s probably also not a good idea to leave a very hot space heater running while you’re in bed, fast asleep. Be sure to turn it off before you get into bed each night. An extra blanket or comforter will help you stay warm, save on electricity and prevent your house from burning down with you in it.

The way to treat a space heater is to think of it as an open flame. How would you handle an open flame in the middle of your room? You would likely be very careful and monitor it closely. At the same time, you would also want to monitor the actions of others in your household and their behavior around the flame. Your space heater should be no different. Treat it with the same respect and you can safely enjoy some warmth without having to make a claim on your home insurance policy!


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