Electric space heaters and blankets are great ways to stay toasty warm when the temperature drops. But don’t forget about safety before you plug in these chill-chasers.
During these winter months, when space heaters and electric blankets come out of hibernation, home fires increase.
“Heating equipment is the second leading cause of home fires in the United States,” said John Gasstrom, CEO of Indiana Electric Cooperatives. “More than 65,000 home fires are attributed to heating equipment each year. These fires result in hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and millions of dollars in property damage.”
Remember: an electric space heater is a temporary option for supplemental heat. Many homeowners may use this option to heat specific rooms while they sleep, but this is unsafe. When you leave a room or go to sleep, it is important to turn off your electric space heater. If you’re leaving it unattended, it could overheat or fall. It is also important to always plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet. Never use an extension cord to avoid overheating.
Electric blankets and heating pads are also popular during the cold months. Never fold them and avoid using them while sleeping. Inspect them for dark, charred or frayed spots, and check to see if the electric cord is cracked or frayed. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully before using them in your home.
While there is no risk for carbon monoxide poisoning with an electric space heater, it holds many other safety hazards if not used properly. In accordance with fire safety, install smoke alarms on every floor of your home and outside all sleeping areas. If you already have them, be sure to test them once a month to be sure they’re working properly.
Don’t let your guard down if you keep yourself or your home warm with an electric space heater, electric blanket or heating pad. By following these tips, you and your family have a better chance of avoiding significant fire and electric shock hazards.
Electric Space Heaters and Blankets: Dos and Don’ts
- DO read the manufacturer’s instructions and warning labels carefully before using any space heater or electric blanket.
- DON’T leave a space heater or electric heating blanket unattended. Turn it off when you’re leaving a room or going to sleep.
- DO inspect heaters for cracked or broken plugs or loose connections before each use.
- DON’T use the heater if plugs are frayed, worn or damaged.
- DO keep heaters at least three feet away from anything that can burn, including papers, clothing and rugs.
- DON’T use an electric blanket if there are dark, charred or frayed spots.
- DO 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.
- DON’T use electric blankets while sleeping or as a mattress pad.
- DON’T place heaters on cabinets, tables, furniture or carpet, which can overheat and start a fire.
- DON’T fold an electric blanket when it’s in use. Folded or tucked blankets could overheat and cause a fire.
Terms to remember about your electric space heater
- Volts: A measure of electrical current flow. The higher the voltage, the more current will flow. Most household electrical current powering the TV, radio, lighting and appliances, for example, operates at 110-120 volts. Heavy-duty appliances, such as electric ranges, clothes dryers and air conditioners, may require 220 volts. Most electric space heaters are designed and labeled to operate at 110-115 volts and are plugged into a wall outlet.
- Watts: The measure of energy conversion. The number of watts consumed is reported on your electric bill. Think of a lightbulb — the higher the wattage, the brighter the light. The wattage delivered by space heaters relates directly to the amount of heat it can deliver.
- BTUs: Short for British Thermal Units, a basic measure of thermal (heat) energy. When looking at space heaters, keep in mind that even the smallest units can produce 10,000 BTUs or more.
- Amperage: The amount of electrical energy flowing through a space heater or any other appliance at any given time (also called current).
- Convection heaters: Type of space heater that is often selected when you want to heat a larger area occupied by several people.
- Radiant heaters: Type of space heater that transfers heat to individuals or objects when it is not necessary to heat an entire area.
Cost of operating a space heater
Did you know that based on a national average electricity rate, it would cost $2.82 to use a space heater 16 hours a day?
Figure out how much you’ll spend using your 1,500-watt space heater:
- Multiply 1,500 W by X hours of use = A
- Multiple A by your electricity rate per kilowatt hour = B
- Divide B by 1,000.