With the cost of heating continually on the rise, many consumers have invested in portable heaters to help lower their energy bills by compartmentalizing the space they heat. While approved portable heaters can be both efficient and economical, they also introduce a number of important safety concerns that should not be overlooked.
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, more than 25,000 residential fires, 300 deaths, and 6,000 burn injuries every year are associated with the improper use of portable space heaters. You can achieve substantial energy cost-savings by running a portable heater in frequently used rooms throughout the day and limiting your use of a central heating system. However, this activity increases the risk of dangerous indoor pollutants, fires, and burn injuries. To help you choose a portable heater wisely and use it safely during the upcoming winter season, consider these safety tips from Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R):
- Determine where the portable heater will be used - inside or outside of your home. Portable gas heaters (including propane heaters) should only be used in outdoor areas with ample ventilation. Carbon monoxide produced by these heaters is a killer in unventilated spaces.
- Select the right size heater for the right size space. When you purchase a portable heater, be sure to buy one that is rated for the approximate square-footage of the room or space you plan to use it in.
- Shop for a heater with a safety certification. Portable space heaters that are listed by Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) have been tested, proven, and certified to meet specific safety standards. If possible, choose heaters with safety features such as tip-over and overheat protection.
Use portable heaters responsibly:
- Give heaters their space. Position a portable space heater at least 3 feet away from furniture, window treatments, bedding, clothing, rugs, and other combustibles. These items could easily catch fire if they come into contact with a unit’s electric heating element, open flame, or hot surface. Also, don’t use heaters where they may come in contact with water causing potential for electrocution.
- Plug the heater directly into an outlet. Plug a portable electric heater directly into an outlet with sufficient power capacity. Using an extension cord to plug in the unit increases the chance of overheating, fires, and electrical shock injuries.
- Inspect and clean the heater regularly. Both portable gas and electric heaters should be inspected on an annual basis and cleaned frequently to ensure that they are in safe working condition. Remember, dust and contaminants can become fuel for a fire.
- Shut off and unplug the heater when leaving it unattended. Upon leaving an area, turn off the portable space heater and unplug it.
Portland Fire & Rescue
We Respond: Always Ready, Always There
October 4, 2011