Preparing for those chilly winter nights
Written by: Elizabeth Porter
As the winter season gets into full gear, you may be looking for ways to heat your home and stay warm. With rising fuel costs, some families turn to portable space heaters.
While the use of space heaters in convenient, they come with a degree of risk.
Small space heaters are often used when the main heating system is inadequate or when central heating is too costly to operate. They can also boost the temperature of rooms used by individuals who are sensitive to cold, especially elderly persons, without overheating your entire home. This is especially good for families with parents or grandparents visiting.
Space heater capacities generally range between 10,000 Btu to 40,000 Btu per hour. Common fuels used for this purpose are: electricity, propane, natural gas, and kerosene.
Although most space heaters rely on convection (the circulation of air in a room) to heat a room, some rely on radiant heating; that is, they emit infrared radiation that directly heats up objects and people that are within their line of sight. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that radiant heaters are a more efficient choice when you will be in a room for only a few hours, if you can remain within the line of sight of the heater. They can be more efficient when using a room for a short period because they avoid the energy needed to heat the entire room by instead directly heating the occupant of the room and the occupant's immediate surroundings.
Safety should be a top consideration when using space heaters. 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, causing more than 300 deaths. An estimated 6,000 persons receive hospital emergency room care for burn injuries associated with contacting hot surfaces of room heaters, mostly in non-fire situations.
According to Harvard University, space heaters carry a much greater risk of causing a fire than central heating, such as furnaces. Space heaters present a greater potential for human error such as leaving them too close to combustible materials or failing to install, fuel, operate and maintain them properly.
Room gas heaters, portable kerosene heaters (illegal in many states – including MAii) and portable electric heaters have the highest risk of death and injuries, including non-fire related deaths due to carbon monoxide. Heating equipment is leading causes of home fires during the months of December, January and February and trails only cooking equipment in home fires year round.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends these tips for a safe winter season:
- Use a space heater that has been tested to the latest safety standards and has been certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. These heaters have the most up-to-date safety features. Older space heaters may not meet newer safety standards. Always follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper use.
- Place the heater on a level, hard, nonflammable surface, such as a ceramic tile floor.
- Keep the heater at least three feet away from bedding, drapes, furniture, and other flammable materials.
- Keep children and pets away from space heaters.
- Turn the heater off if you leave the area.
- Never leave a space heater on when you go to sleep.
- Don’t place a space heater close to any sleeping person.
- Never use gasoline in a kerosene space heater, as even small amounts of gasoline mixed with kerosene can increase the risk of fire.
- Don’t use portable propane space heaters indoors or in any confined space unless they are specifically designed for indoor use.
Also, be sure to place smoke alarms on every level of your home, outside of sleeping areas and inside each bedroom. Guard against carbon monoxide (CO) poisonings as well by installing carbon monoxide alarms in your home. Make sure that your batteries in all alarms are fresh and working.
Adams Homes wishes you a happy, safe, warm winter season.